Never Underestimate the Healing Power of Laughter

Excerpt 12 of the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to read previously posted chapters. If you found this blog via Facebook, please consider commenting on Facebook or Liking it on Facebook so it will gain more circulation. I encourage everyone to write or talk about their loved ones. I love all your comments and would love to hear about your loved ones, how you celebrated them. Let’s focus on how they lived and touched our lives. XO M


Our family was so touched by the immediate and overwhelming kindness and the love of so many people that followed the loss of our beloved warrior. We heard from hundreds of people we knew and many we didn’t. We received cards, calls, flowers, emails, and unexpectedly-money.

Stuart Campbell, An older friend, and former college professor of my parents, sent by far my favorite note. My mom opened the card and found a hundred dollar bill inside, signed, “Who loves you? Stu Do.” I looked at my mom and giggled at this unexpected gesture, his words just knocked it out of the park. “People still send cash in the mail?” My mom smiled, shrugged with raised eyebrows indicating she had no idea about any of it, of what to expect. She added the card to the top of an enormous pile of cards she had already received in the three days since Dave left the building.

The kindness of humanity buoyed us but seriously, the sweet little note along with a series of other funny memories, learning new funny stories and hilarious moments that week saved me, us.

We decided on a day for Dave’s party, the next Saturday, July 16, 2011. We had roughly six days to get everything together. It was plenty of time, people die all the time and have funerals within a few days of their death. We were going to be fine. I was at my mom’s house almost every day that week helping plan and get ready for our party along with the many people who were showing up.

As I wrote Dave’s obituary tribute, he gained his Viking Warrior designation. I thought of a funeral I had attended with Dave, one of his coaches, Joe Page, had died. The service was at the Catholic Church across the street from our house. I had gone to school with Joe’s children and wanted to give my respects and be with my brother, who loved this coach. I don’t ever recall seeing Joe attend church, but then again, I didn’t attend either, but his wife was very involved with church services, and I saw her coming and going all the time.

Joe was such a character, he was a wiry 6’6″ guy, loud-spirited, results-producing track and field coach, who always had a cigar hanging from his mouth. He reminded me of a retired military man with his crew cut, not sure if he was but seemed like it to me. As suspected, Joe’s son Paul confirmed Joe served our country in the army. He drove an old classic MG B as long as I knew him which was before elementary school. I remember seeing him parked outside my parents’ house leaning up against his car, arms crossed, chatting with Dave every now and then over the years. He still had that cigar hanging out of his mouth. Dave participated in the only event for burly guys on a track team, the shot put. He was built for strength, not speed.

Before we headed over to the funeral Dave told me of his most memorable track and field event with Joe. During a track meet, the 800-meter event, the other team had no runner, which meant anyone could run for Dave’s team and win just by finishing. As a joke, Joe put Dave in to run against no one.

As Dave made his one and only lap around the track that season, maybe ever, Joe was running next to him on the infield grass shouting, “RUNNNNNNN LINANE RUNNNNN!” laughing hysterically the entire time. Dave was trying his hardest to just run the distance ignoring his coach in his face trying his hardest to make Dave laugh. Joe had a very thin gruff exterior with a heart of genuine love for all his athletes. I laughed so hard picturing Dave running with his Clydesdale war horse like shot put body and wiry Joe with his cigar in-hand, yelling at him. He laughed as he told the story and joined my laughter as he watched me visualize all of it.

We attended the nighttime funeral, a typical Catholic affair, of standing, sitting, more standing, kneeling, shaking hands, and communion. There were many more speakers than a typical funeral. More stories were shared like Dave’s. I wish Dave had thought to speak, his story would have been a welcome addition to the summary and celebration of Joe Page’s life. People were not crying, they were laughing. We were laughing. When it was over, a group of musicians with horns started playing a brassy, raucous rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” and brought down the house as everyone began singing, cheering and clapping like we were in a decades past juke joint somewhere in the south.

We were near the front of the church and followed the musicians and family down the main aisle of the church, facing all the people joyfully clapping and singing as we made our way out. Dave was bobbing his head, singing the parts he knew, he had to shout for me to hear him, “THIS IS THE KIND OF FUNERAL I WANT!” I yelled back above the music, above everything, in clarification, “YOU WANT A ‘FIRST LINE’ JAZZ BAND AND PEOPLE PARADING BEHIND YOUR CASKET IN THE STREET?” “YA! THAT!!” “DULY NOTED.” I mean, it’s important to tell people what we want. Dave and I laughed and continued heading out in the procession, singing and clapping along in this beautiful, energetic tribute fitting the man we were there to celebrate.

Thoughts of that night were in the front of my head as the concept grew from Viking Warrior into the way, we were going to celebrate Dave…with a proper Viking Funeral, booze, food, fire, and everything. Not a First Line jazz band in the street, that had been done already.

My written tribute was a thinly veiled open invitation to our Viking Funeral. I emailed it off to our local papers. All three papers held fast to their new policy that we had to purchase an obituary before they would run a ‘general interest’ story-what they called my tribute.

Fine, we will run a paid obituary. You’ve already read my one sentence “party at Dave’s house” $600 notice in an earlier chapter. I followed up after running the paid spot and asked when the tribute would run. I reminded them how much ink my dad got when he died, and the reporter on the other end said, “Yes, I remember writing that piece.” I had to hold my tongue since I had written the tribute that she cut, pasted and peppered with, “Linane said,” throughout the article to sound like she interviewed me. They didn’t run the tribute…for the time being.

In our on-going effort of trying to think of everyone who needed to be notified by phone or email, I also emailed the tribute to the President of Cal State University San Bernardino where Dave had attended and made many friends among students, staff, faculty, and administration. I said I was an introvert, I am not, shy, that is different.

Hello Mr. Karnig,

I used to be your neighbor–the house with ivy down on the corner. I used to tease you when you put your trash out yourself about having some sort of university secret service detail to do that for you. I thought it was funny. My son still lives there with his father (every other week)–the long-haired boy whom you may have seen riding a bike or walking a dog with his dad.

I am not sure if you remember your very first graduation ceremony at CSU. My electric wheelchair-bound brother (Thomas) David Linane had a little boy on his lap to accept his diploma for him. The now long-haired teenager down the street from you is that same boy. I am sure you remember that graduation.

My brother loved his time at CSU. Your staff encouraged him to continue when it took him so much longer than most to finish since he could only attend a little more than part-time for reasons beyond his control-my dad had to physically put him in his wheelchair and could only do so a few days a week without overdoing it physically. Dave learned well in the classroom but gained greater understanding from his counselors and in turn, loved helping others achieve their educational dreams when he became a counselor to students with disabilities at San Bernardino Valley College.

We are having a hard time getting the local papers to publish anything about him before his Viking Funeral at our parents’ home on Saturday. I would really appreciate your help getting this routed through your people via email on your campus as these are some of the most important people in his life.

Our family is doing well with this unexpected departure–we are having to console others so much more than ourselves. We feel lucky to have been able to have spent so much time with him and called him our own.

Thank you for your help,

Mardi Linane

He responded right away with his condolences and clear memory of Dave, who had been featured in their alumni publication a few times. He remembered me teasing him about the theoretical University Secret Service trash detail and he knew my son.

He then sent me a courtesy copy of an email he sent to his Communications Department that they feature Dave on their homepage with information about when the funeral was taking place. I had a similar response from San Bernardino Valley College where Dave had worked. They put the tribute on their home page as well. We felt that we reached all the people who we didn’t know who needed to know. Newsprint was officially dead to me (accidental pun but so applicable).

As the word percolated through the collective of our people, Dave’s friends from near and far, some long gone away began showing up at my mom’s house in the hours and days right after Dave left. They needed to return to our house. There was such a comfort to be found in our home. Even with Dave gone, the people who stopped by were happy to see the other random people who were there looking for the same something, consolation. Our family knew up close and personal how hard Dave’s life really was and how bravely he moved through all of it. We felt joy for him, relief for him and we had to work to help others see and hopefully gain similar relief from our perspective. In retrospect, I am pretty sure we were also still in shock. It lasts way longer than you think.

