Now, you have to understand something of a writer and an artist. Something of the melancholic temperament in general. But, the idea first. I’m at work, and just got a labwide email that an employee’s mother died. It contained the death notice from the Augusta Chronicle:
AUGUSTA, Ga.- Graveside services for Mrs. M__ D__ D__ of 1229 __th Street will be held 11 a.m. [date removed] at Mt. Olive Memorial Gardens. Survivors include a daughter, V__ D__; two sons, G__ E. D__, R__ I. D__; three sisters, R__ H__, O__ S__, B__ D__; four grandchildren and one great-grandchild; a host of other relatives and friends. The family will receive friends from 7-8 p.m. today at the funeral home. G. L. Brightharp & Sons Mortuary, 614 West Avenue, North Augusta, S. C.
The message sparked an immediate, odd compulsion to attend the graveside service. Then the idea: “These notices are in every newspaper everywhere. Whenever I want, I can go to a funeral.”
Like I said, you have to understand something about an artist. My attraction to a funeral is not flippant. I’m not going to crash a party. It’s not dark (I don’t subscribe to the “Goth” subculture), or a fascination with death. It’s merely a writer’s need to absorb real-life circumstances as experiences upon which to base his interpretations of life; for a writer has the responsibility — not that I necessarily agree with this situation — given him by those who do not wish to interpret life themselves, to provide an interpretation of life and its circumstances.
I have been blessed by not having funerals come into my life often on their own. My maternal grandfather, a distant friend Michael — years after I knew him — an elderly lady from my church, and two friends of my parents whom I hardly knew are the only funerals I have ever attended.
So don’t think it strange if a sombre and reverent stranger shows up at the graveside of one of your friends or loved ones, paying his respects to someone he never knew. He is merely experiencing the human condition, and is a “scout” of sorts for all whom his work will reach. He is a writer.
Scraps, July 26th, 2004, while working at a lab near Aiken, SC.