Biff America: Time will tell (column)
The beauty of being dead is that it puts life in perspective.
To be clear, I have no firsthand experience in the matter. But I do hope that after that last heart beat you retain a sense of humor; if so, Jimmy Glick was chuckling as he looked down on his memorial.
It was a Battle Royal of faiths. In one corner you had Jimmy’s Jewish parents; in the other was his new- age wife. Couple that with various and contrasting Christian, ‘Crunchy’ and agnostic friends attending Jimmy’s memorial, all of them professing with conviction to know exactly where his soul was on the beautiful California day 30 years ago.
If the truth be told Jimmy was an alternative farmer in Northern California. I knew him casually but my girlfriend at the time, Jane, was good friends with his common-law wife. I was living in Paradise, California for the summer and attended Jimmy’s memorial service about two hours away. I’ve been to many memorials both before and after, but Jimmy’s left a mark.
He died suddenly and keeping with his Jewish upbringing his parents insisted he be buried within a couple of days of his passing. His wife, a ‘No-Cal’ hippie, with a name something like Moon-Flower or Mung-Bean was passive enough to let his parents take over — to a point. So after the rabbi read from the Torah, Mung-Bean walked around the casket barefoot with a burning smudge-stick — the flood gates opened.
Being raised on Catholic wakes and funerals, where only the priest had a speaking part, I was a little surprised when multiple mourners took the stage to pontificate. Mung-Flower’s ‘soul sister’ Squash Blossom, rang a Tibetan gong and chanted one after another various ‘greave-ers’— Christian, Jew, Buddhist etc. stood and offered diverse, lengthy options. I’ve had relationships that didn’t last that long.
It seemed a little passive aggressive as friends and family stood at the lectern and issued their contrasting opinions of what was to become of Jimmy. It became more about personal-proselytizing rather than honoring the dead.
My date and I began to edge towards the door, when a large, biker-type guy wearing leather lurched to the front. His hands were so large at first I didn’t notice that one held a can of beer. He stood up in from of the lectern blocking from sight some guy who was about to read from some sort of Holy book (not sure which since the guy never got a chance to speak).
The large man eschewed the microphone but rather shouted, “Jimmy Glick was my friend. We used to ride together … he was a loyal partner and good dude and a grower of righteous plants. Someday we will all be dead, Jimmy already is.” He raised his beer and took a long drink with some of it running down his beard.
The room got deathly quiet which made my applauding sound even louder. Jane said, “I think we should leave.”
I’ve been to a lot of memorials these last few years. I guess that is to be expected as we age. Most of them reflected the hopes and faith of those who passed. In dealing with the loss it is a comfort to have that hope. “To live without hope is to cease to live.” But in truth what we can count on is an afterlife of a legacy of kindness and compassion towards those who we touched and loved.
We will find out, soon enough, what is next. In the meantime I’m content to hold quiet and cautious optimism with an emphasis on ‘quiet.’
After Jimmy’s service most of us went to a local watering hole. Crucifixes, yamakas, tie-dye and crystals were seen amongst the crowd. I headed up to the bar and encountered the biker who offered that harsh eulogy. I introduced myself and told him how much I enjoyed his words. He told me his name was Ace and looked at me suspiciously as if my compliment was sarcastic. I assured him it was not. I told him I thought Jimmy would have approved both for of his message and that, unlike the others, his words were brief and to the point. Lou answered, “Yeah I was going to say more but I had to go hit the head.”
When I joked that the lord works in mysterious ways Ace countered, ‘”No, I think it was the beer.”
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s new book “Mind, Body, Soul.” is available at local shops and bookstores and at BackcountryMagazine.com/Store
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