Day of remembering

Nov 15, 2007

At work today, I started the morning in a meeting devoted to role playing a campus crisis with casualties. Later in the day, an email from a friend told me of the passing of a former colleague. In the evening, Erin and I attended a group session about death and grieving.

My first memory of death was in third or fourth grade. Each morning I’d get to school early — my mother was a teacher at the school — and I’d go to the cafeteria to help the lunch lady’s son, a first grader, put the chairs down for the day.

One weekend that winter, the boy and his father went fishing on the reservoir and never returned. Their bodies turned up a few weeks later.

Over the years, I’ve attended the funerals of classmates and teachers, the parents of friends and a few relatives. I started my first website, Zuiker Chronicles Online, just before my grandfather, Frank the Beachcomber, died. At that funeral, in Chicago, my friend John Ettorre drove up from Cleveland to show his respect.

In this country, said the grieving session leader tonight, we give people three days to deal with death.

In Vanuatu, death gets a year: in the first few days, the village gathers at the deceased person’s hut and wails for an hour or so. A church service, a simple coffin or body wrapped in pandanus mats, a hole in the ground. Male family members don’t shave for 30 days, at which point there’s a village feast. At a year, another feast, and the grieving is over.

But the missing remains.

Anton Zuiker

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