Like any Jedis, We All Have To Face our “Dark Sides.” SPOILER ALERT for The Last Jedi…

In the recently released movie Star War Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, the female character Rey, whom was revealed to be a budding Jedi, faces her respective “dark side” when she is on the planet where Luke Skywalker has been in self-imposed seclusion for about 30 years or so. She does this by willfully going into a scary-ass pit on the island, where she winds up seeing some unpleasant things:

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The long-orphaned Rey, whom was seeking answers about her parents, among other things, winds up seeing that she is utterly alone, thanks to some unpleasant images presented via “The Force.”

She’s not the only aspiring Jedi who has had to face  unpleasant images during the pursuit of the “Jedi Diploma.” Luke Skywalker, in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, sees some images of his possible future self while training with Yoda. And he doesn’t like what he sees…

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After seeing this, Luke goes on a quest to try “turning” his father, aka Dark Vader, from the Dark Side of the Force.

It’s not just Jedi characters in movies that have to do this. Real people have to do this stuff, too! I had my own experiences with facing the “dark side” in 1989 when I was 17, and both of my grandmothers died within months of each other. They both died suddenly by simply dropping dead in the midst of what they were doing. My maternal grandmother died in the bathroom of the house in which she lived with us – and my paternal grandmother died after having lunch with a great-great aunt at a Coney Island restaurant.

Though I was shocked by both of their deaths, I was strangely not saddened by them – at least not right away. I didn’t even cry at either of their funerals, though I did have a snotty remark for a relative who gushed over how “good” one of them looked after being preened excessively by funeral parlor employees.

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My maternal grandmother, Luella, aka “Esther,” which was her middle name, is on the left. Her older brother, Roland, aka “Homer,” is on the right. Photo circa mid 1920s. There is a running joke in my family that most people tend to go by their middle names rather than their “given” names, lol…Homer was killed in a hit-and-run accident while on his bicycle in Orange County, CA in 1937 when he was just 24 years old.  I managed to get a copy of his death certificate a few years ago. My grandma never got over his death, and continued having dreams about him throughout her entire life.

Here’s how the convo at the funeral parlor went down in July, 1989 regarding my grandma’s overly made-up face: “Doesn’t she look good,” the relative asked. Never one to mince words, I replied, “No, she doesn’t. She doesn’t look a thing like my grandma.”

I had a dream about her and her and my grandfather about 20 years ago or so. I went up to them saying, “I’m all grown up now,” and they smiled. Then they walked off together holding hands. To this day I still think it could have been a means of them communicating with me beyond the grave. But then, it could have just been a dream about my grandparents! This grandfather died when I was just 4, so I barely knew him.

Fast forward to September, 1989 at my other grandmother’s funeral, and I was rather taken aback by the number of people whom were crying – especially since a good number of them were ones who had little or no contact with her over the past several years or more. I saw her really regularly, yet why was I not crying?

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I have been told by a few family members that I resemble my paternal grandmother, Clarice (who just went by her first name). She had much, much darker hair (black when she was young) and brown eyes, while I have brown hair and greenish/hazel eyes. She worked for years in a building that now houses Standard Printing in Ypsilanti, MI, which was formerly an unemployment office, where she worked as a manager.

Fast forward a bit more to “the holidays,” and it started kind of setting in that my grandmothers weren’t around anymore. And I realized how much I missed them. Then I suddenly started writing some really, really gruesome, violent poems about death and homicide – and animal cruelty. I was taking some high-level English composition classes at the time, so I was learning how to properly write poems in iambic pentameter, among other things – so I guess in a way, you could say this was “applied knowledge.” I did NOT turn these poems in to my teachers, but my friends, and some classmates, read them. One of my male classmates named Steve seemed to become quite the fanboy of my writing! He said the lines in my grisly poems would be great lyrics for metal songs. He eagerly read all of the stuff I wrote!

Later on, I wrote a dark satire of the “Camelot” stories, that had a decidedly lighter feel than the poems, but there was still lots of death! After Merlin died, I described his appearances while he was a ghost as “Obi-Wan Kenobi-like appearances.”

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Though I did dabble in quite a bit of “goth” style writing, I never dressed – or acted like a “goth!” Here is a photo of what I looked like around the time I went through my “goth writing phase.” Pretty normal and boring looking, huh? 🙂

Here’s a snippet of some of the disturbing stuff I wrote:

“My Bunny…hanging from a tree…dead as dead can be. I can hear my bunny scream…scream, scream scream.”

And…

“His dismembered body lay not in one pile/but scattered about in disorderly style.”

I wrote about a serial killer who made various home furnishings out of human skin. I wrote about a woman who went on a homicidal rage and killed a boyfriend who mistreated her – and dismembered his body. I think there may have been someone who was dissolved in a vat of acid, but I can’t exactly recall.

