This morning, a gaggle of women (three) were hovering around the coffee station at work. It's a three-burner station, and they were waiting for the currently-brewing pot to finish. On the second burner was a full (to the brim) pot of regular, and on the back burner, a half-full pot of decaf.
As soon as the currently-brewing one finished, they grabbed it, and filled up about 5 Styrofoam cups full of it, emptying about three-fourths of the pot.
"This is the good coffee," one of them said to me indicating this fresh pot. "It's flavored. Vanilla-nut."
"Oh, I'll take some," I replied.
One of the others said, "Well, some guys don't like it, but it's real good."
Thought One: Does this mean that all women like it?
Thought Two: For some queer reason, when it comes to these male/female-type preferences, I usually side with women.
My Process Improvement and Effectiveness Meeting went well today, and went to the minute of its alloted time.
The book club met today, and we all brainstormed on how to help Janet find the name and address of a guy to whom she had sold a car.
Mary, having had a cheating husband, is quite adept at all things spy.
As soon as I got home, I walked for 30 minutes.
While doing so, I listened to a most interesting podcast:
2006-02-18 / What's in a face? / 30:16 / ABC Radio National
SUMMARY: Faces are the most important biological stimuli we see and we've evolved to be exquisitely sensitive to the most minute changes in another person's face. But what happens when our brain's ability to recognise the human face breaks down?
A woman is interviewed who has prosopagnosia. She talks about what it's like not to be able to recognize people by their faces - not Princess Di's, not her own family members, and sometimes not even her own. She has a hard time watching movies, too: "Is that the same guy who was in the scene in the bar a few minutes ago?"
In addition to the personal stories, there's an interesting bit about the research into this disorder that's being studied on, and applied to helping, schizophrenics.
I believe you can listen to it here. (It's 30 minutes long.)
On my friend Irene's behalf, I posted this question on a discussion forum I follow. Feel free to post your own thoughts on the subject.
Do you have an emotional connection, or an ongoing relationship, with people in your life who have died? If so, how does it manifest itself? (For example, do or did funerals, cremations, cemeteries, ashes, or any other rituals or mementos play a role in the connection or relationship?)
I visit the grave of my grandmother and grandfather (mother's side) at least once a year. Because my grandmother's grave is local, I visit whenever I need to talk to her. Even though I never came out officially to her, she was the woman who first introduced me to the idea of a drag queen, so I figure that if she didn't know outright, she'd have been fabulous about it. I tend to visit her when I need emotional support, or just to talk. Sometimes, I will visit when I feel it's just the thing to do. For example, one really nice day last summer, I was driving to or from something or other, and reaslised I was just a few blocks from the cemetery, so I dropped by.
For my grandfather (father's side), I visit when I visit my grandmother (his wife, still living) in Kingston. Usually to catch up.
I also mark the memorial of their deaths by lighting a candle, which I view as a sign that their light has not stopped with their death.
I even, strangely, have a hard-to-describe connection with my grandfather, who died before my parents married, and after whom I'm named. It is an Ashkenazic tradition to name people after the deceased, and I think that there's a connection that form through that. Naming is a powerful action, but I'll spare you a digression.
Ok, back to work.
The answer to your question is a resounding yes. I have very strong emotional ties to those people in my life who have died. For example, this past Saturday was my grandmother’s funeral. She had wanted a simple memorial service and her request was granted. During all of last week, I was writing a short eulogy for my grandmother and had a wonderful time reflecting on the warm moments she had in my life. The night before the funeral, last Friday night, I had a very unique experience. I had a dream where my grandmother walked up to me and gave me the biggest hug I've ever received from her, and then the dream ended. It was a very moving and powerful experience for me. One that I will never forget.....
My father passed away suddenly from a heart attack at 68 years of age. For me, the emotional connection isn't associated with the funeral, or cemetery, but rather through remembrances, smells, drives past through the old neighborhood, etc. I visit the cemetery about two times a year. Mostly to make sure the plot isn't becoming overgrown, etc. I do a lot of reflection while I'm there and do a mental stroll through memory lane. It's a very nice feeling for me when I do that.
Believe it or not, in my years prior to getting involved with computers, etc., I used to be a funeral director. I went to mortuary school right after high school and got my license for the state of New Jersey. I'm planning on going back into the business when I retire to pick up some extra money....I wouldn't have traded that experience for anything. I've seen a lot during my work in the funeral home ranging from natural deaths, cancer, murders, accidents, suicides, etc. The psychology of how people handle death has always been very intriguing to me. I've had my share of "casket jumpers". You know, the ones who almost literally climb in the casket with the body while whaling in grief. The whole experience is extraordinary.
