Saturday, November 25, 2006

Rev. James Maloney: On Death

My friend, Stewart, has given me access to his blog. Apparently he had something called "writer's block" and didn't have a clue what to do for the next post. "Think big and write big," I told him. He shrugged shoulders and gave me the look of a farmboy trying to understand what his father meant by calling him the milkman's child.

"Life and death," I explained. "What greater?"

"I don't have anything new to say about it," said Stewart, as though it was a defense.

"One more cliche' about writing," I countered, "and you will."

In thinking about it though, who would really want to read his comments on the last spark of stupidity. He'll probably whine at the end and cry, selfishly making anyone bedside a tad uncomfortable.

Sometimes the cessation of a heartbeat is merely a formality.

In the old days, when the good William Masterson and I started the church, I remember the first time I was asked to officiate at a funeral. This was in days before we first attained our high profile. Will was against it. A funeral would be attended by outsiders and not dedicated worshippers. He never liked a hostile audience. William was always something of an old woman.

The mourners were like mourners everywhere, and I gave a brave face to all and felt the communal love of those who have come to be thankful that they weren't the reason for the assembly. One pleasant surprise was the departed's trophy wife. Widow. Younger than expected, she possessed an angellic face and astonishing breasts. Her lips were full. I remember leaning back against the casket and admiring her cleavage.

"Is that your's, Reggie?" I asked loudly, pointing back over my shoulder toward the widow. The room fell silent.

I reached down and took the corpse's hand. I have no problem touching the dead; my abusive stepfather ran a funeral parlor and as a young boy with tremendous curiousity, I would often lift the sheets and explore. I raised the hand as though I were holding the arm of a victorious prizefighter.

"You must have been quite the man, Reggie," I said, nodding toward the widow. "You must have enjoyed yourself. Yes?" I let the hand drop and turned to the mourners. I studied their faces, turned and stuck the hand back in the coffin, and swung back around.

"God made us alive, and I think we can safely say that was The Creator's greatest gift. So, what then would you say is the biggest sin we can muster? What would be the most horrible crime against the Almighty that Reggie, the Created, could have committed?"

I tipped backwards and cupped my ear as though to listen to a voice from the coffin. The mourners leaned forward. The widow leaned forward, and so did her marvelous cleavage. I nodded my head and put a finger against the side of my nose; a gesture of knowledge and confidence.

"Death," I said and let the word settle. "Death is the most incredible affrontery to the Creator."

I left the side of the casket and walked to the widow. I touched her hair and smiled at her. Softly. Kindly. Soulfully.

"You've always been taught Death is a process. That it's part of some sick cycle. You've always assumed that it was an inevitable byproduct of birth. God gave life and God took it away? Did you think He was that fickle?

"Some of you comforted yourselves by clinging to the concept of an afterlife. Afterlife. Why should God grant you an afterlife, when you have been so inconsiderate and wasteful as to squander His first gift by dying? Did you think, Reggie, that you knew better than God?"

I looked at the casket as did all else.

"Come on, Reggie, get up. Get up and show these folk that Death is a mistake. Show them that Death isn't inevitable."

Silence.

I rushed to the casket and grabbed him by the shoulders.

"Get up. Get up, you son of a bitch. Get up you selfish little turd."

I slapped him hard, letting the sound of flesh against flesh electrify even those in the back row. I roared my frustration, raising my arms above my head. I yelled until I thought blood would shoot out my throat. "Get up, you prick!!!"

Someone in back tentatively called out: "Get up."

Another person, stronger now: "Get up, Reggie."

More voices: "Get up. Come on, Reggie. Get up. Get up. Get up."

As the chant washed over me, I put myself between the voices and the thing in the casket. I closed my eyes and let the electric moment happen. Sucking it in, I listened to it build until it became something raw and unwashed.

I swivelled on the ball of a foot and held up a hand for silence. I waited and finally pointed to the dead man.

"You see?" I called out. "What greater sin is there than that?"

I went to the widow and gently pulled her up,inhaling a subtle perfume and becoming unbearably aroused. She pressed against me.

"Rebecca here has food waiting at home," I said. "Feel free to return with her to offer comfort. I suspect, if not dearly hope, that there is some libation there as well."

She nodded. I squeezed her hand and played a little finger upon her skin.

"Let's all leave here then and let Reggie lay there and give some thought as to how selfish he is being. No, no one walk anywhere near him. Don't give him attention, it's exactly what he wants."

I started with the widow toward the back exit. "You'll know where to find us should you decide to stop being selfish, Reggie."

With that we walked out, and the mourners walked with us into a warm, sunny August day.

"So that's been the answer to dealing with you all along?" asked William later. "It's a matter of walking out and not coming back until you stop being selfish? We should have left you long ago."

"You tried," I pointed out. "You're not going anywhere, until I go first."

So, you see, Stewart, it's possible to write about life and death without having anything new to say, or anything to say at all.

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6 comments:

Jon said...

Maloney, you son of a bitch, I thought you were dead! I remember that funeral. Didn't you stay a while and share a sacrement with the widow? Or maybe you waited a few weeks for that one.
Anyway, it's good that Stewart finally let you drop a little of your own brand of spirituality on us.

Susan Miller said...

Ahh...the Church of the All Forgiving. Good stuff, Stu. He is outrageously arrogant and you seem to have wonderful fun with him.

lee said...

A Day In The Life, eh? :).

Charles Gramlich said...

Can I get an Amen?

Lori Witzel said...

I'd try to muster up an "Amen" but my throat's gone dry as a bone...

Steve said...

I think the good reverend should visit Crossroads more often.