Some of Dave’s closest friends, Brian, Dave, Jim, Steve and their wives Sharon, Carol, Natalie and Peggy showed up asking how they might help get the house or yard or whatever ready for the party. My sister Anne and her husband Randy arrived from the East coast. Everyone helped in some way. They trimmed trees and bushes. They raked leaves. They climbed our huge Chinese elm trees and hung lights way up high. They swept and watered and in between, with the music turned up high, they laughed. They shopped and took lunch breaks, and we had sandwiches from someplace brought in. We all sat around the table eating, laughing in between a few long quiet moments of chewing lost in thoughts of the person no longer at the table with us. And then we laughed more and hugged at the end of the day. I was so happy for my mom to have so many of her favorite people around her, helping her move through these horribly difficult days with so much love, laughter, and genuine human kindness.

One of these days prior to our celebration, Brian suggested we look through Dave’s cell phone contacts to make sure everyone had been notified. Brian, his wife Sharon, my mom, and I went into Dave’s bedroom where his cell phone was in a drawer. Brian was standing near the dresser, reading each persons’ name as he scrolled through. Sharon sat on Dave’s bed, I sat across from her on the couch, and my mom sat on a stool in between Sharon and me. As Brian stated each name in the list of contacts, either my mom or I confirmed with a “yep” or “ya” that we had spoken to that person.

We made it through a large number of people, and surprisingly, everyone had been reached. He made it to the letter S. He made a physically notable double-take. He paused, I watched him look closely at the number with a furrowed brow, and his head tilted to one side before bursting out laughing, “Who’s Shithead?” We were launched into laughter with him at the unexpected question.

My mom is not really one to curse much and some may even perceive her as somewhat formal…to see her falling over laughing was such a joy in itself separate from the context of the pretty hilarious riddle we were trying to solve. Brian, Sharon and I were laughing at her reaction.

We unwound from the laughter this question unleashed, while trying to recover our breath we all looked back at Brian questioning, waiting for what, I don’t know. Brian had a look on his face, raised eyebrows that conveyed the question Any idea? Any? He repeated slightly more slowly this time, “Shiiiiitheeeead?” My mom and I looked at each other for a long moment as we shrugged our shoulders, paired with an ‘I dunno’ blank face, raised eyebrows, and more ‘snickertering.’ I made that word up, it’s when a laugh comes out your nose in a half snort. We looked back at Brian for more clues. None came. We looked at Sharon, shrugged again, and got lost in more out of control laughter in response to his slow pronunciation of “Shiiiiitheeeead.”

We half-straightened ourselves up once again and looked at Brian for more information. I love what can be conveyed between humans without words with micro-gestures, eyebrows, nods, shrugs. This is my favorite nonverbal moment of all time. Brian continued this time by reading the number. 619-xxx-xxxx. L-O-N-G Pregnant pause as the four of us searched each other’s faces yet again, as we looked around the room as if the answer was going to be somewhere up where the wall met the ceiling in the corner. Nope. Nothing. More hysterical laughter. We didn’t really recover, we were still laughing as we continued to scour our brains trying to figure out this name or this number. Nothing. It was not familiar to us. We simply could not figure it out or stop laughing

Not only was Dave a very kind and patient man he didn’t curse all that often, I mean, he did from time to time, but for him to have this particular contact, was definitely a thing. A very funny thing. There had to be a good back story to this, and I was dying to know what that story was, but the guy who knew was…dead.

Being paralyzed, Dave could not program his or any other phone. When you are paralyzed, you need help with EVERY, everything. His personal assistant for everything from putting Dave in his wheelchair, driving him to work, to feeding him during the day would also have had to have programmed his phone. Specifically. On purpose. His assistant was not a super technically savvy guy and definitely not one to use colorful language so as the humor of this contact “Shithead” continued to sink further into this moment of question, we just laughed harder and harder.

We theorized what the conversation sounded like when Dave asked his assistant to program this contact. We envisioned Dave patiently talking him through the setup process, “First push *2,” we laughed hysterically at every description of what that process must have looked like, “select the ‘add new contact icon, hit enter, the name is Shithead. YES, SHITHEAD, S-H-I-T-H-E-A-D, YES ENTER IT! hit the ‘Done’ button.” After several more minutes, the laughter calmed down for the most part.

Long pause as Brian’s eyes were transfixed to the screen with the mystery contact. He repeated the number one more time, 619-xxx-xxxx. Another quiet moment filled the room as we all concentrated really hard this time. The silence was broken when my mom triumphantly recognized the number and joyfully jumped up and shouted “Oh that’s Scott’s number!” like she was solving a million dollar puzzle on a game show. Or, “WHAT is Scott’s number?” for the Jeopardy fans in the crowd. The sheer victorious joy in her voice was so hilarious, and we lost control laughing at HER again. Just as that wave of laughter began to slow down, it hit us all at once, the realization that Dave had listed his brother Scott as SHITHEAD in his contacts and we completely lost it with laughter, AGAIN.

Brian was crying, laughing, his arm moving with his laughter as he held the phone for us to see the SHITHEAD contact, ALL CAPS as proof he wasn’t making this up. I managed to get out a confirmation, ‘Yep, he’s been contacted.’ We all cried with the last bit of information with roaring laughter, again.

There is nothing more healing than a really, REALLY good, out of control laugh that goes on for several encores until your sides and face hurt. If I had peed a little, it would have been worth it, it was so fucking funny. The sights and sounds of a collective laugh like that can stay with you forever. We needed that laugh. It was unexpected and so perfect, so poetic on so many levels. Only two people likely knew what that was about. Maybe it was a term of endearment. Any one of us could be a shithead in this life, I could have made the shit(head) list myself, on occasion. I will theorize no further, and leave it at that. However, this was the very best moment of our collective grief recovery.

That same day I responded to an email I received from a former neighbor, Mary Ann to ask if it was ok for me to read her email at the memorial. This was her response.

Hi Mardi,

Of course, you can read my story at the Memorial!

I love the idea of the Viking Memorial. It is so fitting for David.

I understand how hard it is to have the service the way that you want. When dad passed away, I got into an argument over the songs for his service. Dad was a huge, Dodger fan. So, I wanted the organist to play “Take me out to the Ball Game.” However, she said, “I’m sorry we cannot play that in this church.” So, I said, “too bad… dad’s dead… play it anyway.” She said, “No.” again in her Spanish accent. I was really mad at this stupid woman. Bob, my brother told me to “Shut up and to let her pick out the songs.” I told him, “Her songs kind of suck!” He whispered again, “SHUT UP!!” So, I had to agree on…. Amazing Grace. Trust me, I did not feel too amazing at the moment. I think I kind of glared at the organist over dad’s casket.

And to make matters worse, mom, kept running all over the church that morning, asking…”Who’s in the box? …Who’s in the box?” (the casket).

However, I would not change one thing that day. It took our minds off of losing Dad. I’m sure Dad got a big kick out of his special day.

It’s okay to cry. If we did not love the person that we have just lost, then the tears would not appear.

Songs that I hear always bring on the tears. (Except Amazing Grace!!)

David, who will be there in spirit, will love every minute of it.

I’m glad that Barbara is there to help. The list of things that need to be done before a service is a little overwhelming. Especially when all we want to do is remember and cry.

I hope to see you at the service. I have walked past your home over a thousand times, yet I have never been in it.

Hugs and Prayers,

Mary Ann

When writing this book, I contacted Mary Ann again to ask if I could share the above private message with the world.

Hi Mary Ann,

It’s been a bit since we have chatted. You may know that I have written Dave’s biography, Viking Funeral. I hope you’ve seen the posts online about it. The book is about the night of our Viking Funeral and about each person who spoke, how they were connected to Dave. I am sharing all the messages sent to us to read at the memorial and wanted to ask if I may share your private email pep talk to me?

