Day 494: Ritual

Day 494: Ritual

I went to a funeral today for someone who was quite an influential figure in my life, albeit in an indirect way. Don H. Clausen sold my parents their house, the one of everlasting remodel fame, and he was also a solid parental figure to both my parents. He passed away a month ago, and being that he was a congressman for northern California for 20 years, and an influential figure in many administrations even after that point, our neighbors and his children the B’s who still live next door to us wisely decided that they should give several weeks time before holding his memorial service. It was solid reasoning, as the service today was attended by various regional dignitaries including the military, and representatives of several current and former congressman and local governmental officials.

I was mostly struck today by the power of ritual, particularly those that the military performs when someone distinguished in their service passes away. Liz and I were talking on the phone a few minutes ago as I was finishing my drive down here to the bay area, where I am currently, about how these rituals we perform after someone dies are said to honor the dead, but really, they are there to embrace the living. The movements and words are steeped in time and history, and they provide the suvivors a forum to feel and express grief whether they’re ready to do so or not. It’s essential that we do so, isn’t it? It reminds me that humans have been supressing their emotions for thousands of years, and a funeral is specifically designed to combat that. We are surrounded by a mass of people feeling the exact same things that we are feeling, and we talk about the person who is no longer with us, and by speaking and honoring those memories out loud, we admit to how much we miss that person and how much they meant to us. I’ve talked a lot on this blog about how saying something out loud, especially publicly, takes ownership of that feeling…and by taking ownership of something about ourselves most often completely drains it of any power it has over us that we don’t wish it to. It’s there, out in the open, and being so out in the open shrinks its ability to control how we feel.

Right now I’m sitting on the floor of my parents’ trailer down in Mountain View, the one they use when they’re down here working, and I feel very much like a child version of myself. I have a heater running, and I’m sitting right in front of the vent, warming myself up. I used to do this all the time as a kid with this space heater we had. It was brown, had a metal grate on the front of it, and if I were to tip it backwards by accident, it would shut itself off. It was probably still a fire-hazard menace of thing, given it was made in the 80s, but at the time I’d bet it was considered to be one of the safer options out there. I loved it. I’ve always detested being cold, and one of my favorite things to do was huddle up in front of that thing at night and get warm. To this day, the sound of a heater like that makes me feel happy. Downright sleepy at the moment. It’s been a very long day.

The service was in the afternoon. I had a morning to hang out with my parents, choose what I was going to wear, help Liz with an audition, and then we were off to the funeral in fortuna at the (beautiful) River Lodge. The memorial was lovely, I got to meet this older gentleman named Dan who was a *President* of the Humboldt aviation club in Eureka, and we talked about planes. He’d flown planes in World War II, just like Don had. After some food, it was off to see Dawn Marie, or as I will always know her, Mrs. B who was in the hospital after having had surgery a few days before and run into a complication. She was doing well, actually, so that was nice to see. Then, it was straight home and me packing the car to take down here to the Bay Area since it was already 6pm and I had a 6 hour drive ahead of me.

Now, it’s 12:30 and I’m exhausted. Exhausted, and feeling very reminiscant being here in this trailer that I spent just over two weeks in after my mom had her major surgery last year that’s literally turned her life around. She can sleep again without choking to death. It seems like a long time ago…and it also seems like it was a couple months ago. March 10th of last year was when she had her surgery…almost *exactly* a year ago. How’s that for symmetry?

Good night, guys. Home tomorrow, and a wedding.