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Dorien Grey

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Talking With the Dead
5/23/2004 7:20:55 AM

When someone asks: "When did your parents pass away?" I alway tell them: "They didn't 'pass away'--they died." Why does our culture insist on avoiding not only many of the facts of life, but also the fact of death?





I find American funeral practices to be equally repugnant: primping and painting and dressing up the dead like store mannikins for display so that people can say: "Oh, if only he knew how much I loved him." My response to that one is: "Then why didn't you tell him when he was alive?"





Anyway, that's another long subject, addressed from a very tall soapbox. My intent when I started this was to relate my recent visit to a local country cemetery. I'd gone to look for a possible photo for the cover of the book I'm currently working on.





Though this may sound a bit odd, especially considering my displeasure with our funeral practices, I find very little to be as calming and restful as walking through a cemetery reading tombstones. To read a name and a date and to think of the people lying beneath the headstone as once being alive, and loving, and laughing, and sad, and going to work and having friends and...well, I find myself awed.





I've always considered that one remains alive as long as one is remembered or thought of, and while I never knew any of these people, I believe my being there, thinking of/wondering about them is a form of respect and brings them back to life for however brief a period.





My favorite epitaph, which I've not seen personally, but read about, is: "As you are now, so once were we. As we are now, so shall you be."





Some people undoubtedly feel that thinking about the dead is morbid or depressing. I find it comforting. It's rather like the "is-the-glass-half-full-or-half-empty?" question.





My favorite directly-observed epitaphs is at the foot of a an ornate oblisk-type family monument in a cemetery in Mobile, Alabama founded in the early 1800s for yellow fever victims. One of the tombstones at the foot of the oblisk is for a 19 year old soldier killed during a skirmish with the Seminole Indians in Florida. "And thus perished a mother's hopes and a father's dreams" the stone says. And beside the stone are those of the mother and the father.





When my dad died, I remember how my mother wept at his "passing." Three years later, she too was dead, and all her tears were memories.





I've written a couple poems about my views on death, two of which, "Letters to the Dead" and the just-added "The Visit" are posted on my poetry page here at AuthorsDen. I do hope you might stop by and read them.





Enough for the moment. Thanks for reading.







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Abuse: An Encyclopedia of Causes, Consequences, and Treatments by Rosemarie Skaine

This comprehensive encyclopedia explores abuse in all its forms—physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal—among a variety of age and demographic groups from children to the elderly t..  
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