The Freedom of Dirt

Eric - Redmond, Washington
Entered on June 17, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

I’ve attended many funerals. I don’t know the families personally and imagine that if a vote had been taken my presence wouldn’t be entirely wanted. My vocation, however, says that I was necessary because, basically, I know where the dirt goes.

Of course, I won’t use the term “dirt” at a service. Dirt, in my mind, is accumulated through carelessness or just plain time and no matter how it gets there, it needs to be disposed of. Which typically, in my heart, is located on somebody’s reputation. No, earth is the nomenclature I prefer.

As a cemetery worker that deals with families I think “earth” is better at conjuring up images of mountains with soaring eagles, early morning wheat fields or any number of pictures one might come across perusing the engraving options for that loved one’s marker. On a smaller level I hope to be surprised that maybe, just maybe, one of those folk-y John Denver type acoustic sacraments played during a service might mention the word “earth” but…That is the essence of my job, paying attention to the details so in fifteen to thirty minutes a life can be summed up.

In just over a decade I’ve heard a litany of hard earned achievements, laughed at a myriad of jokes and seen enough family trees to make a forest. What is never present however, is the dirt. And I completely understand.

If someone were to ask, “How do you want your funeral to go?” I could quickly throw out some desires that include a cellist playing The Rose, a spectacular magic show and a minister hired to share platitudes that may not apply, to people he doesn’t know who are willing to agree for the moment, at least, that the emperor is fully clothed. Really, the thing that needs to be added to make my service authentic is dirt. That film of tire-tread, shoe print and bird crap that tints the marker of my life.

We’re not talking the low fruit, either, like…I’m plundering the planet for profit. It’s that I don’t want my SUV/mocha drinking habit to be brought up when reading Genesis with it’s admonition of The Gardening Ethic. Or that I might fly planes into buildings but rather my first reaction is that a Hellfire missile is the power unto my safety instead of The Gospel being the power unto their salvation. Or, even, that I walk around threatening to sue the company for petty reasons but that I walk around hoping that my sociopathic, obnoxious co-worker will wind up twisting in the storm of his own creation.

If you happen to be at my funeral please feel free to wince during the casket sawed in half trick as well as my mother’s second request for Wind Beneath my Wings. But resist any urge to flinch when my pastor says, “Here lies Eric Locke, a sinner…” After all, I shared with him just like I did with you, “I know where the dirt goes”.