She died stringing beans

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Hamlet / William Shakespeare


(tomb in Santa Maria sopra Minerva / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

“After William Shakespeare’s Horatio sees the ghost of Hamlet’s father and
scarcely believes his own eyes, Hamlet tells him that there is more to reality
than he can know or imagine including ghosts.”

So reads a small excerpt I recently came across when flipping through a new book catalog
I’d just received in the mail.
The catalog is from Ignatius Press and the excerpt was part of a brief overview
for a new book release by both college professor and Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft.

I found the Shakespeare piece, the quote from Hamlet, quite telling.

That there is indeed more to this reality of ours…with death being a bit of a doorway…
not so much the ghost thing…as I do believe in a spiritual warfare…but this is
not about that…not today anyway…

But I should confess that every once in a while I do find my thoughts turning to my
own mortality.
Perhaps that’s a bit morbid, but hey, it happens.

I suppose such thoughts increase as one’s age increases.

Since I hit another birthday last week, I suppose such thoughts concerning both
life and death are just typical brain fodder.

You know when you’re actually closer to that magic number that those supposed experts
keep telling us is a typical life expectancy age for a relatively healthy US woman…
well, the reality becomes a bit hard to ignore.

I’ve mentioned before that if you have ever lived through losing, utterly prematurely, a
loved one or perhaps a dear friend due to a catastrophic illness or tragic accident…
you naturally find yourself wondering, more often than others,
‘when might my your own number get called up??’

So yesterday while I found myself standing at the kitchen sink…a sink full of green beans
that needed snapping and stringing before being cooked…my thoughts wandered off course.

And by the way, I don’t know why but I can never find fresh pole beans this time of year…
just those generic string beans now sold in pre-packaged plastic bags all imported from
south Florida or worse…California….anywhooo, I digress.

So there I was mindlessly stringing and snapping a sink full of imported beans as my mind
started wandering.

My thoughts actually got around to the notion of what if I did just suddenly fall out
here at the sink…
what if I dropped dead while stringing these beans…???!!
I suppose they could sadly write my epitaph “She died stringing beans”

But there are certainly worse ways to go.

And in typical fashion for my life, that’s how it will be you know.
It won’t be like something out of the movies but rather it will be
nothing I will have expected or planned on.
Death doesn’t work that way.

With a healthy melding of both humility and hubris, I’ve always thought it will never
be in some sort of glorious heroic sort of finale.
It’ll be more like something stupid or either something plain awful.

Funny how the brain and ego work in tandem when imagining one’s own ending.

Death waits for no man, and if he does, he usually doesn’t wait long…
That quote comes from Markus Zusak, author of The Book Theif (I didn’t care for the book)

So yes, Mr. Zusak is correct, Death doesn’t wait.

And I think we’d all agree that Death, here in our realm, is mostly perceived as
something most tragic and dreaded…
It’s a permanent-seeming sort of separation and, for far too many, it can be
a painfully slow and lingering happening.
And the odd thing is…that when it is long and painful, we then view Death as a blessed
release.
We even note that the one suffering suffers no more.

Yet death is a thought that leaves all of us unsettled…
particularly when we think about our own demise.

Chances are all of us, at one point or another has mused over when, where, how and why…

Yet what we must remember is that in the mind of God, death is more or less liberating.
It’s the cutting of an earthbound tether… as we humans suffer from
a gravitational pull that keeps us grounded… and Heaven knows, we certainly like
our earthly grounding.
But the cutting of the earthly tether allows for a reunion.
A reunion between Creator and created…
it’s just that we don’t always think of it those sorts of terms.
Instead, we dread it or simply see it more as an ending rather than a beginning.

It’s hard to imagine that death is actually an act of ‘freeing’ us.
Yet for me, it tends to be more of a scary thought than not.

For those of us who lay our hearts, our lives, our sins, our hopes at the foot
of the cross…
those of us who die on the Cross with Christ and are in turn risen from the tomb with
Christ Resurrected…death should not be seen as the ending but rather the beginning…
but yet I’ll be the first to admit, it’s a bit scary walking out into that unknown.

So as I was stringing my beans, I quickly realized that our idea of death is not God’s
idea of death…and that in itself alone is a very good thing.

When I recently visited the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, I
was taken aback a bit when I saw two separate tombs that actually had the real skulls
of the deceased embedded into the tombs as part of the elaborate construction.

