Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Break on through to the other side

I thought I had a blog post in me today, but I realized nobody wants to hear about what an incredibly shitty day I had during an incredibly shitty week. It would have been a book. So I will pull the one funny thing out of this day to share.

It's not news to some of you that my friend and the beloved minister of my church died of a sudden and unexpected heart attack Sunday on a trip to Boston. It's been a terrible shock. I would like to write more about him, but I can't do it yet. He was my age -- OK, about 6 weeks older. It's always hard when a peer dies. Thoughts of your own mortality and all that. And as Miss Serendipity would have it, Greg and I just had a long talk about that a few days ago, about how we intended to live decades longer. But that's not the story.

Today I had to go in to have some face cancer removed. It wasn't as easy as I expected it would be, but that too is another story. As the nurse was preparing for the procedure, she asked me about my sensitivity to epinephrine. We talked about how it makes my heart race for a long time. I told her a friend had just died of a sudden heart attack, and I didn't think I could tolerate that today, the day after most of us got the terrible news. I didn't tell her that my dad had died at age 46 of a sudden heart attack as well, leaving my mom with 2 kids still at home. I was the oldest of 5 at 24. I just have this thing about not wanting to have, or even mimic, a heart attack. She said she understood and went back to tapping on her tablet.

As I sat and waited for the next question, "Free Bird," the anthem of my youth, came over the speakers. The doctor is about my age, and a guitar player and a lover of the classics, so that's what they play. It's a good vibe for me except these lyrics hit me like a gut punch .... "If I leave here tomorrow/would you still remember me?/For I must be travelin' on now/there's too many places I've got to be ...." Greg's last post on his Facebook read, "The adventure begins!!"

My eyes filled with tears that I tried to dam up. I looked up to let them run down my throat. Not the time. I needed to focus on getting the face cancer off my face.

The nurse asked some more questions, and I answered as the long "Free Bird" solo played through. After she left the room and closed the door, the next song came on. "I, I just died in your arms tonight/It must have been something you said/I just died in your arms tonight ...."

You've got to be fucking kidding me! Right?

I sat there on the surgery chair thinking about coincidence and the afterlife. I used to have a friend who believed her late son, who was killed by a drunk driver at age 19, was still around. He'd turn her radio station so his favorite song would play when she turned on her car. Or he'd help her find things she'd lost in her house. Thinking he was still with her, somehow embodied to reach out to her from time to time, gave her comfort. I didn't deny her belief. What do I know?

The fact is, I don't know what happens to us after we die. I don't believe in heaven and hell. Neither did Greg, because we're Unitarian Universalists and we don't believe in those old dichotomies, nor the trichotomies either. In fact, Greg and I had talked early on about how we didn't believe everything happens for a reason, much as people would like to think it's true. Mostly shit just happens. Sometimes good shit happens. Sometimes really shitty shit happens. Trying to make sense of it, or trying to fit it into a religious mold, can either comfort you or it can make you fucking crazy. Greg and I were of the latter category. The shit just happens category.

But we also agreed that shit happens that is just too strange to discount. And then we don't know what to think, but it's the mystery that keeps life interesting.

And so I thought for just a second, What if Greg hasn't passed on from this world just yet? I mean, it was not his time to go. He had a lot more good work to do. What if he's hanging around for a while before he crosses over to whatever is or isn't on the other side of this life? What if Greg is fucking with me?!?

I kinda laughed at that idea. I didn't feel like laughing today, but I kinda laughed then (because I didn't know the hell that was coming, but that's another story). I had the urge to send Greg an email when I got home and tell him maybe things really do happen for a reason. Just to give him a laugh. Of course, I couldn't do that ..... And the song played on to the end.

And the next song came on. I wasn't really listening until these lyrics jumped out: "Whether you're a mother or whether you're a brother you're stayin' alive, stayin' alive ...."

"You have got to fucking be kidding me!" I said aloud. "Seriously, Greg, this is hilarious!" And then I thought, because of course the dead can read our minds, I wish I could believe you're really in this room distracting me with the golden oldies of our generation. And I really wish I could tell you about this, my friend, because this is some good serendipity. Thanks for the laugh.

I couldn't wait to see what was next, but the nurse came back in with the doctor, and I had to pay attention to getting rid of the face cancer. By the time I was listening again, the moment was over. Maybe Greg moved on and played tricks on other people. I dunno. I just know it was one of the best things that happened today, and a lot of the rest of it was spilled milk compared to losing Greg but ..... well, you've got your own shit to deal with, don't you? Stayin' alive. Stayin' alive.

Well now, I get low and I get high
And if I can't get either, I really try
Got the wings of heaven on my shoes
I'm a dancin' man and I just can't lose
You know it's all right, it's ok
I'll live to see another day
We can try to understand
The new york times' effect on man

Whether you're a brother or whether you're a mother
You're stayin' alive, stayin' alive
Feel the city breakin' and everybody shakin'
And we're stayin' alive, stayin' alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive