5/2/09

Open (Closet) Door.

I might as well grab the bull by the horns and tell you a story about Paul's memorial service/wake.

It was incredibly hard to be there. There was a slideshow video running through all these pictures of Paul growing up, us backpacking in college and sitting in his parent's finished basement when we were teens. I didn't know she was going to do it, but his sister had enlarged my blog post and it was sitting on an easel next to the table that held his urn. The post and the picture from it were surrounded by other pictures of Paul with his friends. One of our finished swords was sitting on a sword stand next to the urn.

It was a hard thing to see, but I'm glad she did it. If there's one thing I'm not, it's a public speaker, and there was no way I was going to get up there and say anything in front of a crowd.

The deal was that from 5-6pm it was just friends and family, then from 6-8pm it was open for the general public to pay their respects. We had arrived at around 4:30 to help get everything set up.

Earlier in the week Paul's wife had asked me to put together a CD of a song or two that he had liked, so I did. I made a CD of 4 songs, and I figured they'd be playing them in the background during the wake or something. Turns out, that wasn't the case.

Instead, she had asked all of his friends to bring a song that was special to him. After the minister gave his sermon, he invited us one by one to get up and speak if we wanted to, and after each person was finished speaking, the funeral home employee manning the CD player would announce the title of their song, then play it. Apparently, since I had provided a CD, the minister had assumed that I wanted it played even though I wasn't speaking.

Unfortunately, my CD wasn't clearly marked by song. I had just quickly scribbled "Paul" on it with a sharpie right before I left the house. There were four songs on it, as I mentioned. When the minister said, "Here's a CD from JV entitled 'Paul,'" I quickly decided the song I wanted them to play was the 4th song -- "Rivendell" by Rush. Paul was a huge Tolkien fan and a serious scholar of Middle Earth, so the song seemed fitting.

I looked at Paul's wife across the room, who I assumed was sort of managing the song thing, and held up 4 fingers to indicate the fourth song. I found out later she took that to mean there were 4 songs on the CD. Instead of the song I wanted, the CD player guy queued up the first song. It just so happened that it was a song called "Open Door" by Genesis. Here are the lyrics:

There's the morning light
Shining in your hair, and in your eyes
And just a little way behind that smile of yours
I see another one, oh so far away
If only for one second, I could hold you close to me
When the Master calls for me again
There's nothing I can say, or I can do

Goodbye, my love

Time has come to say farewell
I hear the call again
Goodbye to the world
I've sheltered for so long
Oh there's so much my love, that I can never say

And in a little while, in a little while

There's nothing left to see

As the years go by and I have not returned
And the night has come, falling all around
Ooh, if you count the stars you'll know
How many have gone out

And when the Master calls for me again

There's nothing that I can say Or I can do

Stand in the sun

Shut your eyes and feel the world
It's changing every day

Goodbye my love

Each day will seem so long
Ooh there's so much I feel, that I can never say

I can't see you

I can't feel you anymore
I've just a memory of that open door

So while it's a hauntingly beautiful song that both Paul and I loved, it wasn't quite what I had in mind.

The song ended.

The room was totally silent.

I sat there for about 5 seconds, then applied the JP rule of humor which states that if something is at least twice as funny as it is inappropriate, then you are morally obligated to go for it.

I took a deep breath and announced:

"I'M NOT GAY.*"

Most people thought it was funny, although think I may have pissed off a relative here or there. It doesn't matter though, because I know Paul would have laughed his ass off.

As for the ghost story, here it is. Keep in mind that I've never had any supernatural experiences in my life. I've never seen a ghost, I've never seen a UFO, I've never witnessed anything weird first-hand that couldn't be explained away by logic. I consider myself more or less an agnostic. I don't *not* believe in a creator, or an afterlife -- I just figure I don't have enough facts either way to make an informed decision. Paul and I used to joke around and say that whichever of us went first had to come back and let the other know if there was anything after.

On the dresser in our bedroom, there's a cast resin candle holder that looks like a round castle. It's been up there for maybe twelve years, (I know, I should clean) but it was an early gift from my wife when we first got married so it just sort of moved with us from place to place, and I never had the heart to toss it or store it away. It also happens to have a music box mechanism in it that plays Camelot. Since Paul died, there's been a picture of him leaning against it.