Her response:

Of course, you may. Thank you for asking. To be honest, when I wrote that first email, I kept hoping that you would not think I was on the nutty side. Wasn’t sure how to mend a broken heart… but just tell you a little about how David saved me and helped my parents. Dad really did like him and kind of leaned on him for help.

Someday, I will have to tell you the story of when Dad and I took mom to Jane Brzezinski’s (Barbara’s mom. Mary Ann’s family lived directly across the street from Barbara’s family) funeral and how she kept asking repeatedly, “Is Jane going to be there?”

I immediately had to call Mary Ann to hear the story because someday was now, I could not resist. Her mom, Mildred, had Alzheimer’s or dementia which may be obvious from her previous comments about her mom not knowing her husband was the dead person inside the casket (box) above.

Mary Ann laughed all through explaining to me in a nutshell what it is like helping someone with this sort of disability move through the ordinary days of life, “All the way to the funeral mom kept asking, ‘Is Jane going to be there?’ Mary Ann initially looked to her dad for confirmation that he had explained where they were going to her mom, that Jane had died, that they were going to Jane’s funeral. Her dad affirmed that he had explained all this to his wife several times. They took turns reassuring her, ‘Jane will definitely be there.’

Once they got to the chapel, Mildred continued asking ‘Where is Jane?’ ‘She’ll be here.’ or ‘I don’t see Jane?’ ‘She’s here Mom.’ ‘Are you sure Jane is going to be here?’ The last time she asked if they were ‘SURE Jane is here?’ both Mary Ann and her dad responded at the same time ‘She’s in the box!’ at this, Mildred remained quiet until they got up to the altar for the viewing. Mildred took one look at Jane in her casket and said ‘Oh, That’s not Jane.’” Mary Ann and I laughed. I loved hearing this story and then had to ask if I could include THIS exchange in the book as well. Mary Ann and her dad handled their challenges with Mildred with a great sense of humor.

Our family learned a long time ago that you have to have a sense of humor to get through this life. These lovely people (you all know who you are) and these hilarious moments meant everything to me, us.

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019


Questions Introverts Ask

This is Excerpt 11 from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to find earlier excerpts. XO

The police had gone, the Fire Department had gone, the coroner was expected any time. The news had escaped, would never be contained, and the phones began to ring. My mom and sister were in the house on separate phones. I moved off the patio to avoid direct sunlight. I moved to the back lawn in the shade of the 50-foot-tall trees far enough away from the open back door to avoid hearing the phones ringing. I sat one leg tucked underneath me, percolating everything, my entire life trying to recalculate, absorbing this new reality as I sat on a glider swing very slightly moving it with my one foot on the grass. I sat numbly listening to the magical sound of however many millions of leaves live on the 80 plus-year-old trees hanging over the yard, clapping against each other gently applauding in the uncharacteristic breeze of this particularly beautiful day.

As my brain tried to untangle this problem of reality, I was being overcome with a need to leave, I wondered how long should I stay? Until the coroner left? Linda is here so mom won’t be alone if I left after that. There is nothing for me to do. For all the obvious reasons, I knew that as the news spread, there would be more calls, more recounting the story, more people stopping by, more recounting the story. Besides hating the details of bad news, I am a hardcore varsity level introvert, the thought of this was WAY too many people for me to think about encountering for one day. I was in thought, and people overload. I had a terrible headache probably from waking so abruptly or my lack of coffee or the rabid thought piranhas in there. From everything. Fuck this fucking day is where my thoughts kept resolving.

My parents moved into their house more than forty-five years ago at that point. I was a year old then, so again, almost my forever they had lived there. They, we knew everyone in the neighborhood for a few block radius (not an exaggeration) and everyone knew and adored Dave. The tapestry of connectedness had been woven through the sharing of our lives, backyard fruit, tomatoes. We waved at each other while carrying out maintenance of life efforts, as yards were cared for or trash cans put out and dragged back in on trash day. The common celebrations of life occurred, Halloween and Christmas and other holiday decorations put up and taken down season after season. A collective of every sort of update, stories (gossip) good and bad, potato chips sampled, graduation photos on front lawns, weddings, births, BBQs, anniversaries, birthday and pool parties, blood spilled, stitches were stitched, bandages employed, restriction meted out, and bone marrow tested. People arrived, lived, celebrated, aged, moved away or died, we mourned and were connected just outside our gate.

It turns out that people in a connected neighborhood notice when emergency vehicles rush to and are parked in front of your house. Especially more than one emergency vehicles. Fire Truck, Ambulance, Police car. These vehicles draw a crowd. Neighbors began showing up at the 11-foot-wide open electric back gate that had remained open since earlier that morning when the emergency personnel was summoned. There was nowhere for me to hide. When they, my former neighbors saw me, they inquired as to what was going on with the simple gesture of raised eyebrows and shoulders. My sister had called a few neighbors who lived a few streets away who had talked to other neighbors. They, too, were showing up.

Tomas from up the street and Mike and his daughter Karen from across the street came and had to see Dave. They came in the backyard and went into the house. I heard their breath taken away in gasps as their new recalculating reality hit them, I could not believe how many hearts stopped this day that Dave’s heart completely stopped. I remained on the grass. I felt sad for them but still happy for Dave. I also began to feel nauseous from what had to be residual adrenaline coursing in my stomach. Or I was nauseous from not having eaten anything when rushing out the door in response to ‘surprise’ bad fucking news or I was nauseous from everything.

Tomas, Karen, and Mike came out of the back of the house one at a time, ashen-faced, clearly upset. They made eye contact with and headed toward me. I stood and hugged each of them. They needed much more consoling than I did it seemed. A few other neighbors who were not as close with our family remained on the sidewalk periphery peering into the backyard. I gave a pathetic half-wave motion of my hand and nodded their general direction; obligatory autopilot manners take over at the strangest times. I would have preferred to have ignored them or been invisible or better yet, not there at all.

The coroner and his assistant had arrived and had gone into the back door with a gurney. A few moments later, they came out with Dave’s body in a white bag. For such a giant of a human being what remained of his physical body seemed so very small. It was odd how something as simple as the clean shade of white somehow felt so much better than the black ‘body’ bag I expected. The gurney was placed inside the low-profile station wagon, and they drove away. My mom, sister, and I stood on the patio and watched them pull away. My mom said, “Bye, Dave.” The electric wrought iron gate closed slowly, surreally making clinking noises as the metal chain was cranked over the drive sprocket.

I fleetingly felt that something may be wrong with me because I was not hysterical. I decided that not being hysterical inadvertently or whatever the opposite of inadvertently is, advertently? I had to look it up, advertently is a thing. Regardless, it was probably for the best, and I tried to stop psychoanalyzing myself. The only fact I could hang my hat on was that Dave was no longer stuck in that shitty body. FACT. I also no longer felt that life-long instinctual worry for him. I also was so relieved for my mom, knowing how long or how much my mom worried for him since forever. I was so young when he was hurt and learned a pattern of worry by watching my parents silently worry about things that people, wait, children, wait, NO ONE should have to worry about way before anyone should have to worry about anything, that I forgot what it felt like to not have it be part of me.

It was unpleasant to have that sort of worry forever in the back of every thought and liberating for it to lift away all at once. My husband and I thought my mom and Dave might live with us at some point in time. We had room for them. My sister Anne and her husband also thought they may care for Dave and were open to whatever was necessary to care for him without a doubt. I never thought that particular worry for him would ever not be a part of my thoughts, which can become a part of your identity and how you filter everything. I never thought about Dave dying before myself, never even considered it. I certainly hadn’t thought about how the only way to not have the worry was to not have him. I just assumed I would worry forever and ever, the end. Well, that was a shitty double-edged sword of traded emotions.