I hope what I've said makes sense......I was kinda rambling there.....
Author: Joy/Cambridge (Massachusetts)
I have a friend in her late 60s who told me many years ago that her relationships with her parents (who had both long since died) continued to grow and change after they died. I wouldn't go so far as to say that every relationship I've ever had will continue to grow and change after one of the parties dies, but certainly it has been true for my close relationships. I don't have any set rituals or observances, other than the ritual of storytelling.
My relationship with my paternal grandmother has continued to grow and change in large part because my daughter reminds me so much of her. So I find myself reminiscing, and even talking with Nana on occasion. As an adult, spent a lot of time (and still not enough time) talking with Nana about her life. I found out that she had endured all kinds of hardships and heartbreaks and she still emerged as one of the most positive, funny, and fun-loving people I have ever known. So when I'm particularly stuck in a bad mood or a difficult situation, I often find myself in what feels like conversation with her. I feel Nana's love and support even more deeply now than I did when she was alive. And I'm hoping to help my daughter develop a similar relationship with Nana, even though she never met her.
One of the best friends I ever had died very young in his early 20s. He was a mentor of sorts to me at the first college I attended and one of the most generous people I have ever known. He helped me through a lot of difficult transitions in my life and then he died abruptly, totally unexpectedly under very strange circumstances... his body was found at 2 AM in Golden Gate Park.
Kurt was a very athletic, tall, sinewy muscular guy so it does not seem possible that someone could have hurt him. The coroner's report in CA found nothing. He was on some serious antidepressants at the time but I did not know this.
He was from Maine but was living somewhere near Monterey Bay in California as an summer intern while getting his MBA at Univ. of Michigan. I was living in Santa Cruz that same summer and kept procrastinating a visit to him because I was" too busy." For the life of me I cannot remember why I was so busy.
Anyway, his father was a high muckety muck in the military and a neurosurgeon and was pretty well connected to the medical community on the east coast so when they flew the body back to Maine to be buried he had the chief medical examiner of Maine look at it again and they found a bruise on the back of his neck that apparently had to have been there at the time of death. How they know these things I don't know. When his ex girlfriend called me to tell me about his death and asked me if I wanted a photograph or not I said no. I did not know what else to say, I so much did not want to deal with his death, Saying no that day is one of the few things I have ever regretted. That and not visiting him that same summer.
I give a check to Deep Springs College, our alma mater, every month. It always says In Memoriam, Kurt S in the subject line. That is my ritual.
The president of the college is good about writing thank you notes every time I send a check even though I told him he did not have to do that. The last time he sent a card he asked why this guy meant so much to me. I am procrastinating writing that response too.
I think about Kurt a lot and if I am living up to his expectations. The college we went to has an admissions process that was very different There were about 11 essays you had to write and they got rather personal. Also the current student body chose the incoming class which meant the guys that were there when you got there had probably already read your application and knew you very well even though you would not know them at all. Kurt was a year ahead of me and was on the committee that selected me. The very first time I saw Kurt he looked at me with the most expressive large brown eyes I had ever seen and said "I know we are going to be best of friends Richard." I did not even know his name then.
Author: Dorothy/Cambridge (MA)
Peter was three years old when his leukemia recurred. I joined his care team -- we augmented his parents' time in the hospital, so that Peter had someone with him 24x7, and also supported the family when Peter was at home, staying with him when they both needed to go out, visiting frequently, etc. Peter and I became best friends. He was a smart, funny, compassionate kid -- and his medical experiences gave him depth which belied his tender years. I learned to love him very much. He died when he was six - his parents, another friend and I were holding him as he died.
I think because he was so young, I am reminded of him very frequently -- especially when I'm around people born roughly when Peter was born. I could see him as a teenager... now I'm seeing him as a young adult. I expect this will continue for the rest of my life.
I have a beautiful picture of Peter at home. He was a beautiful little person.
Author: Linda/Westford (MA)
JM’s Note: Linda is a singer/songwriter/performer away from work.
I keep a connection with significant people in my life who have passed on, by writing songs about them and then playing them for people.
Grand Departure - For my grandmother, Dorothy. I wrote this song for her (and my grandfather) just before her funeral and performed it that day. Not sure how I did that but at the time it was quite empowering. Ever since, I love performing this song at shows and talking about my grandparents and what they meant to me.