Two days ago, early in the morning, it played very slowly for about 5 seconds.

Here's the thing: It hasn't been wound up for at least ten years.


*not that there's anything wrong with that.

42 comments:

  1. Wow.

    That's an amazing story.

    Chills on the music box.

    (I would have been laughing my ass off, too. Bet the looks on the faces of some of the people were priceless.)

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  2. Wow. I'm with you on the agnosticism and all, but I'm also not surprised at this. After my dad died, all sorts of strange things happened at my mom's house, and I definitely was NOT looking for anything like that. It was strange, but very comforting.

    I think that we possess some sort of energy -- call it a soul, a spirit, whatever you want -- and when that energy is first released from our mortal flesh it hangs around for awhile. Some will say it's just our imaginations, and I say to them: who cares what you think? It's there for us. We feel it, we hear it, we see it. It comforts us.

    I think Paul wanted to freak you out a little to thank you for cracking everyone up at the service, don't you?

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  3. My college roommates and I decided that propriety can, and should, be sacrificed for the sake of humor on occasion.

    Sounds like your buddy would have appreciated your contribution.

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  4. From someone who isn't agnostic: I think you did your get message from Paul after all. Good to have you back!!

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  5. It is so terrific to hear from you again. Welcome back.

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  6. "I'M NOT GAY"

    Bahahaha!!! Priceless. And oh so perfect!

    I'm thinkin' Paul came and said "hello....and thanks for being my friend...and yes there is an after".

    It took me my Grandfather and my heart dog to approach me in different ways after their passings,to realize that this is just not all there is.

    Good to have you back Johnny.

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  7. Cold chills and tears on the music box ~ I think you got your message.
    {{{{}}}}

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  8. Wow,

    Loved the story. Loved the awkward moment and the way you chose to break it...I am certain MOST folks appreciated it.

    The music box thing...I have had similar experiences in my life. Just take it as a hello from your dear friend and know that you are a very lucky man to have someone that you were so close to.

    PS...Glad to have you back.

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  9. Wonderful foray back into the blog world!

    you were closer than brothers...so if your pissed off a relative or two...oh well...this was about Paul and you...and well, funny!

    your message from Paul...rather powerful.

    i'm a believer; i had a similar incident when my dad died...it still brings chills thinking of it...and a smile to my face...KNOWING.

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  10. That is really hilarious about the song.I hope your pain fades quickly and you can laugh more.

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  11. When an "expert" tells us the "facts" about crossing over, I usually wonder, "how can they possibly KNOW this". Well, they can't. But since that music box went off AFTER your public announcement at his service, I have to go with believing it WAS Paul saying, "Way to GO, buddy". Imagine how disappointed he would have been if you just sat there like a lump.

    A music box playing its tune without power is creepy, but they probably don't have much to work with over there that won't freak us out. So he's still lookin' out for you too.

    From all you've shared with us about your friendship with Paul, you were the ONLY one who COULD have tossed a zinger like that. I'm so glad you did.

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  12. I have to admit, I was starting to laugh reading those lyrics.

    The music box thing is cool, your own sort of "pennies from heaven".

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  13. flo-dee-doe5:22 PM

    I lost a very important friend 12 years ago. He was more a brother to me than my own 2 brothers. It resonates to this day. In the immediate days, months, whatever after his death, I would occasionally be hit by oddly timed
    survivors' guilt. (Y'know, be shopping for clothes or food, and suddenly remember, "Oh yeah, Spike doesn't need that anymore..."
    I frequently called my husband out of the blue to just "touch base".
    Love your friends. Hold close those you love. Closeness waxes and wanes, but we always know what's what.
    JV, you rock.

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  14. The song sounds like a great tribute to your friend,
    *even though you're not gay.*
    Glad you're finding a few things to laugh about.
    If I had to lay a claim, I'd claim agnosticism as well, but I've had my own music box type experiences that do make me wonder about the nature of the 'here after' somewhat.

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  15. Anonymous8:56 PM

    For those that don't know the awesomeness (is that a word?) that is Rush, I provide the lyrics to Rivendell.