I knew through recent studies that worry can change our actual physical DNA and not for the better. I wondered how my parent’s DNA may have changed from carrying around that crushing worry. Would my dad have lived longer had he not worried so much about everything Dave related all the time? Will my mom live longer now without this dreadful worry? I wondered how my own DNA may have changed throughout my life and how it may now change for the better if that was still possible.

All these weird random thoughts were still rabidly running around my head out of control, biting my brain that morning. The thoughts persisted, and I bounced between them and wondering why we have such strange thoughts, were they wearing a rut in the gray matter of my brain, should I be worried about my gray matter being damaged and when would it all stop? My brain felt like the aftermath of the equivalent of a school of Piranha skeletonizing a cow but applied to the all soft and likely delicious tissue of my brain. Maybe it was my headache, the nausea, or the heat. The air stopped moving. The standing ovation of the leaves at my brother’s life well fucking done had faded as he literally left the building. The same leaves stopped making their magical shushing sounds in my library of thoughts they had moments ago tried to quiet. It was starting to get hot. It was July in Southern California. I decided, Fuck this, I’m going home.

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019

B. F. News Ad Nauseum

Part 10 of the unvarnished upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to find previous posts…

Brian was the best lifelong best friend a guy could ever ask for. A dear, steadfast friend through thick and thin: starting with middle school and high school pranks, baseball, football, laughter, girlfriends, driver licenses, first cars, shenanigans that resulted in court appearances, practical jokes, laughter, college, Emergency Room crisis, hospital dorm room, life after broken neck, Dr. appointments, more practical jokes, weddings, births, divorces, better weddings, road trips, loss and many more days of adventure and laughter after that.

Brian was with Dave on his worst days, and Dave was with Brian on his worst. They were brothers by choice, self-designated, and Brian has always been a perfect addition to our family. Brian too has a tender heart…come on, he is a guy whose best friend was a paralyzed guy. I witnessed that heart on those worst days too. That heart had ached plenty and is the real reason I was strategically lining up the calls from bad to worse to THE fucking worst being that call to him.

I took one more very long look inside the house. My mom was STILL talking to the officer, adrenaline continued to hold her hostage, and the words describing the events of the morning were flying from her lips at a million miles an hour. He was still nodding and taking notes. My sister was somewhere in the house, I somehow knew that she was on the phone. I had to make the call as my mom had asked me to.

They, Brian and his wife Sharon had been on vacation on Lake Powell the week prior. We knew they were returning home that day. They were likely to be somewhere on the road in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

I was sick of or from delivering this B.F. news to the point of being nauseous, so much so that I can’t even spell it out here I am still that sick of it. I did pick something up in that steep learning curve of delivering B. F. news that morning. I thought more about how it would hit Brian and decided to call Sharon’s phone and ask her to have Brian pull over before telling her. That would be the safest thing to do, but it would probably scare the shit out of them regardless. She could then tell him. I didn’t want the news of Dave ‘leaving the building’ between coffee and toast to kill them too. It only took me two calls to get my B. F news delivery shit together.

I called, and while the cell network was silently trying to locate him and connect my call, I thought Oh shit-shit-shit-shit-shit, please don’t answer, please don’t answer, please, for the love of God, do NOT answer! I reached the voicemail box on the first ring. I was so thankful. There probably wasn’t a cell signal wherever they were. I chickened out and hung up, though. I couldn’t leave a message. I didn’t really want to say these exact words, any words to begin with and I really didn’t want them recorded anywhere on any device and listened to later, or ever, really. Whew…that was close. Yet here am I writing these words, memorializing them anyway. The irony of writing this book. Thanks, Dave.

I then had a brilliant plan. I decided to send a text just asking Sharon to have Brian pull over and call my mom when he had a chance. I simply could NOT talk to him. I just couldn’t. When they were in range, they would get the text. They would call my mom’s home phone. She was going to have to talk to him. She was Brian’s honorary mom anyway. Best to hear it from her. She was small but had the strongest spine of any of us it turns out.

Besides avoiding saying the words again, I also didn’t want to have to convey the details which I didn’t want to know in the first place, those details that Brian would definitely want. He would need to talk to my mom for these details anyway, I would have to hand the phone over to my mom. I envisioned how all this would play out. I had to skip being the middle-man, and just pass this one on. I simply could not talk to him, a part of me was dying from saying or knowing these words, this reality, that part of my brain that controls words was experiencing B.F. news rigor mortis and locking up fast. It lasted longer than one to four days, though. I didn’t talk about this to anyone until I started writing. I suppose I was talking to myself at that point.

My mom finally finished, let the officer out the side door, and she joined me on the patio. We sat in the declining shade, gazing inward without blinking, dry-eyed in stunned silence. Linda was still in the house on her cellphone. I was thankful she was inside. I could not take listening to her tell her C.P.R. encounter again either.

Within 20 minutes the house phone rang. It was on the table next to my mom. She was closest. I made zero attempts to move or to answer it. I knew it was Brian. I was thankful she picked it up and went directly into the house with it before answering.

Besides being incapable of hearing any of the B. F news all over again. I did not want to hear his reaction to the B. F. news through her or her reaction to him reacting. I know I am sounding repetitive but I cannot convey in words accurately how I could not allow myself to hear any part of this conversation. I was retreating into selfish self-preservation living rigor mortis mode. I already experienced enough that morning that will be stuck in my permanent memory along with all sorts of other random unnecessary crap that I have no control over which I have shared thus far…clearly it stuck…infinty.

My mom returned to the patio after the call and proceeded to tell me about her half of the conversation. I didn’t ask, but she spoke as if I did. She had to talk and I let her tell me. As expected, he asked her questions about every detail of what happened. I knew he would ask for all these details. He wanted to know who rolled on the call, as in who the crew members were and if my mom knew anyone who responded. He wanted to know what if any life-saving methods were used. If they used leads on Dave to listen to his heart to make sure it really was in fact, not beating, maybe even just a little. As a professional lifesaver, having responded to so many emergency calls seeing humans swaying between life and death he wanted to be assured that everything possible had been done to save his friend. I immediately thought “Sometimes the magic works.”

When Brian and I talked about his side of this experience, years later, the time passing didn’t help. I felt one hundred percent retroactively bad just as I had when I avoided telling my friends about my dad no longer living on this particular plane of existence.

He didn’t read the protective measure text I had sent. He didn’t pull over. He just saw the missed call and called, blind. When my mom said those words, however, she delivered them, he reacted by momentarily freezing-up, in the process locking up his brakes on the freeway. His heart obviously stopped too. He managed to maneuver his ‘duly’ truck and trailer to a skidded stop on the side of the Interstate somewhere out in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The exact thing I wanted to avoid, not avoided. There was no best way to rip this duct tape strength Band-Aid off. Our hearts were ripped open, regardless. It was all bad news on this bad fucking day of days.

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© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019

Bad Fucking News Continued…

Part 9 of the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to find the previous posts.

Real dread began to fill my throat as I thought of my next two calls. I did not want to make the call to Brian, Dave’s best friend from infinity ago. I strategically made the first call to Anne, hoping my mom would be finished with the officer and be able to take over making the calls herself. Well, you read that chapter already, you know it was brief. It’s not like I could have dragged that conversation on with a follow-up question like “So enough about me, what’s happening with YOUUUU?” Damn it.

I leaned in the back door to see how close to finished my mom, and the officer might be. It didn’t seem close. He was examining the labels of Dave’s prescription medicine bottles with squinted eyes. My mom still animatedly talking while he nodded, read the labels, and scratched notes on a small pad of paper. He appeared nowhere close to being done. I reluctantly decided to make the second bad fucking news call to Barbara.

Barbara was our former neighbor and longtime dear friend to Dave. I jokingly called her “Hot Barbara” because she was, Dave agreed. She still is. She is the most lovely and cheerfully animated person I have ever met. Always quick to laugh with and at the world as well as herself in the most endearing way. I dialed her number. I don’t call her that often, I may have never called her before. Actually, I definitely have never called her before that day.

