a true event that happened almost 20 years ago--
Waking Up at the Funeral
Her face white-puffed, plastic
Rouged and lipped carmine,
Couched in the satin pillow;
Why am I in sorrow staring down
At this female corpse all dressed out?
I don’t know this thing!
The shock richters all the hell deep
To my marrow and mien, way down;
This is a fake mannequined second
Not my dear loved aunt in her final end.
I wake up at this funeral!
My deepened sorrow lightens--not her!
Yet I force myself to routed tradition
And stare down in fake meditation--
But where’s her so bony, scrawny face
Wrinkled to prune and those 50ish glasses?
I don't know this corpse!
Stray mutts played in her messy bathtub,
(The same size as this metal coffin);
Their residue reeking her house
While she placeed pet ads in the news
Making spending money on stray dogs.
Where have her shenanigans gone?
I don’t know this cadaver!
Even if this rigid painted thing had been
Modeled close to her formal portrait--
That hangs above like a small billboard
For the traffic of the bereaved--
I know this would not be her
Lying still and so stiffly proper;
I wake up at this funeral!
I remember her reading her Bible,
While 2 trained apes in her smelly room,
Gallivanted around in Huggies,
Bringing iced Cokes from the frig
To her skinny, bed-ridden self.
I don’t know this corpse!
Last week, she died of emphysema.
The certain pruning cuts us deep
To the ‘morrow,’ we who still remain,
But I do know, really, that my dear aunt
Is not here in this still, prim cadaver;
We wake up at this funeral!
I sigh in spiritual relief,
Though in sorrow, and walk
Thank the Light! We awake!
by Daniel Wilcox
First published in Lunarosity;
republished by Diminuendo Press, Texas,
and then collected in 3rd book of published
poetry, selah river
I wrote this back when I thought liberal Christianity was true, and had--despite severe rational doubts--hope that death isn't the end of a human being.
Plus, beyond all belief or disbelief, I did experience, suddenly, as I stared into that coffin, the shocking awareness that the dead corpse wasn't my dear aunt. Not at all, not even if the mortuary hadn't disfigured her actual features.
I now have only a faint hope that human life continues after brain death. My father died this year. I wish to God, he is alive right now, but modern science has mostly disproven such a view.
However, none of that takes away from the fact that artificially made-up corpses and most funerals have nothing to do with the real alive loved one we knew.
When I die, I hope those in charge will follow the pattern of service explained in the novel Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card.
Even if Charles Hartshorne and so many other philosophers are correct--no, we aren't conscious after death, such a fact of sorrow doesn't change the truth
right NOW I am alive and can make a difference for the impoverished, the refugees, the persecuted, the abused, the hurting...
Let's live in the Light,
Let's light one candle each!