First the phone calls among core family and friends, the shock, the sadness. We take a breath and reach out through Facebook and social media, to confirm the spreading whispers, that our loved one no longer draws breath. The effulgence of sorrow begins, condolences, concerns, memories, each post a prayer, a sentiment of love. And the question: Will there be a memorial?
So we gather, at houses and bars, yoga studios and dance halls, and parks if weather permits. We bring food to share, cover memory tables” with mementos of our lost ones, and spread out paper to write our grief. In the corner, musicians play. Someone takes the mic, herds us into a tight group, and says a few words. Folks share some songs, some poems, a prayer or two. Then multitudes of stories about the deceased — oh how aging hippies love their stories.
For Stu’s service, stories about his craziness were spectacular. The room was filled with his marvelous art works. We howled since he died on a Full Moon. His oldest friend made a huge wok of fried rice and sautéed greens from his garden. We all drank a lot. For Deborah, we stood shoulder-to-shoulder and hummed to the ultimate vibration she had become, made music and danced. For Alice, it was all Star Trek jokes and her devotion to indigenous paths. Walk with Damballah Wedo, my snake-woman friend.
As hobbled together as they are, these hippie funerals are prismatic in their radiance. To hear from all of Stu’s many lives — Stu the brother, Stu the art college party maniac, Stu the European-trained sculptor, Stu the ukulele player, Stu the teacher, Stu the beach bum — he became more deeply known in death that ever alive.
Steeped as we are in lyrics like “Dust in the Wind” and “Across the Universe, cremation is our usual way to go. Dee’s ashes were strewn on the grounds of Poodie’s Hill Country dive, the dance floor of Waco’s biggest Hispanic hall, even into Bill Joe Shaver’s beer. I like that! When I’m gone, take me on a “dust in the wind” road trip, too. Carry me to San Juan Mountains of New Mexico, cast me in southeastern Oklahoma’s fast running rivers, toss me from the water taxi between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. Do them all. Do it for me.
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountaintop, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.