I love the energy conveyed in her voice and her verve in general. I caught her off guard as I knew I would. She was just walking out of church toward her car, where she sat while the conversation continued. Her initial reaction to hearing from me was excitement. This is her nature, genuinely glad to hear from her connections in life no matter how random. I had to figure out how to bridge the conversation from glad to hear from me to where I knew it was heading…south…rapidly.

Barb, I am afraid I have some bad news. And then I proceeded to rip her heart out with the worst words forced from my mouth, knowing before, during and after that this was going to hurt and that there was no other way to deliver this bad fucking news than to say it. I again summarized my mom’s words from earlier.

Through the phone, I felt everything that she is, the composition of her, that magical liveliness inside of her, her words, her heart and all the complicated electrical and chemical processes therein, stopped in that silent moment that hung in the ether between us via cell phone technology. I know now what I heard in that next desperate gasp of breath that comes from that same stunned heart finding a rhythm, any rhythm as it resumes beating and we take a breath. It was a piece of her heart, leaving her forever.

With that breath, she cried out in an entirely bereft tone, Oh My God, I’ve just lost my soul mate! I understood everything she could not say in between the two sentences she managed to get out, I have to go! There was not one helpful thing I could add to this bad fucking news at all. Sometimes the only thing you can say is, I am so sorry, Barb. We hung up.

I worried about her driving home safely. She would undoubtedly be in the midst of bitter cold shock, like that of a cold winter without a jacket somewhere that it gets really fucking cold, but way worse than that. I felt horrible for accidentally ruining her day, well, I knew it was going to be much longer than a day, years probably. I hated being the source of this bitingly cold news in the middle of summer in Southern California in Barb’s car. I took a deep breath to try to leave all those cold thoughts of what I had just done and witnessed.

Barb later told me her side of getting this bad fucking news. She sped home, completely devastated as I had theorized. She ran into her home, shouting for her darling husband, Bill!!!! Alarmed, upon hearing the tone of despair in her voice, he knew something was very wrong, and came running to find her, to help her. She collapsed into his arms as he reached her, “My David died!” They slid to the floor of their entryway steps and remained there were she wept inconsolably with Bill incorporated into her grief, holding her, moved to tears himself, knowing how heart-broken she was losing her dear friend.

In the expected manner of the way news, especially really bad fucking news spreads like wildfire and is reacted to as such, she needed to talk to people, people who knew Dave, who would know her pain. She sent a text to her two sisters and her daughter. They all grew up on our street and knew Dave through being our neighbor for decades and through Barb’s friendship with him. Her sister Teri responded in wildfire fashion, within seconds, by calling. Barb moved outside to catch her breath, take the call. She sat down, overlooking the beauty of their yard and wild oak forested area where she and Bill live in Yucaipa, California. While talking, in her horrid moment of grief, she noticed, what a strikingly beautiful day it was. It WAS an extraordinarily beautiful day that briefly, captivated her, diverted her thoughts on that morning of bad fucking news.

She returned her attention back to her phone call conveying everything she knew, which was very little other than the fact that he was gone and what she was feeling with Teri as they cried together. Their call was interrupted by Barbara hearing the very loud buzz of a swarm of bees somewhere nearby. She cautiously stopped speaking to look around for the swarm, her attention divided between looking for them and explaining to Teri that she was looking for them. She spotted a shadow of bees coming across her yard toward her, but there were no bees that she could see in the sky, there were only loud buzzing and a distinct shadow.

She narrated everything all the while to Teri on the other side of the phone call. I see the shadow and hear the buzz, but I don’t see any bees. It doesn’t make sense. It’s coming right toward me, it’s above my head! It is circling me, oh it just flew away! She described everything a second time to Teri as she tried to make sense of what she just saw as she came to realize that there were absolutely no bees but a shadow of what she could only describe as a buzzing energy that circled her head and flew away. She felt at that moment that the energy she heard and felt and saw had to be David! There was no other explanation in her mind for what she experienced. She felt it completely, and it gave her a great sense of relief.

Again, I do not pretend to understand all forms of energy in the universe, and this too falls into that category of things, weird things that I cannot explain referenced earlier. I enjoyed living through that moment with Barb as she described her observations of that incredibly beautiful day and her encounter with my brother in some alternate form that morning. I found it very interesting, and I, too, felt some sort of relief from it. Comparatively, I was secretly thankful Dave chose not to visit me in the form of ghost bees since I am allergic. I likely would have panicked and run away. More on Barb later.


© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019

Love your feedback or shared similar experiences. If you liked this post please click the star below. XO M

Bad News Calling…

Part 8 of the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to find the previous posts.

I didn’t want to call anyone. I looked around for the adult in the room or on the patio, someone else, anyone else I could possibly pass this job on to but I was alone on the patio. Unfortunately, on this occasion, I was the adult in the room. Great.

When our dad left the proverbial building, I told no one. Dave had been the someone else who made those type of calls to people who needed to be called previously on behalf of my mom. He was her oldest child, the oldest son. It seemed like his duty by the manner of succession. Yes, he was paralyzed, but he had a cell phone, a headset and he could talk to people. And he did.

I didn’t call anyone then. It was more than a year before I mentioned my dad’s death to anyone outside my daily nuclear life between home and work. I had to explain why I was not at work because–death. I tried really hard to avoid the topic at work, but at least a dozen or more of my coworkers gave me clippings of the press coverage of my dad, which I wrote. It forced me to acknowledge something had taken place. I didn’t like it. I have no idea why people gave these to me. Did they think I didn’t know he was dead? I mean he was my dad after all. Or maybe they thought I didn’t know when the memorial was taking place? They had to have known I wrote the piece for the newspaper; I was quoted throughout the article. This is a strange practice, and I do not recommend following it.

Needless to say, I did not tell my life-long friends who grew up on our street practically in our house. I didn’t tell my semi-lifelong friends who were collected along my way through adulthood. People found out by reading about it in the paper. I was surprised when some of my friends showed up at my dad’s memorial, they apparently still read the paper. I didn’t know I knew anyone who actually still read the paper. For my friends who lived outside the shadow of our local paper, or fall into the do not read the paper category which includes me, they didn’t find out until more than a year or years later.

In retrospect, it wasn’t any easier later when they were expecting a normal type of catch up conversation, “How’ve you been?” They didn’t expect that I hadn’t told them that level of bad news. My friends loved my parents. How’re your mom and dad? My mom is ok, my dad, not so much. They then felt horrible for not knowing. I felt retroactively bad for creating a moment where they felt disconnected from my interior life like a friendship demotion or something. It wasn’t. I am an introvert by nature almost reclusive. Things like this put me deep under a rock. I don’t like continuing the unpleasant energy of such a time in life. It sucked and I hated ALL of it.

I could only think of three people who needed to be called right away. No one likes bad news, and as I mentioned before, people don’t know what to do with death as it is. I don’t, and I’m writing a book about it. Well, the entire book isn’t about death, only this part of the book.

We all adored our Viking Warrior brother in and for myriad different reasons. Dave loved us all fiercely but in a non-violent, wholly with every fiber of his being sort of fiercely. We were lucky to be loved by him. Anyone was lucky to be loved by him. Living with him with the interior view of a nuclear family member was definitely an honored place to be. His life was hard, incredibly so, but he laughed through it with grace and hot sauce and made us all laugh with him. Having to tell anyone he was gone with less than a moment’s notice was pretty stunning news to deliver. He was in his fifties, so, relatively young by human standards and he was gone, between coffee and toast, just like that.

