It was the ultimate oxymoron.
A cool funeral.
One that honored life, not death.
One for a man who lived a life of rich poverty as part of the JPUSA community since 1988.
Don was a living reminder that life is fleeting, that every day is burning a hole in your pocket and to think twice of how you invest it. He had the courage to share his last days with all of us, not keeping his struggle with cancer locked up in his room.
I didn’t know Don well, but he’d come down to the dining hall during those last weeks, making conversation with anyone, including me.
I pulled up a chair and said, “I love your sons.” Which I did. His oldest made me think; his youngest made me laugh.
Don smiled. “The oldest is a Buddhist.”
“No, he just thinks he’s a Buddhist.” I winked.
The ceremony wasn’t at a cold church or creepy funeral home but at the Wilson Abbey. Fresh brewed creativity seeped out from it’s coffee shop, transforming what could have been a room of gloom into a hub of inspiration, from the industrial rhythms playing to the glowing candelabras on each side of his coffin, or as one child called it, Don’s memory box. There was standing room only for the eclectic blend of attendees.
Ninety nine percent of everyone was dressed in black, their dreadlocks pulled back, beards braided, boots polished.
Colorful tattoos stood out like neon lights.
Glen Kaiser was dressed in his best crocs, with his old hippy pony tail pulled back. He played a Tom Waits tune on his cigar box guitar, held together with bottle caps.
More musicians performed during a bittersweet photo montage. Young Don with a Mohawk. Married Don with long hair. Tattooed Don holding baby son.
Departing Don with timeless Don smile.
His oldest son was asked to speak.
He shared a story about his dad’s love for his sons and for super heroes.
It made us all wonder if there was a difference between the two, thinking of the hard passage that awaits them.
I left the funeral feeling blessed, not sad. Blessed to have known someone who realized what true wealth is.
After all, faith is the only thing you can take with you.