Yesterday we buried Neil.
Gord and Louise in Gordís Big Black Ford truck
Picked us up, Scott and I, riding high; it was fun.
Off we went, hell bent for J.R.
Who we love, each in our own joint way.
There we were, five alive,
Setting off to bury Neil; it was fun.
Yellow sun through sky-line clouds
Promise of a day, gray, dreary, good for a burial
Windy, chance of shower, scattered gusts of leaves.
Me with my plastic mug of hot tea, they with none; it was fun.
Stopped for hot coffee, more tea, toasted bagels
Off again, up the highway, totally illegal,
Passing everyone. High! In Gordís Big Black Ford truck
It was fun, laughing eastwards, northwards, off to bury Neil.
Up the highway, off the highway, to the road less traveled
Fifteen minutes into town, with a deepening load
To the funeral home.
Weíre here to bury Neil.
Ties on, jackets straightened, cuffs shot. In we go.
A new Millennium Blues Brothers. Also Louise.
Olive comes to greet me.
I love Olive.
Sheís always been a help to me
And now her husband lies there.
Weíve come to bury Neil.
She leaves his side and comes to us. We hug.
She hugs me. Somehow, down by our sides, our hands touch
Our fingers intertwine. It does not feel so strange.
Sheís always been a help to me
We walk, holding hands, to stand beside the coffin.
Neil looks just like he always does
But now with eyes closed, he horizontal,
Instead of erect in a chair in the back row,
But very much alive.
Introductions to the family. This is Mark.
This is Kathy. This is Robert. This is Tim.
Later, I mingle in the orbit of my four companions.
I make a good joke. They laugh in amused disgust.
It was fun, but now I know for sure, Iím very nervous.
Ten-thirty, filing to the parking lot
Gordís Big Black Ford truck, sombre now;
The sun in shadow, ombre now.
Grey clouds, scudding clouds.
To a graystone church out in the fields
Full of strange symbols and coloured devices.
Half-full of strange people, unknown to me
Except for David. Hi David!
And thereís Clarence. Hi Clarence!
I feel at home, now.
Surrounded by people who feel my loss.
We sit, we stand. Plays up the band
But truth is it is a harmonium that welcomes Neil,
Home to the church in which he was baptized,
Welcomed into the church where he was married,
Welcomed into marriage with Olive.
And so Hello Neil! Goodbye Neil.
The cantor is the worst.
Scott grimaces, JR cringes,
Gord and Louise share glances.
I die inside.
(Iíll be next!)
Across the road we file, to the marquis above the hole.
Green carpet covers the earth that soon will cover Neil
And be covered in turn by Godís green carpet.
More prayers, wind from the priest.
More dry leaves on wind from God.
We are in transit between the wind of man and the wind of God.
Some parting words with friends
Then off again in Gordís Big Black Ford truck
Speeding down the highway. This was fun.
Chinese or Dennyís? Thatís the vexing question.
Dennyís we see first, so in we go,
(Location, location, location).
Hunger, hunger, hunger.
Here it is, one of the clock
And nothing but toast since awakening.
Table for five. Disgusting fare.
Piles of eggs scrambled with ham, home fries,
Burger with mushrooms, onion and Swiss cheese melted,
French fries huge steak potato sandwich dripping gravy.
We gorge ourselves, swallowing food
Just the way this Earth will swallow Neil.
Dessert to follow, ďItís my birthdayĒ I pipe up
To jolly the waitress.
Pie and cream, ice-cream, chocolate cake
Much sharing - ďHave my ice-creamĒ Ė ďHave some pieĒ.
These are companions, co-pain, we share our bread.
Here come the bills. Hooray!
No charge for my dessert.
It is my day of birth.
I am reborn, alive, barreling down the highway of life
In Gord's Big Black Ford truck, we five.
Replete, content, not missing a thing
Except for Neil.
Neil and Olive moved away
Two years ago to this place, two hours down the highway.
I got used to not seeing them each week.
I got used to life without Neil.
Already I had an idea that Iíd not see Neil again
Unless he dropped in.
Itís just that he wonít drop in again.
Nothing much has changed. Life goes on without Neil.
Iíve buried Neil deep;
Deep within my heart,
Deep where only death can turf him out.
Until the day I die, Neil will live
Fresh in my memory, as he does today.
Refreshing as a fall shower of yellow leaves when my skies are grey.
Disturbed only by the gusts of life
To rise, swirl, and settle again.
To feed my soul with new life
With hope, that I might die like Neil,
And in my own way, be buried like Neil.
With joy, much laughter, and good food.
And memories that are the very best
That this life can offer.