Missing Helen - For my mother, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack four years ago. I also keep the connection alive by passing on to my daughter many of the gifts she shared with me. Her gifts included music especially, long days by the ocean, appreciation for the arts... openness to the vastness of the universe and what we don't know (she always insisted that there really are other intelligent life forms out there). Political gumption. Empathy for other's situations. I have to work on all these things, but they were quite natural to her.
God is Good - For a musician friend of mine named Alexis Shepard, who I only knew a brief time, but who's life and death had a big impact on me.
For two other very close musician friends of mine, Don Brody and Rachel Bissex, that have passed on - just performing their songs for others keeps alive a huge connection. I talk about them, their personalities, their music, when I'm introducing a song of theirs that I cover. Then when I sing the song, I feel like I become them a little, or that I am singing for them from beyond. That process brings me a lot of joy and I find it very comforting.
My grandfather (mother's father), Willem Uhlig, passed away in his early 70's, around 1972 or thereabouts, when I was barely 10 years old. He was quite the handyman. He was born and raised in the Erzeberg (sp?) region of Germany. This part of Germany is renowned for wood carving - nutcrackers, and those intricate and delicate wood-carving merry-go-rounds with propeller blades on the top that are powered by the heat of candles you place into holders on the base. (One Christmas, I remember him running through the house with one of those merry-go-rounds totally engulfed in flames. He used candles that were too tall and the candle flames ignited the propeller blades! But I digress...)
In his basement he had a woodworking shop. I have all sorts of memories of being down there with him. Maybe he was working on a project and have me help him with something trivial. Other times, we would just dig into a pile of scrap wood and figure out what to make, using the shapes of whatever was available for inspiration, like a toy boat or train car.
One year he made a table lamp for me that looks like an old-fashioned manual water pump. The lightbulb socket is controlled by a pull-chain switch, and he worked the pull chain through a hole in the end of the hinged "pump handle" of the water pump. So whenever you want to turn the light on or off, you simply work the water pump handle.
I still have that lamp, and it still functions. Every time I walk by it or use it, I think of him.
My grandmother (his wife, Concetta Ormea - yes a combo-Euro-German-Italian couple! She came from a small town in Italy just outside of Torino/Turin) also died while we children were still rather young. I was in high school when she passed away. She still lives on though within our family because of various things she used to say, in her own special way with that thick Italian accent, that we continue to say in my family to this day. For example, whenever my siblings and I are together, if for some reason the subject of brushing your teeth comes up (eg., we're heading out to go shopping, I need to brush my teeth before we leave), we don't say "brush your teeth". We instead say it the way she would have said it - "Brusha you teets!" My oldest brother Richard will invariably motion with his hand as if he's taking a toothbrush to his nipples. Such a cut-up. That's how we fondly remember and love our grandmother.
All my grandparents are buried, not cremated, so there's no ashes around. They're all buried together in a memorial park outside of Philadelphia. Occasionally when I am visiting up there, I try to stop by to "pay them a visit." While their funerals were obviously necessary rituals we had to get through to deal with our near-term acute grief, they have not become in any way any sort of lasting memories of my grandparents. Instead, I remember them mostly from when they were all very much alive.
Author: Linda/Westford (MA) (Again, she posted earlier, too…)
I can say for my experience...
that my continued perceived connections with others who have died, (as well as those who are still alive but have passed out of my day-to-day life), are all derived from my spiritual beliefs. Let's see if I can go further with this...
I believe that everything we experience here is a result of our collective conscious creation (and that doesn't just apply to human beings). We all live in just one of many paintings that we ourselves have painted, except that we have blinded ourselves of the 'painter's perspective', so that everyone and everything in this painting has it's own 'life', or 'growth opportunities' so to speak.
My belief is also that when people pass away, they gain back some, if not all, of that painter's perspective. They see themselves in the many phases of this painting as well as others. So if I can connect emotionally with my family/friends that have passed on, then I might feel (and I do) more in tune with my own and others 'timeless' selves. These beliefs work for me, make me feel empowered, more actualized, less distraught, less a victim, etc., in my day-to-day life.
I only speak for myself in believing that I choose my own problems, my own sicknesses, my own failures and victories. I don't say to other people, 'you chose this for yourself', because I also think that if someone else strongly follows a whole other system of beliefs, then that is what is valid for them, and to a certain extent they make those beliefs a reality in this world/existence which we share.
And, if I am part of a larger collective problem or disaster, I believe that I have chosen on some level to participate in that larger experience. I choose to participate in events while I am here, so that we all have the opportunity to learn from them, from each unique perspective that is taken like a camera that snaps a picture, and the great beyond is the place we all take out our photo books and pass them around. Except the photos are those intense feelings we have when we learn something huge in life, when we suddenly know the truth about something or someone. I believe I chose to experience this life as lesbian (among other things)... to gain that unique perspective and really feel it, to share it, to learn from it, to actualize it in my own way.