A somewhat creepy reminder of our own mortality.

Just like those catacombs in France and other places scattered around the world…
catacombs with thousands of human bones..those of deceased monks,
elaborately displayed in a macabre reminder that from dust we come and to dust,
we will return.

And so as we prepare to enter into this season of Advent, that season of waiting and
watching…
A time of anticipation, birth and the newness of life…we must be mindful that the
shadow of the Death remains…
it remains not to frighten us but rather to offer us hope.
The Hope of Life which comes through the Ressurection of a life that overcame Death.

A hard concept to wrap our earth bound heads around, but wrap we must because it is in
our dying that we truly have our life…

It remains not as a harbinger but rather as a reminder…harbinger being man’s idea as
Hope is God’s idea…

And thus the reminder being….that Jesus, through His own death, overcame our death,
allowing us to live…to truly live with Him.

Therefore in Christ, we gloriously find birth, life, death and then finally life eternal…
all intertwined.
A gift as it were…with it being the best gift our Heavenly Father could give…
that being a reunited life free of sin or earthly strife…

So tomorrow when I find myself making a pumpkin pie, who knows where my thoughts will
lead me…at least my epitaph won’t read she died stringing beans…
dying while making a pumpkin
pie certainly sounds so much more festive…complete with whipped cream…


(images from The Bascilica of Santa Maria sopa Minerva / Julie Cook / 2018)

of gods and goddess…

“Am I in earth, in heaven, or in hell?
Sleeping or waking, mad or well-advised?
Known unto these, and to myself disguised?
I’ll say as they say, and persever so,
And in this mist at all adventures go.”

― William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors


(statue of Thalia, 2nd century / The Vatican Museum / Rome, Italy)

Thalia, the Greek Goddess of comedy, was the 8th of 9 muses and was one of the
many daughters of the Greek God Zeus.
Most scholars credit Zeus with having 92 children…
so I’m not exactly certain as to where Thalia
rates on the favorite list but seeing that she was in charge of comedy and all things happy,
she was probably a favorite daddy’s girl…
but I digress.

And as the goddess of comedy and poetry, her very name, which translates to flourishing,
referenced that her gifts would flourish through the ages…

However today, I am actually wondering more about the Goddess Moron…

As in I just know that with all those gods and goddesses,
throughout all of the mythology we had to learn in school,
surely there was one named Moron…
Who, might I add, was responsible for stupidity…..
As in, moron being a word that translates to idiot, dunce, blockhead…
as in…
well, I’m sure everyone gets where’s this is all going.

Shakespeare first introduced us to the notion of a comedy of errors with his
play of the same name.
Yet over the years the ‘catch phrase’ came to mean something that was to be
“made amusing by bungling and incompetence.”

So when we say something is a comedy of errors, we mean it is a situation
that is one of idiocy, most likely caused by the Goddess Moron, or at least by a
dunce or idiot acting like a moron who has
demonstrated a certain level of incompetence or bungling…

So during my arduous ride home today on the burgeoning Atlanta interstate system,
the same interstate system that is now bursting at the seams due to the massive interstate closure
as a result of last week’s fire and road collapse,
I found myself pondering the notion of writing a book.

I think it will be entitled, My life, a comedy of errors
but that title may already be taken…
so….how about…
“Wait and let ME do that…so you can learn from my incompetence”
I’ll use the pen name Goddess Moron.
If Dana Elaine Owens can rename herself Queen Latifah, I, Julie Cook can rename myself
the Goddess Moron.

Makes perfect sense.

And why all this self deprecation you wonder….
Well, I’m so glad you asked…

Have you ever had to go to your town or city’s courthouse to get official paperwork?

A nightmare, I know…..

And if so, you may understand that such a visit is a matter of hoop jumping.

Due to the interstate closures and downtown now being impenetrable, you have to go
to the northern city’s annex.
A building built in the late 60’s that has never had an update or remodeling experience.

You arrive, along with thousands of others who had the same brilliant thought as yourself…
show up on a Thursday cause it seemed like a good idea…

You have to park in an overflow lot that is down by a dumpster and a sea of kudzu
and busted asphalt.
Winded after hiking up from the pawpaw patch,
you enter through a set of double glass doors covered with all sorts of warning signs.

