Mixed Salad of Thoughts

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Graveside humor

I thought about posting something on a lighter note but I'm still pre-occupied with loss, so I thought I'd combine the two and document a few of the things that have made me laugh in the past month.

Two days after my father died my mom was sitting on the couch and her phone rang with what was surely another person wanting to express their condolences. She turned off the ringer and sat and looked at it. It replied with a friendly beep telling her there was a new voice message. She shook her head. "I hate listening to my voicemail...It keeps making me cry."
"Yeah, I'm having the same problem with my phone" I replied. "You Nate?"
He shook his head, "Yep, me too."
"They really should get that fixed."
"Or maybe make it an option...like the 'Airplane Mode'...they could have a 'No Cry Mode' option."

Three weeks later...a few days after my grandmother died my friend Mara called me. She lost her mother earlier in the year after a long fight with pancreatic cancer and apparently lost her grandfather in the previous year as well.
"Hi Mara."
She wasted no time: "You know Valerie, it's not a competition."
I didn't even pause a moment before replying, "Well you know, they say when you learn a new skill you should practice it right away..."

We visited my father's burial place a couple of days after the funeral and saw the scattered flower arrangements that had been left there. We said a few prayers and made a few comments about what we could put there up until October when we could have a gravestone put in. My dad had a degree in Geology and we pondered whether the collection of radioactive rocks in the garage would kill the grass or "disturb his neighbors". Before leaving I left something on the grave--a can of RedBull--one of a flat Dad had bought at Sam's Club and often drank. "Hey Dad, enjoy...you know 'RedBull gives you wings!'"

The funeral procession for my Dad's Funeral was 80 cars long. We had a motorcycle cop ride along to stop traffic at intersections but still had to stop for a train, an ambulance, and a firetruck. I pondered that although Dad would hate driving this slow "he sure would like running all these reds and probably would love holding up this much traffic as well"

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Monday, July 28, 2008

I cry.

Three years ago I had my first "real" run-in with loss--my grandfather died on July 4th. It really hit me hard and to this day I can get teary-eyed thinking about him.

Three and a half weeks ago on July 1st my father unexpectantly died of a heart attack. A week ago on July 20th my grandmother passed.

I won't tell you about all the feelings I've gone through. I can't. The words don't exist. As I felt things I occasionally wanted the comfort of naming them and realized I couldn't--some things are too big, too deep, too individual for words.

I cry now. Easily. It doesn't take much and it just overwhelms me. Perfectly natural under the circumstances and the majority of the time I'm all right with it. But it is irritating not to be in control. It is annoying to know that I'm one random floating thought away from tears springing to my eyes. Even so I can usually shake it off. I can usually stop any stream of tears or sobbing. But generally only when other people are around--by myself I'm a mess. Without people there are no outside sources of interest or amusement or distraction to keep me from following that random thought down whatever path it takes me down. And often there aren't even thoughts. I don't know why I'm sad, what particular thing I'm sad about--the loss, the loneliness, the grief, or some other mystery sadness that crept up and (in the paraphrased words of one of my favorite novels) "dropped stone loneliness eggs in my heart."

So if I call you up and just want to talk but I have nothing to talk about...perhaps now you'll know why.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Stolen content from Family is Borrowed, right?

My brother's blog post kind of sums it up:

July 100% Not Fun

In a recent survey done by the Brown family of Westerville Ohio, July was overwhelmingly declared the least fun month of the year so far. (See graph below)

Nate Brown was overheard saying, “I’m not really superstitious, but I’ll be happy when this month is over.”

I think I freaked out the guy at the grocery store a bit today when he unwittingly asked me how I was doing.
“I’ve been better.”
“Oh…bad day?”
“Month really.”
“Oh…….Well the month is almost over.”
“Yeah, well, hopefully no one will die in August.”
[crickets chirp]

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Thursday, July 03, 2008


So I've spent the last couple of days visiting cemetaries and funeral homes and my new 3 person family (my mom, my brother and I) are working on all the arrangements with an assorted army of people providing food and support from outside.

I really disliked the lady at the cemetary who kept "selling wrong" and driving me crazy by repeatedly telling us they were the cheapest around (value FIRST lady, then raise price AFTER the customer brings it up). She also kept throwing out the names of people on headstones and telling us how they died and acting as if we might recognize them because of their story ("Oh now, he was 19, he died last year in a car accident...He was in the back seat drinking and having a good time with his friends"). Weird!

The lady at the Funeral Home was amazing though: consumate professional. Brought up every item we might consider buying and why we might want it and how it is normally done. Listened thoughtfully as we explained how a Baha'i Burial and Funeral is "normally" done and asked appropriate questions. Simply told us our estimated expenses so far and noted that "You can keep that in mind if you like when looking at caskets."

Shopping for caskets and vaults (the concrete or metal box that surrounds the casket in the ground) was interesting. We ended up choosing a simple but elegant casket in Pecan (a lovely wood and my dad did love a good pecan pie). I was really tempted to ask if they used sustainable forestry practices but I was told I shouldn't. My brother and I were talking about asking for Pine as we figured that as Pallbearers it would be a little lighter. (Balsawood might create a bit too much drama if the bottom fell out ;) ) My brother also said Dad would really like the Scarlet and Grey "Brutus" version designed specifically for Ohio State fans.

I'm strongly lobbying for playing the Script Ohio marching band song (an Ohio State Marching Band tradition) when we bring the casket to the grave but Mom thinks it would be silly. I think it would be joyous, and the song always brought a happy tear to Dad's eye (no really!), I think it would be appropriate.

I understand that the Imperial March from Star Wars might be a bit too much, and border on silly, but I really wish we could do this. But it's more my Mom's day than mine.

Anyways, I have paperwork to do and lists to make.

Funeral services will be held at the Schoedinger Worthington Chapel, 6699 North High Street, Worthington, Ohio. Visitation will be from 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. and the service will take place from 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. There will be a procession from the funeral home to the Blendon Central Cemetery on the corner of Dempsey and Spring roads in Westerville. Following the internment a reception (approx. 1:00 p.m.) will be held at the Johnston Homestead at 164 Linabary Avenue, Westerville, Ohio.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Me and my Dad
Originally uploaded by iamsalad.

My father passed away this morning. It was sudden and unexpected. It looks like it was a heart attack. I just flew home to Columbus and will be here for a while. I probably won't be answering my phone much for at least the next couple of days but feel free to leave a message if you like.