There are five of us. There were five of us. Five children. Dave was connected to each of us very differently. Dave and Linda grew up almost Irish twins and had many childhood adventures. I predominantly heard about THE pre-school golf club concussion incident, bee stings and the revenge of THE golf club concussion with a pretend dental appointment and a mouth full of dirt because he deserved it reasons. Dave was three years older than Scott. They were in an almost constant state of wrestling from very early on. Anything with a ball, a pool, wrestling or broken windows usually included Scott, our cousins Jim and John who were everpresent in our house growing up, against Dave, the giant. Dave and Anne are six years apart, and the most alike, level headed, dot every i cross every t, always do the right thing, great listener, show up on time, lead by example, help you move sort of people. I am the youngest, eleven years younger than Dave. We were vastly different. I am writing a book about him so I will let my relationship with him unfold with the pages.

Linda obviously was part of the news, and I am pretty sure she called Scott. My sister Anne who lived on the east coast at that time was my first call. She answered, “Hey, you.” I didn’t think, I just summarized my mom’s words by using even fewer words than she, I prefaced that I was calling with bad news and then I just blurted it out. “Dave died.” Her one-word reaction was a very loud “WHAT?” in obvious surprised disbelief given the context of his healthy forever.

She reacted, it seemed exactly like I did. She didn’t ask what happened. She quickly collected her thoughts and asked how our mom was. As much as it is impossible to speak for anyone in this circumstance I did anyway. I said, “She seems OK.” No one lived with the burden of the worry of Dave’s care and future more than our mom. She suffered his pain even though he didn’t reveal any. She knew as only a mom could know. She worried as only a mom could or world worry.

I felt Anne thinking all of my unspoken thoughts, we were relieved for her. We were relieved for both Dave being able to fly away from that stupid body and for my mom being released of her worry of What is going to happen to Dave if something happens to me? The entire conversation contained very few words but with the obvious understanding that we would see each other soon, very soon.

I always ask people if they can take a call when I contact them. You never know what people are in the middle of doing when you call them. Almost anything can be picked up later if it’s not a good time. I learned an important lesson that day. I didn’t think to suggest that she sit down before I continued with the bad fucking news. Please make a note of this-my lesson to you.

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019


If you enjoyed this post please click the like button below or share. I would love to hear your memories of Dave if you are among those who knew him or I would love to hear stories of your experiences with your lost loved ones. XO M

Part 2 Too Soon?

Post 7.

If you are new to this blog, scroll down to post 1 to start at the beginning. XO M

Unvarnished excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral…


Too soon?

As polite as the crew was, they were just strangers on our patio to me. While I appreciated everything about them, their response, what they do, I didn’t want to see anyone, I didn’t want to be here, be awake or be alive at that moment. I wished I could go back to sleep and wake up having forgotten all of this intense dream.

I turned away from the crew and headed up the wheelchair ramp into the back door. My eyes had to adjust from the pleasant subdued morning light on the patio as I walked into the back hall of the house, then into Dave’s painfully bright room. The shades were all the way open on his large bedroom windows. The sun was pouring in most rudely imposing unwanted light. His former body lay flat in what I joked was his turbo electric home hospital bed. He looked…relaxed.

He lived with uncontrolled muscle spasms as a result of the paralyzing college football accident that broke his neck almost four decades ago. His damaged central nervous system behaved like a loose live wire. He jerked in response to being touched. His nerve signal messages were scrambled, misinterpreted and responded to protectively, innately as if he were being burned. This type of reaction was almost constant and permanent. One muscular response usually triggered another and often a full body muscle flexion reaction. Not always, but more often than not.

These muscle spasms required that he be stabilized in either of the two places he lived between, his turbo bed or his turbo electric wheelchair. He had to be tied into his electric bed. He had to be positioned a certain way, with a combination of slings and pillows to keep the level of spasms as low as possible. When he was in his wheelchair, he had to wear braces on his arms and legs. The braces helped him have fewer spasms. He had to sit with his legs straight out in front of him, having his legs bent like most of us sit would cause him to pass out from circulatory overload. If his legs weren’t straight, his spasms would cause him to slide right out of the wheelchair. In general, he appeared very stiff.

I had not seen him so relaxed, ever, well, ever since his accident, ever. He had no straps, no slings, no pillows, no braces on, the bed was flat, he was flat. I put my hand on his bare leg. He was still warm with the fiery energy of the life that just left. He didn’t flinch or move AT ALL. I knew he shouldn’t. Former reality had not completely recalculated the reality of the right now, and I anticipated the typical response, a reaction, that which depicts life. I thought with an irreverent tone to myself, Well… obviously, you cannot get more relaxed than dead. I couldn’t feel bad for thinking this because he would have laughed hard at that.

Then I panicked and wondered, “Oh God, does he know what I am thinking right now?” He loved funny stuff. Even slightly inappropriate, no, especially inappropriate “too soon?” funny stuff. I looked around for him in my thoughts for the shared acknowledgment of a VERY well placed, too soon? joke, but he was not there. I didn’t see or feel him. Damn it. He really loved good gallows humor that way. Like I said, we can’t control what pops in our heads. I kept my thoughts to myself.

Shock takes a while to percolate through the layers of the mass and obscure that comprises the human psyche, mind, and physical body. My mom and oldest sister Linda were wound up by their own coursing surges of adrenaline. This was not unexpected based on their experiences of the last hour. Everyone hugged. They recounted what happened, speaking a mile-a-minute. Still looking for him in my thoughts, I half-listened while standing next to him with my hand on his leg that still felt so alive other than the not moving because he was dead aspect. Really? Nothing dude? I know you hear this.

My mom didn’t blink as she recounted the details of her experience earlier that morning. Her eyes were fixed looking down and to her left. I watched her looking into that part of her brain where this memory will be stored forever. I could see everything she described playing on one screen in my mind on my left. All my other stupid, random and weird thoughts of the morning were impossibly layered on another screen on my right.

She had awakened him to let him know it was morning, that she would be back in to wash his face after having her coffee. He said “Ok.” This was their routine every morning; She initially woke him, then left his room to have her coffee and toast. The time in between would give him a chance to get himself waked-up before she returned. She would then proceed to get him ready to face the day; wash his face, brush his teeth, give him a sponge bath. All the braces mentioned above and a body brace would be put on, they would get him dressed, with the help of a friend and neighbor Denise. Her son Poncho would help put him into his electric wheelchair and ultimately Dave would head out the back door almost immediately when the weather was nice.

This was my parents’ routine every morning since Dave returned home from spending 18 months away, between the hospital and a rehabilitation center for paralyzed individuals roughly 38 years ago. He preferred to be up in his wheelchair as much as possible. Some days he did not get out of bed. It is hard on a paralyzed body to be in the same position for long periods of time. It is also hard work for the people moving him.

He weighed in at over 220 plus pounds dead weight before he was dead. The dead weight of a paralyzed individual is shockingly heavier than one thinks. This process and all of Dave’s care was very well coordinated, it had to be. My parents were very organized about everything but especially Dave’s care. After my dad passed away at 72 a few years prior, a series of people helped my mom. Denise and Poncho were the last people to help with Dave’s regular personal care. More on Denise and Poncho later.

Denise arrived about the time my mom had finished her coffee, as per usual. They entered the room to begin their routine as outlined above when they found Dave still asleep.


NOT asleep!

NOT conscious!

NOT breathing!





It had only been 10 minutes, 15 max since my mom had awakened him. My mom shouted for my sister Linda to come help. Shortly after my dad passed away, Linda came to live with my mom and Dave. Linda took over the recounting from here, she came in and immediately began C.P.R. She crossed her hands one over the other mocking the C.P.R. position as she described performing the chest compressions. She briefly motioned with one hand to the other side of the bed, explaining that Denise had been standing there, crying, while she continued pantomiming the chest compressions. She saw Dave, after just a few compressions standing beside his body. He told her “Let me go.” My mom, who saw nothing, was beside her saying, “Let him go.” Linda stopped the compression motion, her shoulders, arms lowered, as she described knowing he was gone.

