Tagged: death

No One Listens

A secular 21st century American view on Luke 16 :19-31

There was this rich real estate developer with long red ties, who liked to have his name on everything and who loved decorating with gold. He even had a gold toilet. Meanwhile, down in the entrance plaza of one of his opulent resort hotels, was a homeless guy named Larry. Larry had eczema and rheumatoid arthritis.

Everyone assumed that he had mental illness, though no one knew for sure if he had PTSD and TBI since he was a veteran, or if he had something like Bipolar or Schizophrenia or just some personality disorder. Most people were afraid to ask. They assumed that he’d refused treatment or would be dangerous if they approached him.

Truthfully, most people figured that he’s be an emotional and financial burden if they took the trouble to get to know him anyway, and they all hoped to avoid being entrapped in a vortex of awkward and volatile responsibility and guilt. Anyway, plenty of people suspected that Larry was addicted to drugs or alcohol and shared the worldview that one’s predicament in life was your own fault and responsibility.

Basically, his only friends were stray dogs in the city, most of whom were a little less hungry than Larry and for the most part treated better by the average passers by, especially tourists.

As you can guess, long story short, Larry was constantly hungry and begging for money or food and ultimately died and his corpse wound up being in simple wooden coffin, loaded onto a ferry by city workers and lowered into an unmarked trench along with thousands of other unidentified corpses on Hart Island, south of the Bronx.

Larry’s soul, on the other hand was gently and compassionately carried by angelic beings to the “other side” where he enjoyed the company of the one and only Santa Clause himself. After all, if you have faith of a child, you get to spend eternity as as a child.

As it turns out, the mighty marketing mogul had a massive coronary around the same time. He was buried on one of his many estates, with an expansive monument with his name on it in gold, marking his grave, overlooking the ninth green of one of his golf courses.

His soul however, wasn’t delivered to “the good place,” but instead, he found himself in the middle of what looked and felt like a horrific Hieronymus Bosch painting. Was this Hell? Was it Purgatory? Limbo? Hades? The underworld? A terrible dream? Another dimension? Who knows? The rich resort and casino owner didn’t know, all he knew was in torment.

He looked up and saw Santa cuddling child Larry under his arm. So he shouted up and asked him, “Father Christmas, tell that Larry character to bring me a Diet Coke, or at least a bottle of water- I’m dying in this fire down here.”

But the old elf answered him, “Sorry Kiddo, you had it pretty good during your lifetime, didn’t you? But for poor Larry here, life was pretty much a living hell, so now he’s finally finding comfort and solace and you’re finding out what it was like for all the people you used, abused, or, like Larry here, just plainly took for granted.”

“Besides,” said Saint Nicholas, “between you and us is a gap, an abyss that can’t be crossed.”

“I’m begging, please,” said the rich man, “send Larry as a ghost to my family, have him warn them, so that they don’d end up here like me!”

“Well,” said Santa while several of your family members are facing indictment, there’s at least a couple who wrote tell-all books about you so they can’t be all bad… well, at least unless they’re just doing it for the money. “

“Say, look.” said Nicholas, looking the rich man straight in the eyes, “Didn’t any of them every watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ or how about ‘A Christmas Carol?’ Let them pull them up on Netflix. If those don’t make you reflect on shallow, crass consumerism, feel some empathy and compassion for the less fortunate and maybe even hit ya in the gut with a bit of good old fashioned guilt over your white privilege, I don’t know what will. That closing scene with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed chokes me up every time I see it.”

“No,” said the rich man, “this is a really busy time of year with parties and media appearances. I don’t think any of my kids watch anything older than 10 years, except maybe ‘Home Alone 2,’ that thing’s a classic.”

“So, not even ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’? Man, that kid Linus doesn’t pull any punches.”

“No, but look,” said the rich man, “a ghost would really do it, if somebody came back from the dead, that’ll really get them to change their ways.”

`”Dude, that Charles Dickens stuff has been around for almost a couple hundred years. It’s not like practically every TV sitcom hasn’t done a version of it. Heck, Bill Murray milked it for at least two movies! Love people, use things, not vice versa. How hard is that? Appreciate all the blessings you have instead of wanting what everyone else has and preventing everybody else from getting as much as you already have. Family and community and helping others is not just more important but more rewarding than power and prominence. It’s not rocket surgery.”

“Just one haunting,” begged the rich man, “maybe appear in a dream or two?”

“If they won’t listen to Frank Capra, Charles Schultz, or Bill Murray, what makes you think they’ll listen to the ghost of an unknown homeless guy?”

“Let’s face it, prophets, rabbis, sages and philosophers have been speaking and writing and writing songs and making art for millennia. They talk till they’re blue in the face and people still think that money, power, popularity and their own entertainment is more important than simple kindness and gentle patience.”

“Take it from an old Turk. People selling toy commercials have been using my likeness to preach faith, hope, family, community and generosity are more important than decorations or gifts.”

“If they haven’t listened to Doctor Seuss or Hallmark Channel rom coms, do you really think they’re going to listen to someone who raises from the dead?”

“Even people who say that they believe in people raising from the dead, don’t listen to them. Or hasn’t this past year made THAT painfully obvious?”


I’m So Sorry

I’m so sorry
You’re dealing with so much
I feel afraid to offer any commentary
because I don’t want to risk
offending you
or say anything
that will compound your pain

I want to say things
to heal
or help

but I know
nothing can
and I don’t want
anything that could be beneficial eventually
to be trivial or superficial or even insulting
because it comes at the wrong time.

I’ve been here before
in the line
at the viewing
or the luncheon
after the entombment
not knowing what to say
or how to say it
not wanting to put you through this
not even sure
how much eye contact
to make.

But I’ve been someplace
like where you are now
I know not the same place
but someplace cold
on display
in front of
what seems like
a never ending
stream of well wishers
yet so alone
so that you just want
to be left alone
but under sedation
put into a coma
so that you
don’t have
to deal with it

I’m sorry
so sorry
not only for your loss
but because
I have no idea
what to say
or how to say it

I’m here
if you want me
but I won’t be
if you don’t
I just wish
I could tell which
it doesn’t see fair
to ask you
to have to tell me
one way or another

I’m so sorry