Summing It Up

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A work of fiction. I'm tinkering with an idea from a couple of pieces I had wrote recently.

Submitted: September 29, 2016

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Submitted: September 29, 2016



I recently got an invitation to a funeral of an old friend.

It is a weird idea I think. An invitation to a funeral. That sounds too cheesy. What would it say?

"Hi, we would like to coorially invite you to spend an entire day of crying over someone you either knew very well or didn't know at all."

It was for someone I cared greatly for, a great woman who made my life better. She inspired some of my writing. I will probably work on those pieces tonight and get them on the website soon. 

She was a former supervisor of mine. The toughest boss I ever worked for. I worked at a restaurant in Wyoming and she was the Manager. She was a very short woman at about 5 ft tall but she had the strength and energy of a man at almost 7 ft tall. I can remember how she would always ask what I thought of her hair. She kept it long and straight. Jet black, very shiny. I would tell her that it was great all the time. She would shake her head at me and say the same thing,

"Robert, you know the right thing to say. You will make some woman very happy."

I wish I could tell her she was dead wrong. But I knew that she meant well.

I ended up going to the funeral in a town on the Oregon Coast. It was a reunion of sorts, old coworkers and colleagues I hadn't seen for the longest time. Truthfully I had no desire to be there and to see these people. But on this occasion, I put aside my attitude and made myself very amiable and personable with these people.

Walking around and meeting with people, I noticed something very disturbing. Instead of talking about our connection with the deceased, people ended up asking eachother about themselves. Asking about recent visits to the gym, how the kids are and if they wanted to meet for coffee. I was appalled at all this. I felt that these people were doing a diservice to the deceased person. It was supposed to be her day, why the hell are we talking about eachother? All of that could wait.

Finding a seat in the back, I watched the service begin. The minister began the service with a summation of her life. He kept it to basics, then introduced speakers. The speakers tried to tell of their memories with the delivery of a hack comedian. It's one thing to try and cheer people up in their moments of grief, but we need to watch how we share memories and stories. Sometimes people don't see how their actions can affect group settings. 

The whole service and speakers lasted for 45 minutes. During the service, I took a glance of people during the service. People were looking at cell phones and electronic devices. I saw a couple of people chatting about football the whole time. I saw people just let their eyes wander aimlessly, it just amazed me. 

In life, I guess I would be identified as a "Traditionalist". I think it's best to focus on who you are paying respects to. There is no reason for discussing Fantasy Football. Having the urge to remind these people to show some respect, was something I felt urgently to act on. But I thought better of it and decided to focus on my memories of an old friend of mine.

After the service we all went into the dining area. Cause nothing says let's remember our old friend like over cooked food. Everyone gathered in their own little group of family and friends. It had the similarities of lunchtime at a High School cafeteria. I found an empty table and proceeded to eat by myself. As I was eating, I noticed a couple of people walk over to my table. Realizing that they were a couple of people I worked with, I welcomed them to my table. We all engaged in the customary conversation topics of "How are you?" "What you been up to?" "Isn't it a shame she is gone?" and "Wanna meet up after the funeral?"

Instead of racing through these questions, I took my time and slowly but deliberately answered all these questions. I found myself for the briefest moment enjoying the conversation. I didn't completely lose focus of why I was here, but I felt that maybe I could engage in some social activities. After I finished the conversation, I walked over to get something to drink. 

As I made it to the punch bowl I realized that I had done my deed. I went to remember someone who made an impact in my life. I didn't need to stay and watch these people disrespect her on this day. I started to make my way out the door when I heard people call out my name. I turned around to see that it was the main group that I had worked with at the restaurant. I paused for a second, thinking that I might go join them. Thinking better of it, I continued on my way to my car.

Maybe I was harder on the crowd in there than I should have been. I know that people grieve in their own ways, but I didn't see grieving. I saw people being forced into public and have to sit through something that wasn't a "Game of Thrones" marathon or a sporting event on television. 

I think if you are gonna grieve for someone, it is best to do it from the comfort of your own home. 

As I made it home, I felt it best to get back working on the day's story. It was a story about my main character Nick Brennan. I had the inspiration from Hemingway's Nick Adams Stories. The story I was working on was one where Nick had a dream where he was living out a song. This notion we have where we listen to a song and we think, "This song is my theme song." I had the idea that for some it means a lot of different things, but what does it mean to a writer?. So I decided to work on the story. I went through all my albums and was looking for the song that I felt described Nick. Or it could be one that had some very visual images that could fill in a dream sequence. I spent three hours going through them until it struck me.

"River of Dreams" by Billy Joel.

I remembered that was one of my favorite albums. The title song was an epic in its own right. It also had special meaning for me as well. 

It was my bosses favorite song.

She would sit in the office and play this song over and over again. I would see her close her eyes, and in a trance like state, she would move her body with the rythym of the music. She would tell me that if any song could be played for her, it was that one.

I felt that it would work for Nick. I found the song and played it over and over again for what must have been three hours. After I finished the story, I looked it over. I knew I had to make one change. On the top of the story, I wrote this dedication:


I was satisfied with the work. I knew that this was the best way I could properly remember my dear old friend. I wrote a sequence that was a tribute to her. I wish she was here to read it. 

I'm sure she would have loved it. 

I looked over the piece and wondered what could be done with it. I had planned on publishing it. The more I looked at it, the more I realized that it wasn't for publication. Going back over it, I had realized that Nick wasn't the right character for it. As much as I loved him, lord knows I did and still do, I needed a new character. So I crossed out Nick and sculpted the character of Jennifer. She was a businesswoman in her early 40's and she had just been diagnosed with cancer. After an exhaustive round of chemotherapy, she is laying in her hospital bed with the song "River of Dreams" in her head. The music is her best medicine.

She closes her eyes and wakes up in a dream like state. It isn't Purgatory, but a place of beautiful colors and eye catching scenery. Jennifer is making her song her journey. The music has taken her to a place that she doesn't want to leave. This is her bliss. Life is brutal but for a moment she is taken away from the pain. She is in a safe and wonderful spot.

After I finished the story, I decided that the best thing to do was mail this to her husband and son. I looked up their address and proceeded to make an envelope and mail this to them. It would be better if I included a letter and told them who I was and what Jennifer was to me. I broke out the notebook and wrote a 2 page letter describing what Jennifer meant to me. I've been a writer for a long time, usually writing doesn't scare me. For some reason this letter was scary. I walked out to the mailbox and sent my letter and story to them. 

2 months later I walked out to the mail box and saw that her husband Kevin had wrote a letter back to me. His letter said that he was appreciative of what I had done. He told me a couple of funny stories about Jennifer, one had involved me directly. I laughed out loud at the recollection of the story. In closing he told me that if I was in the area, I was more than welcome to stop by and meet him and his son Robbie.

She named him after me.

With an honor like that, how could I refuse?

© Copyright 2018 Robert Logan. All rights reserved.

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