Crashing the Funeral Line

Via on Apr 10, 2011

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……It’s the sharp knife of a short life
Well, I’ve had
just enough time – “If I Die Young”, The Band Perry

It’s neither rush hour nor school closing time so I’m surprised by the swell of traffic as I head down the road to class. I’m in my usual hurry. I don’t linger in cars. On a wet grey day in Nashville it’s mandatory to use headlamps so I don’t think see anything unusual about the stream of white beams. I look for police lights in the distance to signal an accident or stalled car but see nothing. I think the school I’m approaching may be having an event. I need to get across a couple of lanes, take a right turn and cut through the traffic to discover I’m in the middle of a funeral procession.

I’m horrified that I just disrespected the dead and grieving and more than a little chagrined to note that I’m driving a car that marks me in a red Subaru with RBLYOGA plates and Active Yoga plastered in a sign across the back window that was a gift from a student long ago. Nice, I think, look at the yoga teacher crashing the funeral line:  Very nice.

Nashville takes its dead seriously.  As the deceased makes the final tour, traffic stops in both directions and waits for the last car to pass.  A police escort leads the procession but does not stop traffic. It just stops. It’s the only instance I can think of where strangers routinely stop short in their tracks for an isolated moment of collective silence. The bond of being a lone observer whispering, “Rest in peace” to a passing stranger amongst a random scattering of other strangers doing the same, has a profound effect on me.  I ‘m alone and connected; both stranger and comrade in a moment of tender respect that I imagine even the newly departed can feel.

I pay no mind to the strangers that pass me in cars every day, all day but the gravitas of one passing once gone, stops me in my tracks. And why is that? Does death make us bigger than life? Where people are ambiguous in life, they seem most definite in death.

Funny when you’re dead how people start listening

I’m in a Bones workshop in an old church meeting room. There is an orange traffic cone sitting on the floor by the door. It says FUNERAL. We are lying on the floor urged to be as still as the waking dead. The teacher asks us to move thoughtfully. She tells us her teacher who created the Bones work, Ruthie Alon, says; don’t think you know this leg. You don’t know this leg! I silently agree that you don’t know much of this body or even this mind as it’s constantly changing and by that logic you don’t entirely know anyone else either, even those closest to you.

A friends’ twenty year old son died from a combination of alcohol and pills at a fraternity party last weekend.  He was twenty. I met him but I didn’t know him. I think of my own sons, of my friends sons. Don’t think we know these boys. We don’t know them. I can’t get the words of the death song out of my mind. The lyrics playing in my head all night are driving me crazy. I’m putting them here to be rid of them though this was not the intention of this writing when I began it.

It’s the sharp knife of a short life

Well I’ve had

Just enough time

My son’s friend and band mate, also the child of a friend of mine is INCARCERATED. He is twenty. He held up a friend’s mother with a fake gun after taking a bottle of anti-depressants. He apologized the next day and gave the money back but charges were pressed. He’s on the second of seven years. I spoke to his mother last week who says she isn’t sure she can stand her life anymore. She tells me she feels like a pariah. She’s the mother of a convict. People stay away. But they don’t know this beautiful woman. Don’t even think they do. The lyrics in my head accompany her story as she goes on.

Life ain’t always what you think it ought to be…

Sharp knife of a short life

Well I’ve had just enough…….

I tell her about the other boy who overdosed and say that at least her son is alive. She tells me she’s not so sure. She says she doesn’t even know him anymore though she sees him every week. She says that he’s a drug addict and she’s not sure that he’s clean in jail. She’s not sure his life isn’t over. She’s not sure he’s entirely alive.

He did not have enough time and you don’t know this boy, this sweet, creative, mess of a boy. We wrote letters to the blind eyes of the justice system. Don’t think you know this boy, you don’t know him.

I wasn’t raised with the bait of Heaven or the threat of Hell. Heaven was a life well lived and Hell was a guilty conscience. I don’t know much of death. My curious morbidity makes me choose the better way to deal with a loved one’s remains. I contemplate earth, fire and water and comfort myself that we are all of those and might do well do be consumed by any of them in the end. But I don’t know and I think I don’t know this life and I don’t know this death either.

Whether we’re uncertain how to make the most of ourselves to make the most of this life or what happens when we leave there are messages and messengers to help us. They beg our attention.

My friend Sandy has been called to help several friends pass from this life. She told me of the passing of a local musician whose wife had gone two months prior. Sandy saw his face slowly change as death began. She saw a light around him then and then there was another light and in it his deceased wife. She came for him and they were gone.

My friend Preston sat at his grandfather’s death bed with his hand on the old man’s chest. He asked his grandfather for a sign from the other side. Grandfather’s eyes turned a brilliant blue, and Preston says he felt his grandfather shoot through his arm and pass through him.

My own grandparents followed each other out of here in their 90’s a couple of years apart. I was not there for either of their last days and even much in their last years. But awhile after my grandfather went they came to me in a dream. It was funny to me that my elegant grandparents were driving a Volkswagen bus! They seemed really happy and although I remember being a little worried they were coming for me I later thought they were letting me know the bus would be there when I was ready. Just a dream but…..I don’t know. Most of us have heard some after life account or imagining.

