This otherwise cry-free Bud-face was born to revel and laugh, I say. To tell stories. To live stories. To sing and play them. To drink of the magic elixir of life and to share the wonder of its intoxicating mysteries. To enjoy each and every day. To learn each and every day, beginning with ‘knowing where you are” and to connect and compare that “local knowledge” all the way out into and among all of those ineffable stars. It is from this simple, holistic, epistemic core that I learned not only how best to listen to others, but to use what I heard and observed and lived with them to be helpful, which is to say, simply, to help others learn how best to tell their own stories.
And what remarkable stories these are! What remarkable poems and artwork. This book is made up of them. They construct a fantastic narrative pleasure-house collage created in diverse voices and attitudes and even a little friendly criticism - what KB calls “perspective by incongruity” - about “my influence.” Collectively and individually they offer a rare (at least in my experience) candid and insightful, critical and loving, and sometimes belly-laugh funny series of 38 all-star and amateur riffs on what my long-time pal and co-conspirator Eric Eisenberg calls “Bud the man and the Bud experience.”
I mean, really, who gets this kind of end-of-life validation? I say it again: I am a very lucky man!
Ah, ad-hem. Yes. My guess is that you may have been fine with this post until you read those three little words: “End-of-life.”
But please don’t be put-off by them. Or read too much into them. As we have often mused in this blog since the very start of it last June, we all die.
We still don’t know much about the experience of it (or we know way too much about the technical/medical side of it, and that doesn’t always help) and, for a lot of reasons, too many of us are still too frightened of death to speak openly about it. So we live with a kind of mythic narrative that, as Ernest Becker put it long ago, is a “denial of death.” As Art Bochner puts it:
There is so much in life we can't control. The illusion that life is predictable and tomorrow will be the same as today comforts us, but in the long run it does not serve us well. If one lives long enough, he or she will likely wake up to some disturbing and undesirable change.
Art says that what I am doing as I/we navigate this last chapter of my life is teaching others “how to accept unexpected interruptions in one's life story with acceptance, patience, and love.” I’ll take it.
That doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing. Or that I have a clear plan. Or that I have any more of a clue than you probably do what the “end-of-life” will be for me when that final phrase one day rings true. I’m writing this blog in part to find that out.
But only in part. I also know in my heart and in my head that what happens next is not something I’m supposed to entirely know nor can I or any of us adequately prepare ourselves to meet. If a larger plan exists, and I do believe there is one and that it is ultimately unknowable, I want to enter it gladly and with gratitude and awe.
But who really knows? My upfront and personal lessons about death are few. My father died in his sleep, or so the story goes, and anyway I didn’t see him until he was nattily attired in a coffin. My mother died in a hospital in a bad way that went on too long because we were afraid to “make the call.” I was with her, but aside from a clear preference for not unnecessarily prolonging life in that way, I’m not sure I learned much. I’ve read other accounts from eyewitnesses and there just doesn’t seem to be a clear pattern. All of us, it seems, die in our own ways.
I figure that the “best death” I can maybe hope for is to fall into a peaceful sleep surrounded by my loving family. I’d like to avoid leaving behind a “death drama” – given my obvious lack of an acceptable “cry-face,” any untoward histrionics at the end would no doubt appear ridiculous – and, when it comes down to the finality of the finality, hey, if there is a “big pill” or whatever, well then, ad-hem.
Yet I know that this death scene scenario-setting is pure hubris and also unnecessary. I can no more control the end-of-life than I controlled life. Fortunately for me, I was never much into control.
What I have always been about is the lived experience, the resulting story, and the knowledge that much in our lives is about recognizing and coping with ambiguity until it isn’t ambiguous anymore. At that point in this imagined “end-of-life” scenario, I just close my eyes and “go with it.” I don’t even know what to call it, but lately “the Great Whoosh!” keeps popping into my head. And, for some reason, that language makes me smile.
I hope my soul will be able to take into that Great Whoosh! some of what I’ve learned here, and I sincerely believe that what I’ll leave behind are relationships, memories, and love that will endure, if only in echo, in moments recalled, in laughter shared among family and friends, and perhaps even in dreams.
In the meantime, hey, it’s a great day to be alive, even living with this rude cancerous “interruption.” I plan to make the most of it. Don’t you?
P.S. I don’t yet have the necessary details about ordering Celebrating Bud. When I get them I’ll be sure to distribute it widely, including on this blog.