Skip to main content

The Valley of Dry Bones


A recent NPR article about the possibility of moving the remains of U.S. President James K Polk reminded me what an odd concept the grave is. A descendant of our 11th president, dead now these 168 years, is quoted as saying how much Polk wanted to remain in Nashville. This was apparently requested in his will, as though his corpse, obscured underground, might enjoy its time more in Music City than elsewhere.

It is true that cemeteries/graveyards served a useful purpose at one time, as they stand as historical records during a period when such records weren't always well kept via other methods (paper, digitally, etc.) In today's age, we have much better ways of keeping track of who has come and gone on this earth. Putting a body into the ground and marking it with a headstone simply isn't necessary.

I know I sound cold about what happens with human remains, but it's an issue I've never been comfortable with. Whether you believe it's because a spirit has left and gone somewhere else, or simply that the plethora of organic gears that continually work to make a person alive have stopped working, the body that we put into the ground is no longer the person we once knew. While I understand having respect for it in the period directly after death, it would seem that long term, underground storage of it is impractical.

My father's grave is located just outside of Springfield, Illinois. Camp Butler. I've visited the site perhaps 2-3 times since he died nearly twenty years ago. Of course, the thought has crossed my mind of visiting more often than that, but then what would be the point? The living entity that was dad ceased to exist some two decades ago. Why feel obligated to visit a corpse?

James K Polk died almost 170 years ago, however, his body (or what's left of it) still resides entombed in Tennessee. George Washington has been dead two centuries, yet we can visit him at Mount Vernon. Except, it isn't really Polk or Washington that are still around, is it? Simply their remnants. And, honestly, the remains of James Polk don't care if they're in Nashville or somewhere else, so neither should we.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

If You Could Read My Mind

Dance clubs are a funny thing. They contain within their walls a life force and vibrancy sometimes unmatched anywhere else. When dusk settles and the lights come on, people will flood the dance floors to gyrate to music with hypnotic beats and songs about love, lust and fun at the disco. At gay bars, this sort of scenario usually increases ten-fold. It isn't for everyone, but for many it is a respite from the harsh realities of the real word. It is a place that isn't just a structure, but a sanctuary where folks -- minorities in their own communities -- can take shelter and unwind with abandon, at least for a few nighttime hours.
As someone who benefited greatly from such an aforementioned gay dance club, you can imagine my dismay at news of the closing of Chester Street Bar. In business for over three decades, gay-owned and operated, there was a time when C-Street (as it was known by most) was the only haven for those in the LGBT community, near and far, to enjoy themselves …

Third Death

My father has had three funerals. The third (though perhaps not final) one, was last night.
In reality, Lewis died in 1997. Cancer. Aged 52. He had a real funeral. I was there. The next two funerals occurred only in my dreams, yet they seemed real at the time, and their impact during the waking hours was keenly felt.
You see, during the intervening nineteen years, Lewis has come back to life in my dreams, many times. It is more than simply having a dream about him. During these nighttime images, it is noted that Lewis shouldn't be there, that he died of cancer and is resting six feet under. How, then, could he be alive and, seemingly, healthy?

Thoughts on an Election

Before I get started on the ruminations of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, I'll begin by saying I really have no clue as to who our next president will be. I've always fretted over the outcome of elections, regardless of the polls, and this year is no different. Especially this year. A good case can be made as to why Hillary Clinton will become our 45th president. All one has to do is look at the polls. Clinton has a comfortable lead in many states, enough to make one think that she will win handily on November 8th.
Of course, polls can be wrong. 538 gives Clinton's changes of winning in the low-mid 80 percent range. Several polls would seem to agree. Many Republicans are jumping ship from Trump. The race looks over. But of course, humanity isn't as easily predictable as polling would have us believe. Things happen. People can surprise us. And, for better or worse, I think that Donald Trump may very well become our next president.