The Universal Notebook: Talk to the dead

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My father would have been 99 on February 10 had he not died four days short of his 90th birthday back in 2014. My mother would have been 101 in December of 2022 had she not died at 91 back in 2013. I have not heard from either of them since.

I hear people talk about being contacted by deceased loved ones, or at least feeling their presence, but I have never had such visitations from beyond. I stop by the cemetery for a chat every now and then, but it’s a one-sided conversation, just updating the folks on what the living have been up to.

As I turn 74 this week, my parents’ advanced ages suggest it is reasonable for me to expect to live another 15 or 20 years, but I’m not so sure I want to. For one thing, I seem to have a lot more infirmities than my mother and father had at my age. Then, too, two of my closest buddies are already gone. Sometimes I feel left behind.

Edgar Allen BeemChris and Earl haven’t contacted me either. Not that I expected them to, but I figured if anyone were ever going to make the transcendental effort on my behalf it would be one of those guys. I miss them dearly and I haven’t had a really good laugh since they departed.

Just a few years ago, when the Westbrook High School Class of 1967 celebrated its 50th reunion, we had only lost about 30 classmates. I’m guessing it’s closer to 50 now. Maybe more. There were only 200 or so in the class, so the percentages are growing.

Death, which was nearly unthinkable when Bobby Nadeau died in Vietnam in 1969, is quickly becoming normal. It feels closer. Not frighteningly so, but familiar. When a classmate passes it’s no longer surprising.

My brother-in-law Charlie’s ashes are in an urn behind me as I write. We planned to inter him in the family plot, but there have been complications about who can be buried where. So Charlie hangs out with me in the office for now.

My brother-in-law Bruce’s ashes are flying to Hawaii even as you read this. My lovely wife Carolyn is accompanying her sister to Hawaii where her late husband’s cremains will be interred in the family haka. Strikes me as a long way to go to lay someone to rest, an even longer way to go to visit a loved one’s grave, but Bruce grew up surfing and diving in Hawaii and that’s where he wanted to spend eternity.

Eternal life, of course, is the chief consolation of religious faith. Some people are comforted by the belief that they will see their departed loved ones again when they die. Some are not. Frankly, I can’t quite imagine it, but there aren’t many things I would want to do for eternity.

Ultimately, however, it doesn’t really matter what I want. Que sera, sera.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.

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