Biff America column: Waiting to hear back from the dead
VAIL CO, Colorado
I’ve been talking to the dead since I was a kid. Yesterday one of them answered.
Anyone raised Catholic in my generation has a certain familiarity with cadavers. From a very early age I attended open casket wakes and funerals. I knew and loved some of the deceased, and others were simply anonymous aunts, uncles and old relatives.
When you attended a wake the drill was you would kneel in front of the casket, stare down at the dead person and say a prayer – I didn’t do that.
Rather than pray I would, silently, tell the deceased that I was sorry he died but since he was dead, and had some time on his hands, I would ask him to look out for me. I’d ask for from help with sports, to assistance with spelling or school work. Other than sports I never got any results.
I haven’t attended an open casket wake for many years; and if I did, I would not engage the cadaver in small talk because I believe a dead body is little more than a vessel, which once contained a soul. I believe that same soul of a person is left on the people and places they loved like a stain.
I still talk to the dead but I do it at the places where I feel their spirit lies. Now, after I inquire of their health, I ask them to look after me and those I know and love, I share my joys and successes and whine about my frustrations.
They have never answered – until yesterday.
Tim and Steve died in an avalanche more than 20 years ago; I was there when they were discovered. They were friends of mine.
The place where we found them has become somewhat of shrine for me. No plaque or monument but rather a beautiful spot where two wonderful folks died. Whenever I’m there, I speak to Steve and Tim; they’ve been ignoring me.
I’ll go out on a limb here and say, if you dislike all those who disagree with you, you are an idiot. By that I mean that no matter how fervently you believe in something, almost anything, there will be good people who disagree; you can’t loath them for it.
Now certainly there are exceptions – for those who promote bigotry, misogyny, greed, hate and are not Red Sox fans, I will never be able to see the world through their eyes. But for the rest, I have found we have more in common than that what divides us.
That mindset did little to lesson my grief a couple of days ago from a political pummeling over a cause I care deeply about. Again, there were good people on either side, but my side came up short.
With a profound sense of sadness, to a degree only possible for a right brained, overly emotional dude with more passion than perspective, I headed out for a bike ride. After an hour I found myself at almost the exact spot where 20-plus years ago we discovered my friends Tim and Steve.
I knew I had a willing (read buried – they weren’t going anywhere) audience so I engaged my old friends. After only a few minutes of small talk, asking of their health in heaven, if they have hooked up with any of my other dead friends I started complaining.
With a self righteous indignation, I told them of my defeat, my bitterness and asked what the world was coming to when there are people who don’t always agree with me?
Obviously I didn’t expect them to answer; they never have in the past.
Then, after about five minutes of me complaining I turned to walk away and I heard it, “Quit your damn belly aching, life is good.”
My legs nearly buckled; after nearly 50 years of addressing the dead, one answered. And even more amazing the voice had a Boston accent and sounded much like my own.
Yes, if you are on the top side of the dirt, life is indeed good. If you are healthy, living in a place you love, around people who care for you, life is good. And –if you happen to be married to a woman who could have done much better for herself but doesn’t know that, well quit your damn bellyaching.
It was mostly down hill all the way home, which gave me time to think. Life isn’t fair, it can be difficult, frustrating and bad things can happen to good people. But on the bright side, there is a beauty in nature and goodness in man and a country where dissenting views are not only tolerated, but encouraged.
By the time I coasted into my driveway I decided that the voice I heard was my own, because no matter how often we try, dead guys seldom talk back to us –not that I’m complaining.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or at BiffAmerica.net.