And the mutual sharing of experiences which I believe happens intensely on the 'other side', happens here thanks to our common languages. I mean, think about it... what we do here in this database, sharing our individual 'experiences', is incredibly valid for us, even though we're just typing words into a database that gets replicated around the world. I haven't met or shared a single 'sensory' moment in person with most of you, but I feel connected nevertheless. I feel I learn from your experiences, and can relate to them sometimes.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg for me, since I also believe in reincarnation, alternate realities, our ability to collectively change the past as well as the future. I grew up with Christianity (Methodist), but in college I got into reading Jane Roberts' books and it just worked for me.
Maybe that's why I haven't participated much in earlier topics about spirituality. Is there anyone else in this db who thinks this way?
Or maybe this posting is just long enough or far enough down the thread chain that it won't get noticed!
I'm pretty much the same.
I have been fortunate. I have both my parents with me, and had all four grandparents until I was 32. My mother's parents both passed away within the last 4 years, at 93 and 97, so they haven't been gone all that long.
Distance plays a part. My dad's parents were buried in Long Island somewhere, and I have no reason to be anywhere near there. My grandparents on my mom's side were cremated in Florida, although my uncle has kept some of their ashes. On the slightly morbid side (at least to me), one of my cousin's grown daughters actually had some of my grandmother's ashes placed in a jewel to wear as a pendant.
I don't even think my dad has visited his parent's graves since their deaths (he leaves near by me in Maryland). I don't recall going to cemeteries much as a child; it was not family ritual. On the other hand, my partner Ben's family comes from Savannah. I have been to see his family's graves several times (in the same cemetery that used to house the bird girl statue on the cover of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil".) We go every time we're in Savannah, because that's his families ritual. His maiden aunt visits them frequently, but she has never left the city and cemetery visits are part of the culture, providing flowers at birthdays, Christmas, etc.
Ben's dad passed away a couple of years ago, and is buried near his mom's home outside Jacksonville, FL. So when we visit there, we go to that gravesite. His mom and sisters visit frequently.
I'm not sure what I'll do when I have someone nearby. It's not part of my thought process. I remember all my grandparents, have a few mementos about the house, but no rituals. I don't feel sad that I don't, and don't feel I'm disrespecting them by not having them, either. My guess is that most rituals are passed down, and if you had them as a child, you're apt to continue them, but rarely will you start them.
Not at all.
It is an interesting question. I used to participate in a Death & Dying Workshop a few years back as part of an AIDS 101 Program I volunteered with. I always liked this session as it was always thought provoking and was taught by some great friends of mine.
I maintain very little connection with my relatives who have passed for different reasons. For example, my dad passed away in November 2004. I was never terribly close with my dad so I don't feel much of a connection with him now that he is gone. That doesn't mean his passing wasn't hard on me, but that wasn't the question.
I lost both my grandparents on my dad's side and my grandmother on my mom's side over the last several years as well. They all meant a great deal to me but again, I don't feel too much of a connection to them now that they are gone. I still miss them and I have a number of photo's and other items (like my dining room set) that remind me of them, so maybe that's a connection.
However, I guess the reason for my post was to say that you are not alone.
Long ago, when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, I took a "Death Education" class. It turned out to be one of the more interesting classes of my undergraduate career. Your friend poses an interesting question.
I have lost all four grandparents and several friends (due to various circumstances). In all of these cases, I certainly remember those who have died ... a sort of selective memory in that I tend to remember a lot of "good things", but very little in the way of "bad things". But I do not believe that rituals play a role in my connection, nor do mementos. The memories simply stay with me and can be triggered by photographs, reminiscing with friends/family, songs, locations, etc. Some I think of often, others very infrequently.
The exception is my father. For some reason, rituals and mementos play a role in my connection with him. When I travel between Raleigh and the Northeast I nearly always stop at his grave to place flowers and recite Khaddish (well, ok ... I have to read it ... and not being Jewish myself, I doubt I am pronouncing the words correctly, but I try my best). I also have the flag that was presented to my mother (my father's was a military funeral) in a display case on my desk at home. I'm not sure why rituals and mementos play a role here. Obviously, the death of my father represents the strongest loss I've known. But I don't believe any of these rituals/mementos are necessary in order for me to remember my father and keep "connected". But for my father, these things do play a role.