Friday, October 14, 2011

Evidence of Life

I stood, a few nights ago, in a line for the viewing of a deceased friend with whom I had worked for quite a few years -- a good teacher and a great guy who would lighten the mood in any room; even a faculty lounge on a bad day.

As we waited, I was struck -- as I have always been at funerals and viewings -- with the somber/giddy mix of demeanors. (As a teenager, when my grandmother had died -- my first real loss -- I was angered by the jolly laughter, just feet from her coffin; as I got older, I came to understand that the heart is too deep for us to worry about what's strictly appropriate on occasions of death. Sometimes it laughs harder and more loudly when it needs to cry.)

As we moved through the line, through a small labyrinth of halls in the funeral home; past rooms glowing with low light and rooms containing gothic-looking desks and a spooky-looking organ; over flowery carpets that clashed insanely with flowery wallpaper; past descending stairwells that I swore were burping up the faint scent of formaldehyde, I peered around corners, wondering when we'd get to viewing room and wondering how the family would be.

Finally, we rounded a last corner. The room itself was bright, which I imagine is done on purpose -- to lift people a bit when they enter from the dark halls. Throughout the room, there were easels and TV screens with pictures of my friend and his family. In the pictures, he was young and strong -- he stood on his beloved boat at his beloved seashore; he sat at table with his family, wearing a pointy party cap; wearing a flat-cap, he sipped Guinness in an Irish pub. 

But one picture brought tears pretty close to the surface: he was lying on a couch, asleep, with his two young children sleeping babies' sleep in the comfortable crook of each sweatered arm.

And I thought: he lived. Not just because he had kids (I am always aware that people who choose not to have kids get really rankled if you imply that having kids is the only way to live life fully) but because he had so much evidence, there on those posterboard galleries, that he had been present in his own life -- that he had joy.

Isn't that good enough? Why do we need so much acquisition and achievement? Why do we try to reach so high when the most glorious achievements are afternoon naps with our children or moments on a calm sea, under the sun, with those we love?

I know I'm saying nothing new, but when the idea slaps you in the face during an emotional event and you have a blog, you're kind of obligated to mention it -- especially when you are a guy who has always felt the need to be something more, no matter what he ever became.

Rest well, Mike. You loved; you lived well. The rest is, indeed, silence. And peace.


  1. Well said, Chris. Oh, to be fully alive and present...if the world only knew how meaningless everything else really is.

    Brian Beatty

  2. Thanks so much,Brian. Maybe it is a lesson we all need to reteach ourselves . . . I know I do, over and over.

  3. Loved him, Chris, and you could see his whole face crinkle up when he would talk about his kids and grandkids;Doc definitely knew how to not take life too seriously. I think we all learned that lesson from him. Cindy Rambone

  4. Doc Mahon will be missed Mr Matt he was a great teacher and person to know