Some links to see to before we get ourselves started today. Yesterday was a Sunday, so we had a Snippet Sunday post at our joint blog. Check out Eve's post at her page about an anthology she's involved in. And Whisk had this item about Red Shirts.
Now then, today I return to my occasional theme of eulogies, given by someone you hope never does the eulogy at your funeral.
“Thank you kindly, Reverend Simmons, for your comforting words. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming on this sad day to remember the life of our dear friend George. I have been asked today by the family to give the eulogy. I only hope that I can do right by him.
He was the grandest friend you could have ever asked for. Friends help you move. Real friends help you move a body, as they say. Well, George and I did once move a body- oh don’t look at me like that. We had to take a body off Mount Rainier together when we were in the rescue service. It seemed that a rich plastic surgeon’s widow insisted that her husband’s body be taken down after he had a heart attack and died on a climb, and, well, the job fell to us. That was in our college days, and let me tell you, Old Man Prentice’s corpse was a bear to haul off the mountain. There were a few times George and I thought about just hurling the body down the slope and letting him fall where he might, but there was a five figure payday in it for both of us- did I mention the widow was rich?- and we both earned our pay.
Years later George and I would still talk about Old Man Prentice and how grisly he started to look twelve hours dead. Well, at least George went out a better way, as opposed to having his heart conk out on him at ten thousand feet and losing control of his bowels like Old Man Prentice. Although given the way George met his end...that might not be a better way to bite the dust.
Where was I? Oh, yes, back in the day. You know, George and I knew all the right girls in all the wrong places- or is that right places? We were the rock jocks, out there doing a job that was just too much fun. Aside from moving Old Man Prentice. That kept us both in shape, and even though we moved on to other things, we never lost our love for being out on a rock face, the rock at our fingertips and the air beneath us. It’s the best place to be. Better than sex, even. Well, that might depend on the mountain and the sex. Oh, sorry, Reverend Simmons, I forgot where I was. What I mean is that we both had active social lives, lots of girls in and out of our lives. A whole lot of fun. That’s how he met his dearest wife Alicia. And she indulged his continuing to climb, even though she had a personal phobia about heights.
Alicia, George always appreciated that about you. You always let him go off and climb whatever rock face struck his interest. You never tried to rein him in. Unlike Deidre, who married our climbing buddy Ryan and promptly forbade him to ever go out on a mountain trek again. Yes, Ryan was, as they say, totally neutered by getting married. Oh, Ryan! There you are. Sorry, I didn’t think the battleaxe would let you come... oh, sorry, Deidre, I didn’t see you there.
Well, George loved life and lived big. He knew well enough to leave work at work and enjoy the simple pleasures of family and the breathtaking thrill of a good climb. He was happy with the state of his life, had the love of a good woman, three great kids- hello, Jane, Peter, and Thomas. Your daddy was proud to have you as his children, you know, and in a way he’ll always be watching over you. Just hold onto that thought. Don’t even think of the way he died. Think of the way he lived. Strong and happy and loved and proud of the life he’d made.
I know. I get it. It’s hard to think of that as we gaze on his coffin. Obviously it had to be sealed. Given what happened, there was no way that he could have been in an open casket. It would have been... unseemly.
They say you shouldn’t dwell on a person’s death during a funeral. You should celebrate their life. Well, as much as we would like that, we can’t avoid it, can we? I know I can’t… because I was there. I saw it happen. There we were, up on top of the north face of Mount Widowmaker. We’d just completed the ascent, all seven thousand feet of it. We were feeling good. George was there standing near the edge. If only he had done like me… standing away from the edge. He might have been here. Maybe nothing would have happened at all, instead of what did happen.
I’ll never forget that moment, no matter how long I live. There I am, looking at him. There’s George, dancing an Irish jig in celebration of reaching the top, like he’d done a thousand times before. The geologists and the park staff are still trying to figure out what happened. Having had seen it myself, I’m trying to figure it out myself. All we know is that twenty five thousand tons of granite suddenly gave way from the side of the cliff. With George right on top of the whole shebang.
One moment he was there. The next, the whole thing goes, the cliff edge is suddenly forty feet closer to me than it was, and there’s the loudest roar I have ever heard coming up from below. It was that fast. And despite myself, I couldn’t help but say it. I remember saying those words. George? Are you there?
Well of course he wasn’t. After the dust cloud subsided, the rangers found what was left of his body among the rocks at the bottom. Ground and pasted into a bloody mess of pulp and bone. They had to use a scraper, I’m told. And even so, for years to come, parts of George are still going to be out there, no doubt.
Oh, Alicia, I’ve been too graphic, haven’t I? I’m sorry. At least he went quickly. Plunging seven thousand feet straight down amid tons of rock and being pulped wouldn’t mean a slow agonizing death.
Damn. I’ve been too graphic again.
Look at it this way, Alicia. At least you’re getting one hell of an insurance payout."