Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Final Pint

I lost another friend this week.

My next door neighbor passed away from the same esophagus cancer that took my buddy Don a couple of months ago.

We just came back from the memorial service. It was very quaint and very moving, with moving music by a guy playing guitar and singing songs like I Did It My Way.

I would be lying if I told you he and I were close buddies. That just didn’t play out to be. Interesting though because we both have so many things in common; a great love for golf, huge Detroit Tigers baseball fans, the same generation of beliefs.

But we just never really had that friend bonding event occur.

But as I sat in that ceremony – listening to the music of the very talented guitar player, and listening to the words of inspiration from the preacher – the same non-denominational minister who married my lovely wife Darlene and I and who christened both of my little girls – I was moved.

And I was inspired.

I was inspired to the point that when I die, I do not want to make my friends and loved ones sit through such an uncomfortable setting.

I know – this is not a new idea.

I want a wake. I want a great old fashioned Irish wake.

I want all my friends – everyone who knew me well enough to care that I was dead – I want all those people to gather at a pub – and have a beer – maybe two – maybe twelve – and all hang out together – and maybe listen to music of the play list from my iPhone (which is actually an awesome play list which can easily last sixteen hours before repeating a song) and join in on playing some pool or maybe some darts or maybe some cards – hang out together and just enjoy each other for as little or as long a period of time they wish to stay.

My very plain and simple urn would sit at the end of the bar.

Sure, I know the memorial is for the people you leave behind. People need a way to say good bye.

But I do know that the majority of people who would care enough to say goodbye to me would walk out of the chapel and say – “c’mon let’s go get a drink”.

So I am saving them that unnecessary step.

And only my brother Paul can say my eulogy. Only Paul could get it right. Only Paul would know everything about me to speak final words on my behalf at the end of this game of life. Only Paul could get away with being honestly objective so as not to leave behind any false impressions I may have left lingering about my own greatness.

Only Paul could bring could get away with making the statement to this group – “but it’s too late now Brother Fred … I bet it’s hot down there”. And I would smile in my lingering spirit – maybe make a beer glass fall from a waitresses tray just to let him know I’m listening.

Only Paul … and my lovely wife Darlene. Nobody knows me today like she does.

I would be so honored if my lovely wife Darlene would stand up in the front of the pub – underneath the big screen TV mounted on the wall playing a collection of pictures from our life together – and she might explain again to all who might listen – who I was again.

But the very best part would be left for my adopted Irish Brother Ray, who in that wonderful Irish brogue of his would simply read a few words that I might leave behind for him to say as my voice …

“I just want to thank you all for coming out today to enjoy the last gathering at a pub with me. I’m glad that you could make it, you rotten buggers; although I wish you would have come out with me before this … it would have been a lot more fun. Now, I’m pretty much dead. You can’t even buy me a beer now. ‘Happy Dead Day – here have a pint on me’ you could have said today … as you passed me a pint … you rotten cheapskates … but thanks for coming … really … because God did we have some really great laughs … didn’t we?”.

And all around the pub would be Bristol board posters – each containing one of my headstuffing stories – but only the really funny ones – and maybe this one too to make me appear so prophetic.

I did go to one wake … many years ago … totally by mistake.

I used to hang out at an Irish pub in London called Yer Man’s. It was run by two fine Irish immigrants Jimmy and Annie. And one of their Irish mates – a very important person in their life – had passed away. The casket was at the front of the pub. And when I got there – just stopping in for a pint in the passing of an evening with friends – I discovered a pub full of very drunken and emotionally distraught mourners.

Booze does not really enhance the way a person mourns. Instead it exaggerates it like a cartoonist exaggerates the nose of a political caricature.

“He wazsh shusch a lovely man … “, followed by the sound of sucking snot back into ones nose is made, “I really lubbed dat guy”.

That wake went on for two and a half days non-stop.

Okay – I’m not asking for that. But I do know I have several friends and several other acquaintances who would think two and a half days was just enough time to get warmed up.

In truth, I’m very proud of every friend I have ever made. If I were not, they would never have been my friend.

You can pick your friends, you know.

As for my family, well, I couldn’t have picked a nicer more loving family to come from. I love them all deeply. I couldn’t have been more blessed.

But in the end, as you find yourself wrapping up this amazing journey of life, perhaps seeing the end coming, perhaps not seeing it coming at all – I know that for myself – should it happen now – I would be quite content.

I’ve always said that when I go, I hope it is sudden. Perhaps standing outside and looking down at the ground noticing that the shadow that surrounds me is getting bigger very quickly and then just before I look up …

The piano hits me.

I have seen too much cancer. My Dad. My Uncle Fred. My buddy Don. The list goes on and on. My Mom is the only person I personally know who beat it.

I have quit smoking for a week shy of five months. I’m fifty and I started at the age of nineteen. That’s thirty years of smoking. And I’ve quit for only five months.

I hope it was soon enough.

If not, the first pint’s on me.

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