    Sunlight dances through the leaves
    Soft winds stir the sighing trees
    Lying in the warm grass
    Feel the sun upon your face
    Elven songs and endless nights
    Sweet wine and soft relaxing lights
    Time will never touch you
    Here in this enchanted place

    I've traveled now for many miles
    It feels so good to see the smiles of
    Friends who never left your mind
    When you were far away
    From the golden light of coming dawn
    Till the twilight when the sun is gone
    We treasure every season
    And every passing day

    Chorus
    You feel there's something calling you
    You're wanting to return
    To where the misty mountains rise and friendly fires burn
    A place you can escape the world
    Where the dark lord cannot go
    Peace of mind and sanctuary by loud water's flow

    We feel the coming of a new day
    Darkness gives way to light a new way
    Stop here for a while until the world,
    The world calls you away
    Yet you know I've had the feeling
    Standing with my senses reeling
    This is the place to grow old 'til
    I reach my final day.

    Chorus

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  16. When I was a child I knew there was something on the other side. I used to have experiences and see things that freaked my Mom out.
    Then as I got older and more "worldly" and educated, I stopped believing in anything but this life. After my mother died she came to me and said "you don't really need ME, you just need to know someone is behind you". I work in healthcare and have many folks tell me about their near death experiences and I've had some inexplicable things occur as I've gotten older and friends have passed. Paul is there for you and you will see him again. Thanks for the wonderful blog!

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  17. Anonymous7:36 AM

    awesome!

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  18. lmao....great comeback but you seem to be the type able to do that. And tho I'm not a 'practicing' anything, I do believe those who we loved are always near....to this day, I sometimes smell my Mom's perfume *actually, it's her hairspray - Adorn lmao*.... comforting just the same.

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  19. Cheryl S.9:41 AM

    As long as Paul's wife was laughing and you know Paul was laughing, don't worry about the stodgy relatives.

    As for the music box, it was just Paul saying hello. Glad he could get a message to you! [I'm not a big believer in stuff like that, but I've had a few things happen that make me believe that people can come to you if they (and you) really want to.]

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  20. I know this will sound bizarre coming from a complete stranger but I missed you while you were gone! :D I enjoy your blog so much!

    Thanks for sharing so much of yourself with the blogsphere. And as for the music box...It sounds like your friend was keeping up his end of the deal!

    Take care JV.

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  21. Thanks for sharing. Made me laugh and cry. Good to "see" you again.

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  22. When my father passed away he was cremated - and his ashes scattered from a yacht in Newport, R.I.

    There were a number of things that made this hilarious: a) the yacht was called "The Pearl Necklace." b) when my sister Hazel (yeah, I know...sister hazel), got up to consign her portion of my father to his watery grave, she paused at the railing of the boat with the urn and said, "now I forget. Is it one cup, or two?"

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  23. wow...loved the story and got chills (and a smile) when you said that the music box played! (did i say "wow"??)

    love the seinfeld reference!

    :)

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  24. Now how weird is that? Why are bedrooms firm favourites with spirits of passed loved ones? And light bulbs blowing... have you had any of those? I replaced practically the full house when my hubby died. Ironic thing is....so did most of his freinds and family!
    And NOT GAY huh? But he was in your bedroom? Hmmmm, coincidence or are you not telling us something? lol.

    Brightest Blessings J,
    Sue x

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  25. Awesome - the story, the song, the laughs, and the music. Also, I appreciate the tip on the Rush song. I'm going to go look it up right now!

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  26. I'd say you just got a supporting facts for the "afterlife" theory right there.

    Thank you for sharing this.

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  27. Aw, sometimes a little levity is just what's needed at a funeral. My best friend was in the unenviable position of planning her own funeral, including the music. I was barely holding my shit together before the service, knowing that each song I was hearing meant so much to her ... and then the B52s "Love Shack" came on and I knew somewhere she was laughing her ass off.

    That was 15 years ago and I still miss her. People tell you it gets better but for me it hasn't. It's just gotten different, not better. Don't let anyone tell you you need to "get over it" because you probably won't. But you WILL survive it. Because I'm betting he'd want you to.

    And again, I'm very sorry for your loss, and for his other friends and family.

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  28. Anonymous12:25 PM

    Paul gave you the answer he promised you. He'll always be there laughing with you.

    And no, it doesn't get easier, but you do learn to survive it.