Looking back, I think this is how I dealt with the grief of losing both grandmothers. Though I eventually stopped writing the gruesome poems, I never totally lost my fascination with the macabre. My friends and I would frequently visit local cemeteries…at night. One of our favorites was located about 15 miles away from my home, and a long, curvy road led to this small-town cemetery. One night, we brought illegally acquired alcohol and I mixed drinks from the trunk of my 1982 Buick Regal. I’ve always fancied myself a drink mixologist, lol…I tore around that curvy road like I was an aspiring NASCAR racer, and  per my friends’ accounts, actually got it up on two wheels!

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This is not the actual Buick Regal that I drove, but it’s a reasonable facsimile…

Since we were teenagers, the cemetery drinks we enjoyed involved overly-sweet Schnapps of some sort. Don’t think I could choke that stuff down now! Later on, one of my friends, after I moved away to college, continued visiting this cemetery with some other friends, but she ran afoul of the law. Apparently visiting that cemetery after dark was trespassing, so she had to go to court, and possibly pay some fines – but was not jailed.

On one of our legal daytime visits to this cemetery, we joked around about a ravine that was adjacent to the cemetery, which contained graves of a good number of my relatives. One of whom was Sylvester Black, whom died at age 84 while walking in a snowstorm. I’d like to think he was either heading to – or from – a young mistress’ house, lol, but I digress. As for the ravine, we thought it would be a hoot if someone posted a sign near the ravine with the words “Budget Burial Here” on it. Just wrap up that body in a tarp and chuck it over the hill!

Which brings me to this recent story I read about people being able to do just this (except no tarp). The gist of it is, people can choose a “natural burial” option for loved ones, which means no embalming, no non-biodegradable coffins, and burying the person in a beautiful forested setting rather than a traditional cemetery. Family members, using GPS, could seek out the grave sites, and visit loved ones while on a hike, rather than having to go to a traditional cemetery.  Supporters say that this type of burial helps the environment in the long run, because there is no seepage of embalming chemicals into the water supply/environment, and by using biodegradable coffins, the dead person just winds up decomposing – naturally. And leaving nothing to “hang around” for eternity. Is this like that my “budget burial” idea? Well, there is a cost savings over a traditional funeral, which can cost upwards of $7,000! Read more about it here

My husband pointed out a potential problem with this…”What about the zombies?” Since the bodies aren’t embalmed, couldn’t they technically come back from the dead and wreak havoc on the living? I’ll leave that one for the horror movie industry to answer!

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Does embalming the body keep this from happening?

I think it’s hilarious that something I joked about with my friends nearly 30 years ago might be coming to pass! Though I no longer write gruesome poems about murder and homicide, I still maintain just a little bit of that old “gallows humor!” And I still enjoy writing about death, apparently…obituary writing was one of my favorite “busy work” tasks when I used to work at various newspapers. All of the little details of their lives – whether they were hi-lo operators, housewives, laborers, shoe salespeople – I enjoyed taking a brief ride through their life stories! It gave me a little pride too, knowing that this would probably be the last time they would ever get their name in the newspaper.  I even wrote my great-great aunt’s obituary back in 2011. On my trivia team, one of my “pet” topics is celebrity deaths – just recently I nailed a tiebreaker question asking how old James Dean was when he died. I’m kind of fascinated with celebrities who died in odd ways – including Sandy Denny (the only singer to have been a guest vocalist with Led Zeppelin, singing on the “Battle of Evermore” song), and Sam Cooke. If you’re curious and like morbid stuff like I do, look up how these two died!

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Did you know James Dean was driving a Porsche Spyder when he died? That has been asked in trivia games, believe it or not!

My inner “goth writer” was still at work – a bit – when I was in college! I wrote a paper in a freshman college class titled “Implements of Destruction,” which outlined different objects that could be used for killing people (the professor for that class was very liberal, lol). My favorite type of weapon, for the record, is anything that can be used to bludgeon a person – whether it be a large rock, frozen hunk of meat, the business end of a cricket bat…you get the drift! If you’ve gotta kill someone, you might as well get up close and personal! Firearms are SO impersonal (don’t get me started on them). In my senior year, I took a “death and dying” course to satisfy a philosophy requirement and actually got quite into it! I played Mozart’s Requiem Mass when I had to write papers (for inspiration). My final term paper project for that class was writing about one of the biggest mass deaths in history – which occurred in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978. More than 900 people died – a majority of them by drinking a powdered grape drink laced with cyanide, though some were also killed by gunfire.

To this day, I still jokingly fantasize about starting my own “budget burial” business! Get a pick-up truck, charge a couple K for people to have us chuck their tarped-up loved ones into remote ravines! For an extra $20 or so, we’ll say a few kind words before we kick their bodies to their resting places – and maybe even write a nice little eulogy before sending them off! I do like writing about death, after all!

 

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