A guard greets you…but….
no one smiles and babies are crying.
There is an odor.
Stale, smokey, bodyish…odors
There are guards and deputies staring you down as you fret that by the way you
are standing could just possibly land you in the pokey.
It’s that serious.

You stand in a long line just to get a ticket to stand in another line and
to be able to simply ask a question…
Asking a question of a person behind a bullet proof glass.
There is a small hole that you can speak through as well as listen through.
You tell her you’re here to probate your dad’s will.
“Oh you’re in the wrong place, you need to be upstairs”

Relieved to leave the sea of waiting humanity, you go outside and walk up the sidewalk
to the “top floor.”
Here another guard tells you to go to the last room down the hall on the right.
The sea of humanity waiting in the hallway is a key clue as to you being in the right spot.

Here is where people buy marriage licenses, gun carry permits as they gather
copies of officially filed identifying papers, probate wills, etc….

You sign in on the sheet sitting on the counter, in the cramped little office,
while the nonplused woman working the other side of the counter tells you to sign in,
go sit down somewhere and not to crowd the counter…
and oh, she’s locking the doors at 1:00 until 2PM for lunch…
You look down at your watch, it’s 12:20.

She processes two of the sea of waiting folks when the magic number 1:00 strikes.
She clears the office telling those waiting inside to go out in the hall and wait with
the others until 2:00.
She locks the door.

You have all your papers in a nice folder sitting on your lap.
You have the check ready for the $200 processing fee.
Your cousin had actually come to meet you and help out but after leaving the first office of
humanity, you thank him, telling him that he is free and needs to go back to work—
because only one from the family should remain in servitude to the system.
You now make nice conversations with your fellow waiters….or is that waitees?

The bell for 2:00PM sounds and the nonplused woman returns and unlocks the door.
She is alone today and mad.
Her supervisor failed to show up for work, leaving her alone to tend to the sea of humanity.
You think that maybe she should now be supervisor.

You hear a few folks fussing, as they walk past you into the adjacent courtroom,
complaining that “if 3 million people voted for her, why did we get him”….
It registers in your brain that you know what they’re talking about and you just
shake your head while you hear another voice screaming in your head that if the man
could just do his job maybe, just maybe,
this whole sea of waiting humanity might not have to wait so long
and that perhaps some of the idiotic bureaucracy could finally be dealt with…
finally allowing this bureaucratic nightmare,
that is morphing into the monster we have created into this thing we call government…
but that screaming voice in your head is now apologizing for digressing…

All of this while new folks file into the cramped office to sign the sheet…
with the nonplused woman behind the counter telling everyone she is closeing the
office at 4PM and everyone will have come back in the morning at 8:30.
A newcomer asks is she’ll pick up where she left off on the list the following day.
“No” she answers flatly, “it’s a new day”…

Finally the sweet little lady, who has been sitting by you this entire time,
has her name called.
She just needed a $10 copy of proof guardianship for her now 22 year old granddaughter
for a college scholarship—
never mind the college has three copies already on file–
she needed another new one…

As you continue waiting, you rather mindlessly and nonchalantly look down,
for the millionth time, at the letter from your lawyer sitting on your lap.
You have the packet she sent to present to the court,
you made certain you had the death certificates,
you had the check ready to be filled out…
you had proof of ID…
but wait….
the will…
where is the will?????

You feel your cheeks burning.
Your stomach flips over.
There is a pain now drilling deep into your temples.
You live an hour and a half away…
You’ve waited almost three hours….
You feel as if you’re having an outer body experience.
You are not allowed to ask any questions until your name is called.
Do you keep sitting, waiting, just to ask if you need the hard copy
of the will in order
to probate the will???

Seems like a no brainer.

You get up from your now well worn chair…
you silently leave your fellow waitees…
making your way back down to the dumpster, busted asphalt, kudzu and your car.

You feel hot tears rolling down your cheeks.
A nice man passes you on the sidewalk…
he sees your tears as he kindly and somewhat knowingly smiles.

When suddenly out of nowhere…
you hear a familiar shrill and overtly heavily ladened southern
laced voice opine…..
“Well fiddledeedee, tomorrow is another day”

Thankful for the wisdom from the southern goddess Scarlett…
you make your way back to the sea of cars on the interstate
ready to come back and do this all over again….another day….

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction;
whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap
a harvest if we do not give up.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people,
especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Galatians 6:7-10