Johnny Depp at Madame Tussaunds Museumimage borrowed from fan pop.com
“The eye through which I see God is the same eye through
which God sees me, one eye, one seeing, one knowing,
one love.”--Meister Eckhart.
In the late 80’s,
I got hooked watching the TV series, CHINA BEACH,
about an evacuating hospital during
the Viet Nam War, a kind of MASH without
all the slapstick. There was a morgue attendant
character, Pvt. Beckett, played by Michael Boatman--
& on a lot of the episodes there would be scenes
of him tending the bodies of the slain soldiers,
& somehow in the thick of the horrors of war,
within the confines of that morgue,
when he was alone with those men,
he demonstrated incredible tenderness & humanity,
washing the bodies & talking to them as if they
were his old friends--retaining his own sanity
while immersed in dark insanity of war.
It must take a special mind set
to become a mortician, one that finds
the emotional benefits of being truly compassionate
not only to the grieving families
but to the deceased themselves.
I think I was about twelve
when I attended my first funeral, & it really
bothered me that the guest of honor,
dressed in his best suit, powdered &
made up to mask the gray pallor
of the face of death, was lying in this fancy
silk-lined beautiful casket with his eyes closed.
“Why are his eyes closed, he’s not asleep,” I asked,
“It removes his humanity.”
My sweet mother pondered this before replying,
“I think it’s because when the soul departs the body, life leaves
the eyes, & no one wants to peer into dead eyes.”
Even at that age, I could see the absurdity of the traditional
funeral--all that pomp & ceremony
with a mere empty husk of dead flesh,
with formaldehyde filling the flaccid veins,
with lipstick & mascara on its face.
I mean why not replace the lifeless eyes
with glass replicas, then prop up
the body, heightening the ceremony
with a more natural pose.
Sure, it might seem a little creepy at first,
but no less than kissing dead lips
or staring into closed eye lids.
Taxidermists & Wax Museum artists have always
had the right idea--put sparkling glass eyes
into those dead sockets, forcing light
to reflect off the fake pupils--heighten the illusion,
intensify the viewing.
Can you imagine the conversations following
the progressive kind of funeral I envisioned?
“Wow, Uncle Bernie looks better than he has for years!”
“I swear, Mama looked so life-like, I expected her to chide
me for the tie I selected.”
“I tell you that old bastard kept staring right at me, only me.”
“I noticed Bob’s eyes followed me all around the sanctuary.”
“I don’t truly understand it, but Sadie had joy & contentment
in her eyes. It made me smile.”
Of course, this would only be the first step
in what could become a feel-good funeral service.
We could have the deceased pre-tape messages,
& play them as certain family members approached
the open casket--& several other inspired notions
that shall remain undisclosed for now.
I’m almost serious about this.
Posted over at dVerse Poets Poetics
Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?