by Karen Frazier, Managing Editor
Paranormal Underground Magazine
I’ve decided that you never know how different people will deal with death. I’m kind of embarrassed to say it, but quite often my reaction is gallows humor. Humor – in all of its forms – is a huge coping mechanism for me.
Last night, I experienced another person’s attempt to deal with death. I think. Unfortunately it appeared to be a running off at mouth where horrifying and inappropriate things came out.
Let me explain. I believe I recently mentioned that a very popular local music teacher was killed last month in a motorcycle accident. It was awful for his family, his friends, his students and the community. Last night, the high school in town held a benefit concert to raise money for this teacher’s family. A large number of people in the community attended.
The middle school and high school jazz bands both performed, and then the big guns came on. A local group of professional jazz musicians. As a matter of fact, the teacher who died was on his way home from his first gig with this group.
After the professional group (who were amazing to listen to) set up, the leader of the group started talking. It was clear from the outset that he wasn’t sure what type of tone to set for the occasion, and I spent much of the rest of the evening with my mouth hanging open thinking, “WTF? Was that as insensitive as it sounded?”
First, he started by reading a letter that he had written to the local paper. In the letter, he talked about how the teacher who had died had the group’s trumpet music with him, and how that trumpet music was scattered to the far winds all over the highway at the “crash site”. He talked about how they had come down to the crash site to try and locate that music to no avail, and how the group just couldn’t replace such rare and unusual music. As if by some miracle and through their exemplary service, however, the Washington State Patrol troopers recovered every single sheet of music that was flung to the four winds at the crash site, took them home and dried them, and then through a stroke of luck and a series of coincidences, the music found their way back to the group.
To me, that seemed just a skosh insensitive. Hey – a husband, father, community leader and teacher was lost, but heck, we got our music back. God is good!!
Later as he was introducing his band, he came to a rather youngish looking trombone player and he said, “Well – he just graduated from college with a music education degree, and I think he’ll be a heckuva teacher. I hear you guys are looking for a music teacher.”
Again, I had a sense of “Did that just happen? REALLY?”
Finally, later in the evening yet he said, “If there’s a big band up in the sky and St. Peter is on first trumpet, the archangel Michael is on second trumpet and Mr. Gilbert is on third trumpet – well, there’s only one spot left. So kids – you’d better practice.”
After bouncing it off a few other people, they found those types of statements as baffling as I did. To say all of that to a family and a community in mourning, an audience loaded with the teacher’s students and of course, his widow and three daughters seems rather insensitive.
How we deal with death is unique to the individual. It’s always difficult to know the appropriate thing to say. My choice is usually, “I’m sorry,” and “I’m here if you need anything.”
It is funny what an uncomfortable thing death can still be. Especially given that we all die eventually, you think we’d be better at it as a species. We aren’t. Some of us avoid the bereaved. Others say inappropriate things. Others try to empathize by sharing their own stories.
I’ve experienced the death of loved ones before. While a community gathered around me every time, each of those deaths ultimately felt like a very isolating event. Grief is something that I move through alone. Others have told me they feel the same way.
Whether one chooses self-isolation during grief or not, the community that is there does help. It is good to know that others are there and that they care. In spite of the words that came out of the music director’s mouth last night, his actions spoke even louder. He and his group were taking their time and offering their talents to honor a fallen comrade and provide love, help and support to his wife and family. In the end, no matter how he personally dealt with death, he was part of a community that gathered to say, “we are here for you. We love you. Godspeed.”
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