Dave had been paralyzed when he was 18 and had lived as a healthy quadriplegic for almost 38 years with the dedicated care of our parents. That is a very long time to survive as a quadriplegic. He may be the longest surviving quadriplegic in the state of California. Many chronic illnesses usually plague those living in a paralyzed body; pneumonia, bed sores, strokes, renal infections, blood clots, blood pressure issues. Dave was lucky, he had always been so very healthy. It is possible that his muscle spasms that were a total pain in the ass also kept his blood flowing and muscles working rather than atrophying like most paralyzed individuals.

He hadn’t been sick. He along with Elvis, just “left the building.” Damn it, he would have really loved that joke too. After Linda’s account, my mom realized that he hadn’t asked her the time and must have died mid-sentence. “He always asks me ‘What time is it?’ when I wake him as I head to the kitchen for my coffee, and today he didn’t ask. He just said ‘OK.’ I thought that was strange as I opened the door to go out, but then I didn’t think anything more of it. And I just headed to the kitchen for my coffee.”

A Police officer entered the back hall into the house interrupting our conversation. As part of his official death report, he had already spoken with the fire personnel, he now had to observe their home, the scene surrounding Dave’s departure, and speak to my mom to understand what had taken place. All of which is standard procedure to determine there had been no foul play since Dave had not been in the presence of a doctor when he died.

I didn’t hear a word of how he began his interview with my mom. I did not want to listen to the story again. I headed out of Dave’s bright room back to the shimmering shade of the elm trees and relief of the patio. My mom asked me to call the people who needed to be called before she turned her attention to the officer.

I doubt they shared the part about Linda administering CPR until she saw Dave standing next to his body with the officer but thought it would make for a very interesting statement if she had. “Decedent’s sister administered life support until she saw decedent standing next to his dead body.” Dave would have laughed at that too. Not everyone is open to that sort of experience.

Later Linda talked about having a déjà vu experience from a dream she had about a year prior. She and Dave were on opposite sides of a pool. We do not have a pool by the way. He drove himself in the pool in his wheelchair and sank to do the bottom. Linda dove in to help him. When she was face to face with him, he shook his head and said underwater, “Let me go.” The feeling of the dream and the morning, his readiness were the same. I don’t know what to say about any of this because I am no expert on the afterlife, paranormal or whatever. I don’t think anyone really can. I will have to let you know when I get there myself and get back with you. Interesting, yes. I will leave it at that.

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019


If you enjoyed this excerpt please click the LIKE star below. Love to hear your comments or experiences on this topic. XO M

Part 1


Post 6.

If you are new to this blog, scroll down to post 1 to start at the beginning. XO M

Unvarnished excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral…


“How weird is death?”
“I know, right?”

Their house, my parent’s house where Dave lived (and died) is about 15 miles from our house in Redlands. There was no traffic on this beautiful summer Sunday morning. What was I hurrying for anyway? There wasn’t anything I could do for Dave at this point, for anyone really.

As I drove on the crosstown freeway, I could not help but notice what a gorgeous day it was. A really gorgeous day. I thought of the movie Little, Big Man, starring Dustin Hoffman. Jack Crabb’s (Hoffman) adoptive grandfather was an Indian Chief. Among his Native American spiritual beliefs was the ability to recognize that death was near. He announced to Jack with enthusiasm, “Today is a good day to die.”

The chief had been blinded in recent years by American Soldiers in their campaign to irradicate Native Americans. He was aged and saddened by the state of mistreatment by the US government of his people, and in general, had grown tired of living. He asked Jack to lead him up to a rock mesa above their tribe’s campsite.

Once there, he thanked the Gods for his many gifts in life, respectfully expressed his frustrations at the way his people were being wiped out. He asked for blessings for his grandson and felt ready to lay down on his buffalo hide to prepare for death to take him.

Moments later a rainstorm began causing him to ask “Am I still in this world?” Jack assured him that he was. The old chief got up from his supposed death bed with the resigned response, “Heh, I was afraid of that. (pause) Well, sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it does not.” Dave loved this movie. If you haven’t seen it, he would have, and I definitely recommend watching it, highly recommend!

I thought it was a beautiful day to die. I thought it was funny that this thought came to me. Such strange thoughts pop into our heads at times like this. Regardless of all that, you know, if you could choose, this was a lovely day to have chosen to die. So, in this case, the magic worked.

I found myself driving distractedly looking at the strikingly beautiful blue sky that was dotted with scattered white puffly clouds instead of the road. The sky is not normally such a deep blue in the summer in Southern California. It usually is more of a washed out shade of light blue. On this day it was almost cobalt blue. It probably has to do with the orientation of the sun at that time of year, and the optical illusion of the physics of light scattering. Or something like that was my guess but was just a working theory. I have to remember to Google this sometime.

I felt separate from my body with these thoughts of the sky for a moment and felt among the very clouds I was one split second ago admiring from the freeway below. As soon as I questioned what in the hell is happening? I slipped back into my first-person perspective as I navigated the big sweeping curve on the 210 freeway through Highland toward San Bernardino.

I tried to force myself to pay attention to the road, but thoughts of what the hell just happened, nice clouds, this seems dangerous, death and how we absorb this type of news was swirling in my head. Everything was uncharacteristically thieving my attention away from the road.

There is no mistaking death. No one misstates something that significant. Back to the history of MY forever, I have never heard of anyone officially reporting the death of someone by mistake and then having to stand at a podium at a news conference with a bank of microphones in front of them to retract their official statement, which I then ridiculously envisioned. “Earlier, we incorrectly reported the decedent… was… dead. We legitimately thought he was in fact… dead, but for the record, he is totally not dead, he is… definitely alive. Thank you.”

Again I returned to Earth, to driving. I was resigned to the certainty that he was gone, I knew there was no mistake. My previous feelings of elation for HIM grew subdued by contemplating everything that would now take some getting used to without him. Burritos, movies, music, my mom, this is the short, short list.

Relentlessly weird thoughts just popped in my head without end in sight, it felt. Death is as final and non-negotiable as it gets in this life. Everything and I mean everything else is so insignificant by comparison. Wait, is this life we are living even real? Is there such a thing as death? Why am I having all these weird thoughts? Am I dreaming? I must be dreaming because this is some weird shit to be thinking about. I again returned back to the road. Floating up there among those clouds must be some sort of protective mechanism for when the shit hits the fan.

These thoughts were swimming against the undercurrent, nope, rip tide of random other thoughts just roiling around my head. Wave after ridiculous wave of weird thoughts, heading every direction at once, irritating me, that on this day, at this moment, this is the bizarre shit that pops into my head? Now? Really?

Rationally I understand that we can’t control the thoughts that enter our heads. We can control what we do with those thoughts, but I was amid a barrage of synapse impulses that felt like a paintball fight in there. I was simply not prepared to wrangle any of it. I don’t think I was fully awake yet, I couldn’t have been. It takes hours for all executive function to fully come online in our brain. I was less than 20 minutes into my waking state at that point.

I could also blame it on shock. I didn’t want to admit to any of those thoughts. I don’t know now, and definitely didn’t know then what sort of thoughts I should have been having at the time but I did not want these thoughts, none of them. I tried to think of what I thought I should be thinking and nothing came to mind. Nothing. I again felt separate from my body. Time slowed to a crawl on my drive as I wrapped my waking conception around these how weird is death questions. And answered myself out loud, “I know, right?” Yes, I talk to myself, out loud. ALL—THE— TIME.

I finally exited the freeway an entire lifetime of twelve minutes later and made my way by rote memorization to the well-known house on Arrowhead Avenue. Well-known not just because of my driving muscle memory from arriving ‘home’ literally thousands of times before. Well-known because it seemed everyone knew Dave lived there. Well-known because it is a lovely and historical representation of 1920s era Southern California Spanish Mission style architecture. Well-known as the backdrop in my R.E.M. dream cycles forever. Well-known in that many people besides our family have lived life with us in that lovely residence that I simply never tire of looking at.

