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Jim’s Going-Away Party October 31, 2008

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Jim’s memorial service was Sunday, a sunny October day in a lovely church filled with afternoon light. It was a moving and celebratory tribute, and I was happy to run into some friends, which I wasn’t sure would happen, as Jim lived just far enough away from me that our social circles didn’t overlap a lot.

At the reception, I was quietly handed a most wonderful photo of Jim and Wendy: A nearly identical, mischievous twinkle shone in their eyes. On the back, it said: “Jim and Wendy would like to invite you to Jim’s going-away party.” The private interment was Monday afternoon at their home. I was surprised and honored to be invited.

I can’t describe what an incredible experience this was, and I don’t think I really want to try. Instead, I will employ that ever-so-useful tool of pulling together possibly random things into a category of sorts: the bulleted list.

Scenes from the interment:*

  • The burning of sage, the smudging of the grave site
  • A violinist playing
  • A woman singing
  • Their dogs howling
  • People weeping
  • A grave dug by friends
  • Jim’s body, wrapped in white cloth, brought to and lowered into the grave by friends
  • The covering of his body in evergreen branches
  • The tossing of many flowers on top of this
  • Words shared
  • The burying of Jim by his friends

This was followed by the going-away party Jim insisted we have.

As I’ve noted, Jim was proud of his Spanish heritage and made some mean Spanish dishes. Some of his friends followed suit in their catering, with Spanish tortillas, garlic shrimp, scrumptious chorizo, plump olives, Manchego and dulce de membrillo (quince paste). There didn’t seem to be alcohol, and about the time I was thinkin’ I sure could use a drink, Tim noticed some shot glasses that seemed to be subtly moving their way through the crowd.

And now it appears I have a new interest: top-shelf tequila. Thanks, Jim. May any taste I dare take be a toast to you.

And when I die, may it be with at least an ounce of the grace and beauty that you showed me as to how it works.

*Note the lack of any sign of the funeral industry.


1. Deloney - October 31, 2008

I was very moved by the poetry of it all.

2. Craig (Maito Sewa Yoleme) - October 31, 2008

I used to think I wanted to be cremated. I may very well be changing my mind.

3. Bridgett - October 31, 2008

I did note the lack of the funeral industry. It is almost impossible to avoid where I live. But what a wonderful experience without drab fat men in black suits everywhere pretending to be mournful.

4. She She - October 31, 2008

You know, a lot of people don’t know that you DON’T have to use a funeral home, embalming, etc. T. and I talk about this sometimes, how we’d like no embalming, the pine box, and a big Irish wake. Takes planning, but it can be done.

Your friend really knew how to throw a funeral. A lovely sendoff.

5. Cedar Waxwing - October 31, 2008

That was a fine tribute to Jim and the lack of funeral industry types was noted. I’d like to know more about the laws in different places — and make it a point to die where this kind of funeral is legal.

6. indigo bunting - October 31, 2008

I have some questions about how to make that all work, what’s legal where, etc., too. Of course, I didn’t think it proper timing to ask that day. I intend to follow up, though.

Craig, I hear you. I really do think I want to be cremated, but being at that burial, it all felt so absolutely right.

7. Craig (Maito Sewa Yoleme) - October 31, 2008

Indigo, would you mind posting what you learn re: making it work? I think a number of us would be interested in the details.

8. Adam Byrn Tritt - October 31, 2008

Glorious and fine. I appreciate this, the event, your writing of it, and knowing such can and still exists.

9. Adam Byrn Tritt - October 31, 2008

I have returned to this. I am thinking again. There is more here than the beauty of the event and the love. There is the thought, the comparison this seems to beg: what would mine be like. I can see I am not the only person to ask this.

Somehow, I think there would be fewer people. Who would come? Somehow, I can see myself having to get up, shed the shroud and did my own damn hole.

10. TapWitch - November 1, 2008

This has moved me to tears. And, too, certainly thinking of my own passing as well as that of loved ones. Adam, you won’t be diggin’ no damn hole!!!!

I do feel it is high time I organized my wishes for the end and committed them to paper. Thank you, Indigo, for sharing this.

11. Joya - November 1, 2008

Jim’s burial and going-away party sound beautiful and wonderful. There is so much love there, in your words and in the events you describe.

12. indigobunting - November 1, 2008

Thanks, everyone, for your kind words. Adam, I’m bettin’ more people would come out of the woodwork than you can imagine.

Craig, if/when I find out more about how this was pulled off, and if it feels appropriate to post what I learn, I’ll let you know.

13. Bridgett - November 1, 2008

One other thing. I was reading in the post here in town about a funeral home that confused two men, refusing to admit it until a relative tore open one man’s shirt to reveal his open heart surgery scars were missing (not Dad, essentially). And I turned to Mike and said, “IB just went to a friend’s funeral with no funeral industry involved.”

“How did she manage that?”

I thought for a moment and then said, “Vermont.”

Really, IB, it’s like a legend in my household.

14. indigobunting - November 2, 2008

Bridgett: I’m betting that these funeral laws ARE in fact state-based, but alas, I haven’t looked into it yet. I’ll bet too the amount of land you have, how far you are from a water source, etc., is involved. I somehow doubt that I could legally bury a person on my quarter-acre by a stream.

But as for the Vermont stuff: I’m glad it’s a legend in your household! There’s no doubt that a Vermont state of mind is one of the reasons I wanted to end up here. But in reality, it’s not like Vermont is at all singular in its thinking, as no doubt will show up Tuesday at electiontime.

15. Eulalia (Lali) Benejam Cobb - November 2, 2008

You really struck a nerve here, Indigo. I believe what your friend had is technically known as a “green burial.” I did some research on this a while ago, although I was looking at something more like “green cemeteries.” As I recall, there weren’t any of those in Vermont. However, if your friend was allowed to be buried in his own land, then the laws here are even more liberal than I expected.
Either way, thanks for describing the event so movingly.

16. She She - November 4, 2008
17. indigobunting - November 4, 2008

Thanks She She! I’ve looked up some stuff, will check these out, and hope to post soon!

18. Bridgett - November 9, 2008

Ok, umm, NO. Did you see my stupid state go red at the last moment??? :^) I’m still in exile amongst the benighted.

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