    ;) Keep smiling, cause Paul would want you to.

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  29. Sweet and funny. I've been watching video from another funeral half the day today, pleased and touched to see how people celebrated this man's life. Your post hit just the right note with me.

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  30. This is incredible writing and a profoundly touching memoir. I am sorry to hear about your friend and I hope that your writing continues to immortalize your relationship with him. And by relationship, I'm not inferring that you're gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

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  31. Anonymous10:13 PM

    After a family member was taken off the ventilator having spent four days in the hospital following a stroke, his dogs at home went nuts barking and jumping. It was no surprise that they were his first stop.

    Know that Paul was having the last laugh.

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  32. Thanks so much for sharing this all with us. I'm glad to see you back.

    And "I'm not gay" was PERFECT.

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  33. It never gets easy losing someone and usually the 1st year is always the hardest.
    When one of my childhood friend's died that was like a brother to both my sister and I, my sister and I decided to sleep in the same bedroom for old times sake. For the 3 nights I was home, in the morning at 7am, simultaneously our door bell would ring (no one was there) and the old fax machine my dad used in my sister's room would ring and go off, like it was getting a fax. The morning of his funeral we realized the fax machine wasn't plugged in, but the phone cord was still hooked up. WEIRD.

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  34. Anonymous5:35 PM

    glad that you are back! i know how hard it is to lose a close friend - a close friend of mine was murdered (late night mugging gone really bad) and the loss was indescribable! took me several years to get out of that mindspace... about 4 months before he was killed we did a road trip to pittsburgh from DC - he's a heavy smoker and i'm not but i couldn't let him suffer for the 5ish hour trip so i let him smoke out the window. the smell didn't linger afterwards so it didn't bug me - a year later, i'm driving by a building we used to work in together and a song comes on that we used to like - suddenly there was a huge wiff of cigarette smoke in my car - the area i was in was deserted so it couldn't have been smoke coming in from outside... i like to think it was him teasing me from the afterlife...

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  35. i can't explain to you how awesome it is that you announced your sexual preference at your friend's funeral.

    will you come to my funeral please? nobody would be mad at you because the majority of my family doesn't like "the gays". i am the exception, but i will be in heaven so it's not like i will be offended or anything.

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  36. After reading the comment about the dogs going nuts when their master died, I remember when my daughter's brother-in-law died, around that same time his normally docile cat she was watching for him (and you know yourself how cats exist on a different plane than other animals)just spazzed out and puffed up and ran around like it was crazy for a couple of minutes then hid for two days afterward. All we can figure out is that she saw his ghost and freaked out!!

    Another time, about a month after a friend of mine died, I was sitting alone in my house and my thoughts went to her, and suddenly the scent of her perfume was all around me. It was not just a memory of her perfume either because it lasted for about 2 or 3 minutes. I denied it was her for many, many years, but now 35 years later, I have seen so many strange and wonderful things of this caliber that now I believe it was her.

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  37. Anonymous5:41 PM

    As a Catholic-raised lady who has decided through life to not associate myself with said religion, I believe 10000% in afterlife, not HEAVEN persay but something else has to be out there.

    One of my BF's passed 18 years ago right before my HS Graduation...and I still feel the pain. But, him & I always had a thing about 11:11. If we ever felt the need to chat, it was always "call me at our time" or "meet me at the park at the usual time"...which was 11:11.

    Since he's passed, I see 11:11 all the time. Me, cleaning the kitchen on a Saturday so many years later...I'll look up at the clock and it's 11:11. I fall asleep early, sick, stressed, needing sleep badly & I'll open my eyes..11:11. Random. But I see it. My mom does too. She loved him as much as I did as he was a constant presence in our house and she was the one that had to break the news to me that he had passed. Even after all of these years, at least one per month, we'll be chatting on the phone about whatever & she'll end the conversation with..."I love you & I saw 11:11 last night"

    He's with you. He will always be with you. Trust me.

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  38. Have you ever watched Medium on NBC? Maybe you should...

    Quite amazing, not just your story but all the others on here in the comments. You hear about these things from time to time, but to see so many observations gathered in one place... breathtaking.

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  39. Anonymous3:05 PM

    I would totally love to see a picture of the swords and holders you guys made together....

    That is so totally cool...who does that?

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