About half a block from their corner, there was no missing the two Firetrucks, ambulance and police cruiser facing different directions, double-parked on the side street. The back doors of the ambulance were still open. All the emergency lights on all the vehicles were off. I instantly was taken four decades into the past to a time when my dad came around this same corner from the opposite direction to find his home, our home, surrounded by a similar fleet of emergency response vehicles.

I was seven. My dad had gone out to pick up my sister Anne from the skating rink after 11 p.m on a Friday or Saturday night. While he was gone, less than 15 minutes round trip, a drunk driver had hit our neighbor’s brand-new, days brand new, with the M.S.R.P. sticker still in the window, BMW head-on while driving northbound on the wrong side of Arrowhead Avenue.

My mom and I instinctively ran to the front of the house to see what had happened. The front entry hall of our house was oddly lit up. We could see what appeared to be a car headlight through one of the windows on the side of the door mere feet from our front steps. None of what we were seeing made any sense, yet.

The car had jumped the foot tall curb between a fire hydrant and one of our Crepe Myrtle trees and mowed over the beautiful old, Doric column street lamp in between. It was the kind of light with a single Victorian style glass fixture on top. Our small world was strangely dark beyond that single headlight shining directly at us from that weird angle through the unsettled dust and momentary silence.

We could not believe what hell had been wrought from the horrific sounds of the collision that had terminated in our tiny front yard. We cautiously stepped out on the porch to see more of what in the hell? I climbed on the wall of our wraparound porch to see what my mom could see. It was from there that we could make out the entirety of what had been a shitty old Ford Maverick directly in front of us on our lawn.

The car was tilted toward the driver’s side. The left front tire was folded underneath. The lamp post was under the car on the passenger’s side. Between the missing wheel and the lamp post the car was almost completely resting on its side, the driver’s side. The windshield had a circular spiderweb-like fracture dented out where the passenger’s head had obviously just been.

There were two hairy guys who looked like Cheech and Chong, in the Maverick. One fell from the high side of the car onto our lawn. The driver rolled out of the car on the low side and onto the walkway in front of our door. They were fine, totally TRASHED, but fine.

We were myopically transfixed with the wreckage feet away from the walls of our home when we noticed the other car out in the street which was clearly related to this mess that landed in the lap of our front yard. The other car strangely seemed…is that car empty? I wondered. There was no visible driver as far as I or we could tell. My mom said what we both concluded Isn’t that Jerry’s car?

The formerly cute little red brand-new Beemer that belonged to our neighbor Jerry was out there in the middle of the street completely thrashed. It was oriented diagonally after making three full counterclockwise spins, dented to shit, the windows, all shattered. There was a trail of car parts, insane circular skid marks, antifreeze, motor oil, broken glass a hundred feet long and 30 feet wide, starting from where it was hit two houses down to where it ended up almost directly in front of our house. The car was ‘bleeding out’ it’s fluids slowly in the street as we watched.

Two ambulances, a fire truck, police cars, tow trucks, emergency personnel all converged on the corner quickly as one would hope. My dad described being overcome with dread the moment he turned north on Arrowhead on his way back at what lay three short blocks ahead of him.

He couldn’t miss the blaze of red emergency lights swirling, throwing wildly bouncing and reflecting red bolts of light off the facade of the cathedral directly across from our house. We had a large elm tree that obscured the view from the south at that time so he couldn’t tell if the house had exploded, were on fire or what in the hell!!? The red-light glowing bubble of frenetic negative energy hanging over everything in the hazy night air just exuded, something very bad.

My mom worried out loud to the neighbors who had instantly gathered “What is my husband going to think as he comes up Arrowhead returning home?” This was way, way, way, way, way before cell phones so she couldn’t call to prepare him. I shifted from this fresh hell on earth in front of us to worry about his pending worry.

I’ll never forget the wide-eyed look on his face as he made the left turn of our corner and could finally see what had been hidden by the trees, between all the emergency vehicles. A tow truck was backing onto our yard over the parkway, it’s weight further damaging our grass.

After parking the car, my dad and sister Anne joined us on the porch. He checked my mom and me over quickly to assuage his fears and was then among the emergency personnel in the yard. Turns out you have very little say when your property is inadvertently involved in an incident such as this.

The lamp post had to be addressed first. The tow trucks were staged on each side of our southwest corner. The car was lifted with winches from one tow truck in front while the other dragged the lamp post out from under the car from the side. It was pulled all the way across the sidewalk, side parkway and placed in the street where it remained for days.

There was an enormous at least four-foot-deep by a four-foot-wide hole in the grass of our front parkway where the lamp post had stood on a concrete pad. Because of this, the piece of shit Maverick had to be dragged off a different way than it arrived. The missing front wheel dug deep into the soft grass like a plow. There was no delicate way to carry out this excavation. Our front parkway, side parkway, front lawn, nothing was unscathed. A construction barrier with a flashing light was placed around the hole. Our poor little yard looked like a warzone after the wreckage had been cleared away.

That incident happened just a few months before Dave was hurt. The look of worry on my dad’s face was heartbreaking to see. I just hated seeing him so fearful, even for a split second. Anne made the same observation of the fear that was sparked in her from seeing our dad so frightened as she sat next to him in the car while approaching the oscillating red lights of unknown cataclysm. Children shouldn’t see their parents like this.

I realized in the present day that I witnessed a prodrome back then. What I saw, what I knew in retrospect now, what he, what both my parents must have felt when a few months later they got that call from the hospital that Dave had been gravely hurt.

I was glad he hadn’t lived to witness this present day of emergency vehicles surrounding their house. I couldn’t take seeing him have that look on his face one more time. Once is too many, twice is too much for one lifetime. I couldn’t help but wonder what my face looked like, as I remembered that scary night on Arrowhead, from this side, the end of the story of a lifetime of worry.

It doesn’t seem possible, but our brains can overlay deeply buried contextual background with live foreground observations simultaneously. These impossibly conflated layers engaged the front of my mind as I looked right through them to the world of open ambulance doors in front of me.

This entire repackaged confab in my head took way more time to write and to read than it did when it hit me and played out. It was like when you wake in the morning, fall back to sleep, dream an entire night’s worth of dreams that incorporate the snooze button sound into the storyline. When you wake again only a minute has passed. How does that happen? Is it time travel or time standing still?

I shook off this last REALLY intense vinette and parked across the street. The big gate to the back yard facing me was open. I headed that way because I no longer kept a key to my mom’s house on my keyring. The wheelchair ramp for Dave to enter the house was in the back of the house which is how an ambulance gurney would have to enter and exit. Dave’s room was at the back of the house. All data and evidence pointed to the back door being open at the back of the house with all of the people at the back of the house. Why am I repeating the back of the house? I felt like some sort of android.

I walked into the shady yard. I felt the pleasant damp morning smell of the lush garden, the dirt, grass, and freshness of all the greenery that would dissipate soon with the heat. The fire and paramedic crew were loosely huddled together on the patio with their heads hanging down. Their quiet reverence was tangibly hanging over the yard along with the canopy of willowy branches of the elm trees that were creating beautiful mottled shade on the ground. I knew they were long past being done with this call and probably should have been gone a half an hour ago. I approached and thanked them for staying. I was touched by their respect for that moment.

They all knew Dave. The fire station was two blocks away. Dave’s best friend from forever, Brian, began his career with the city fire department at that station and was posted there for years. Dave used to hang out at the station in the evenings, watching sports on T.V., basketball or volleyball games in the department parking lot, making friends with the guys along the way.

I met my son’s father through Dave through Brian. He was among the fire personnel stationed around the corner. He ended up stopping by to hang out with Dave initially, shoot the shit, watch games, eat tacos, develop a failed romance with me over those years.

In a city with more than a couple hundred thousand people, the analytical part of my brain knew it was not possible that everyone knew Dave, but at that moment, there was no more analysis, all those weird thoughts and paintballs in my head left me with only the visceral with these people on our patio.

© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019


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