Archive for the ‘Death’ Tag

Reflections on the Possessions of the Deceased   2 comments

I have helped to clean out two apartments of deceased people since the middle of August.

Last August, in Americus, Georgia, I did much of the cleaning out of the apartment of my maternal grandmother, Barbara Futch, who died at the age of 89 years.  My grandmother was aware that she was leaving much–especially clothing, as well as tubes and bottles of various creams and pills–for others to go through.  However, she lacked the energy level to dispose of more of it than she did.

I knew Bonny Thomas for over a decade.  I also understood that she had a mental illness.  Bonny, under the influence of that illness, became the fifth victim of a police-involved shooting in Athens-Clarke County, since March 2019.  I also knew a compassionate, vivacious woman who had a whimsical side and enjoyed watching films noir with me as we ate pizza and drank coke, and who liked to watch Columbo episodes with me as we at Hamburger Helper.  When she died, on October 14, one pillar of my world collapsed.

Yesterday, a few members (just enough to be about right–not too few, not too many) of my parish and I emptied Bonny’s apartment.  (Her family had taken the last of what they wanted a few days prior.)  Bonny had died, never to enter her apartment or mine again, but her possessions remained.  Most of them have gone to benefit a local charity that helps battered women.

Life is short and precious.  Much of it consists of that which is intangible, which is more important that the majority of that which is tangible.  Nevertheless, packing up and deciding what to do with the possessions of the deceased is an uncomfortable task.  It is also a tangible reminder of that person’s departure.  Completing that task can simultaneously be comforting and sad.  On one hand, the task is done; one can move on from no-longer unfinished business now.  Yet the emotions of loss can come to the fore.

I understand the Roman Catholic fixation on relics of saints.  After all, I keep relics of friends and relatives.  I have two chests and one tall bookcase full of photographs, school annuals, documents, books, et cetera.  That which is tangible, despite being less important than that which is intangible, has power.  The deceased have moved on, but an object one can hold has sentimental value.   Now my archives include relics of Bonny Thomas.  But if I could have her back, I would, of course.

One day (not any time soon, I hope; I love life) my turn to be the deceased will come.  Others will have the responsibility of disposing of my worldly possessions.  I am preparing for that day, with the intention that their task will require just a few hours–the more the helping hands, the fewer the hours.  I live comfortably in about 600 square feet.  My abode has relatively large empty areas in it.  Yet I review my possessions periodically and ask if I should donate to a thrift store or give to a person.  After all, they should be possessions; they should not possess me.  I do not want them to become a burden to anyone, including me.





In Paradisum Deducant Te Angeli….   4 comments

Photograph (dated October 27, 2019) by Kenneth Randolph Taylor



JANUARY 17, 1965-OCTOBER 14, 2019

Adieu, ma chérie.

Je t’aime.


Posted October 27, 2019 by neatnik2009 in Bonny Thomas (1965-2019)

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“In the Sweet By and By”   2 comments

Above:  The Communion of Saints

(An Image in the Public Domain)


While growing up in rural United Methodist congregations in southern Georgia, U.S.A., I realized that I did not fit in.  Lacking a proper frame of reference for years, I could not diagnose the issue properly until I became keenly aware of good Episcopal Church liturgy, a la The Book of Common Prayer (1979) and The Hymnal 1982.  I had latent High Church tendencies yet was in a very Low Church setting.

And the music did not help.  Southern Gospel tended to be prominent.  The diction was usually abhorrent, choirs seldom blended, and, in one church, loud and nasal singing was commonplace.  I still have traumatic aural memories.

So I was glad to convert to The Episcopal Church, bow to altars and passing processional crosses, and sing more hymns which sounded good with a proper organ.  From time to time the old hymnody–the one I fled–follows me, even into The Episcopal Church.   If I have advance notice, I can arrange to attend a different service, one without music, perhaps.  My attitude toward certain Low Church Protestant music is reflexively negative.

Much of the problem of Southern Gospel, I am convinced, is the way in which most or many people who sing it sing it.  Often the songs are too fast and inappropriately happy.  Even the sad songs sound happy sometimes.  Consider, for example, “In the Sweet By and By,” which is about the afterlife in Heaven.  Here are the words:

1.  There’s a land that is fairer than day,

And by faith we can see it afar;

For the Father waits over the way,

To prepare us a dwelling-place there.


In the sweet by and by,

We shall meet on that beautiful shore;

In the sweet by and by,

We shall meet on that beautiful shore.

2.  We shall sing on that beautiful shore

The melodious songs of the blest,

And our spirits shall sorrow no more,

Nor a sigh for the blessing of rest.

Repeat the Chorus

3.  To our bountiful Father above,

We will offer our tribute of praise,

For the glorious gift of His love,

And the blessings that hallow our days.

Repeat the Chorus

The lyrics reflect a sense of longing, as if one misses departed friends and loved ones yet anticipates reuniting with them after one’s own death.  Thus the hymn contains both grief and hope.  Yet I have almost always heard this sung as if it is all happiness.

This most recent Memorial Day morning, I heard part of Performance Today on my local public radio station.  The program that day was a concert by Cantus, a men’s choral ensemble.  Their concert included a slow and a cappella version of “In the Sweet By and By.”  It was simultaneously mournful and hopeful.  It was hauntingly beautiful.  The diction was flawless.  And I could hear the sparse harmonies and the interplay among the voice parts.  This was what I wished I had heard while growing up.

I wonder what other hymns and songs I might like if only I could hear them performed properly.