Yeah, yeah, I know I've told that joke before. But it's a good joke. Earlier this week, my friend Dick Phelps died. Dick was a regular at the OA meetings I attended. He was not doing well; he had emphysema (or I guess they call it COPD these days) and was on 24-hour oxygen, which meant he had to drag this pump around with him everywhere he went. As someone living with someone who's had a different kind of pump strapped to her, I can say that this is Not Fun. Anyway, Dick was not doing well, but what finally killed him was appendicitis (!). He had emergency surgery and as they say, it was all downhill from there. Dick was 75.
Since I got to Dallas I've been to about seven funerals, which seems like a lot. I don't think I went to any the whole time I lived in San Diego, except for my mother-in-law's. There was one I was supposed to go to--was supposed to sing, actually--but as I was getting ready, Stuart Adamson died and I somehow got the news that all that was good and light about the world had just died with him. So I got back into bed and stayed there for, I think, a couple of days. And I didn't make it to the funeral. Call me what you want, just don't call me late for a funeral.
Anyway, I'm driving up to this funeral, which is in the far north of Collin County. Minding my own business. As I make the turn to the street that has the church on it, I'm greeted by this:
Then I actually get out of my car, and blasted by frigid winds, make my way across the crowded parking lot. And here in the courtyard is this:
Anyway, the funeral part, the part where they actually talked about Dick, was very nice and very emotional. The rest of it--pfft. Ann, my Jewish friend who went with me to my last Catholic funeral, thought it was pretty funny that I knew all the songs and prayers. Well, hey, I used to be a Lutheran, and guess who we ripped off most of our material from? It's a 500-year-old copyright lawsuit that they're still arguing about somewhere in Wittenberg. But, yeah. "Shelter Me, Oh God," "It is indeed right and salutary..." "On Eagle's Wings"...yep, they're engraved on my neurons. Try reciting some prayers every Sunday for 16 years in a row and see if they don't start to sink in.
The older I get, the less patience I seem to have with organized religion. (Which I guess would include Buddhism, but first of all I'm not sure Buddhism is actually a religion--more of a philosophy, a way of life--and second, Buddhism isn't that organized. That you can take to the bank.) I know people need to believe something, and getting together in a gang makes it easier to believe that something, but when that something is used to hate other people and tell them they're wrong, it just doesn't seem to be the sort of thing that God would condone (if He existed). Once, when I was a kid in the Lutheran church (I think I was maybe about thirteen), the pastor was on an anti-Communist rant during his sermon for whatever reason. I am not by any means pro-Communist (you could probably call me a casual socialist) but this rant had gone way beyond sermonizing and into viciousness. So I started to stand up (yep, in church) to interrupt the pastor and ask him where he was getting this stuff. I was immediately grabbed and restrained by family members. I'd like to think that was all about being mortified in public and not about agreeing with the ranting from the pulpit. Anyway, I'm Over It now. (sniff)
So the funeral ended. Food was served. I knew half the people there through OA (and there were maybe like three hundred people there, so that was considerable). We ate, we swapped Dick stories, and that part was pretty nice. I will miss Dick. He was a good guy. And I will miss that hour and a half of my life I won't ever get back.