Where people are ambiguous in life, they seem definite in death but it’s the definite of a clock that has stopped ticking. It seems definite because we notice it. It seems definite because we are no longer slippery or changing. But we are not definite at all. Don’t think we know this soul, we don’t know this soul! We are bigger than life. While we are amazed at ourselves in life, we are struck dumb with wonder of who we are in death. We believe in answers that we may never know.

When someone dies we stop to comfort the grieving whom we might otherwise take for granted until their passing! We stop to show respect for the life of a fellow spirit. But perhaps we mostly stop to behold the mystery.

About Hilary Lindsay

Hilary Lindsay created the first comprehensive yoga program in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, choreographed videos for athletes, introduced yoga and meditation to the Nashville public school system and continues to work one on one with private clients including the Nashville Predators. She has been covered by popular magazines and television shows and has worked for a variety of publications as a yoga expert. She authored a chapter in Yoga In America, a book published at the forefront of the discussion among yoga teachers about contemporary yoga in America. Additional writing can be found at www.bitchinyoga.wordpress.com as well as the Journal pages of her yoga site. Hilary teaches classes and workshops in consciousness through movement. Her medium is yoga. Her method is exploring the language of the body in light of the eight limbs. Find her at activeyoga.com.

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12 Responses to “Crashing the Funeral Line”

  1. Laura Marjorie Miller Laura M. Miller says:

    Hilary, this is a magnificent, mysterious, kind and merciful essay, mysterious and multidimensional as a soul. There seems to be a world of hurt and pain going on right now and I appreciate the honesty and candor of your writing that can dwell in the mystery and also acknowledge it is sometimes very bittersweet to be alive. I can never know all of you but the part of you I do know I love, and will give the rest the benefit of the doubt. Love, Laura
    Ps. ''bait of Heaven and threat of Hell.'

  2. Beautiful piece, Hilary.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

    • Hilary Lindsay says:

      Thank you Bob, I had realized after posting, how close to Easter and Passover and thoughts of death and rebirth this is. I suppose the time to consider these things is upon us. Thank you for passing it on.

  3. Life and Death. Birth. Love. Loss. Death / Death, Freedom, Spirit, Soar/ Birth. Spirit, Life, Freedom, Loss, Spirit, Soar…
    There is a constancy in those words. You can expect it in this life we live in our earthly bodies and then, after death, we can expect, but we do not yet know – for sure. Those are the words that spilled out of my mind as I contemplated your heart- felt words. I marvel at your musings. So deep. So raw and full of soul and heart wisdom. After the memorial service, I listened to a dear friend and mother struggling to make sense of a life lost so young. In the shocky afterglow of crowds of people brought together by this common grief, she made the statement that even though the relatives led their own lives and were conspicuously absent at family get -togethers, it was a puzzle to her what drew them out in death. She had never even met some of them. What is it that is so compelling to celebrate death but refuse to live life by connecting with the living. Isn't that all that really matters after all is said and done? Will an estranged friend or spouse be valued and care about enough to let love show while there is yet life? Hmmmm. I must follow my instincts and celebrate all who cross my path in these moments called my life. Thank you, Hilary. You always stimulate my thinking!

  4. Linda Buzogany linda buzogany says:

    I am always psyched when I see a new post from you, Hilary. Thanks for sharing yourself.
    Linda

    • Hilary Lindsay says:

      Linda, I thought of you when I posted. I wondered what the dream keeper would say about all this. Glad to share myself here. And thank you for letting me know you're watching. Always the best to you!

  5. Darrell Bengson says:

    Outstanding work Hilary. I have had many friends that have lost children. It is so sad that they should go while we are still here.

    • Hilary Lindsay says:

      Thanks Darrell, Death is the part of life we have the least control and least understanding of. That would make it impossible enough but then it is perhaps the part of life that creates the strongest emotion. We have to expand our imagination to accept it.

  6. Adam Bard says:

    It seems that death serves as a motivation for us to contemplate. We wish to understand what the essence of life that has passed from the dead is, where it has gone, what is it’s value? Perhaps we are provoked to contemplate by the sense that the dead now know, that they reach back to tell us there is more, that somehow we know that already. We are surrounded by life and death all at once all the time, countless birth’s and death’s every moment. It might be a revolving door or a part of a journey or a grand illusion? Wherever the dead are gone, wishing them well, or ill, we will go and we will know. For us, this life must be all while we live it and lived as well as it can be.

    • Hilary Lindsay says:

      Adam, thank you for adding your own thoughts to this post and sharing them here. Always good to remember that this is all we know for sure so we hopefully love it well! Thank you for reading here. Hilary

  7. Hilary Lindsay says:

    Pat, Your reflections here just break my heart for all of us. We want so much for our loved ones but would accept so little if the choice was to lose them. Perhaps then we realize that to love and live is such a gift in itself, all else is pale in comparison. You've put that beautifully. Thank you for that addition to this piece.

  8. Hilary Lindsay says:

    Kurt, I guess my uneasiness is transparent and so I'm a kindred spirit. But I have many friends who seem to have a calmer attitude than mine. Where I love raw angst for the honesty, I am equally grateful for those who calm it. We are so lucky to have friends and teachers to balance us out. You are right that it is easy to this precious life for granted and good to remind us of that. Thank you for your thoughts.

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