Tuesday, October 31, 2017

PLAY DEAD

Sometimes, we do more than just PLAY DEAD with these four letter words on Halloween.

Putting aside some of the historical context, Halloween has become a day (or, more precisely, a night) of mixed messages.

The foundation is that of... well... the dead. That undiscovered country from which none return... unless you're a zombie... or a vampire... or just a spirit that has unfinished business in the physical world. It is dark and mysterious.

And yet, modern connotations are more fun and playful. We dress up - sometimes mocking that fear, sometimes just mocking. We hand out candy and celebrate with an elaborate dance of walking from house-to-house.

I'm not sure the messages are so mixed. While we traditionally think of death as something scary and to be feared, and a sad time for the loved ones left behind, Halloween reminds us that all is not sad - there is joy and celebration in the life of the person as well.


Which leads me to Bernie DeKoven. Who is dying of cancer.

I've posted about Bernie several times before. I met him over five years ago online, and was fortunate to meet him once in person. He's taught me many lessons of fun and play over the years... and this is his last lesson to teach (tho likely not my last lesson of his to learn):

There can be fun in death.

He announced it several months ago and shared his plans for a living legacy of a swing set that parents and children could share together. Since then, he has continued to share games and other play, all shaped by his treatments and the course of his health. There were long gaps - where I would begin to wonder what happened. But he kept returning to remind us that there is still a world filled with fun to enjoy - and that we should enjoy it. The anniversary of the day I met him in Brooklyn passed... as did his birthday. But none of them seemed the right time for me to pen this honor to him.

Image copyright Jim Benton,
who was born on Halloween!
But Halloween... that's the right day! It is a day that embodies the message of play he shares with us
right now. The day when we can watch horror movies and enjoy being frightened. The day we can dress as masked chainsaw-wielding horrors incarnate. A night we can be terrified... and face that terror... and hand it a candy bar. A day of bobbing for apples and spooky soundtracks and fun and play.

That's the kind of day Bernie calls for every day.

I will miss Bernie when he's gone. Someday I hope to visit that playground and swing on that swing with my son. But from now on, I'll be associating Halloween with Bernie, and trying to remember those lessons he tries to impart from beyond the veil. And hoping that I can learn to face my everyday fears... with play.

Happy Halloween, Bernie and everyone.