Disclaimer: If you are easily offended, just skip this one. I don’t have the mental fortitude to apologize. (In all seriousness, I am truly heartbroken for the families who have lost any loved ones during this time for any reason. I truly do understand how you feel, better than you know, and you are in my prayers).
In my family, having a sense of humor about death is basically a survival skill. When I was born, I had 9 grandparents still living. That means that from birth until now, I have seen what it means to age gracefully and painfully, to die much too young and much too soon. I have cried countless tears, gone to sleep heavy-hearted, and yes, I have even laughed about it at times. It’s my defense mechanism. And my mom was maybe the absolute worst offender when it came to morbid jokes. She used to tell people, “You better lose some weight. You’re up to 8 pallbearers already.” One time a pastor told us we “Deal with loss through joy.” Yeah. We’ll go with that. The fact that it might be that we have all completely lost our minds is much less attractive than calling it joy.
So, when this whole pandemic thing started, my siblings and I did what we always do. We joked about death. Occasionally my phone would ding and I’d see a message from Helen Keller that said something like, “Rona got Joe Diffie!” And while his passing was so sad and much too early, I thought it was funny the way she chose to word her announcement. I spent the rest of the day honoring Joe Diffie’s memory by singing John Deere Green or the Jason Aldean song 1994 (If you haven’t listened to it, do it. Joe Diffie would be proud).
The loss of Joe Diffie was followed yesterday by the loss of Nick Cordero. I know he was a famous broadway performer, but in my eyes, he will forever be Earl from the movie Waitress. Me and mom watched that movie over and over. When I got pregnant with Mary Ann, I was less than thrilled, mostly because I was 23 and selfish and knew that what is in must come out, and any way you sliced it, that was going to hurt. So we often referred back to this movie and how much Kerri Russell’s character struggled with her feelings about the baby coming. I will miss you, Earl.
Now today, I hear that Charlie Daniels is gone. It is almost more than my heart can bear. For as long as I can remember I have loved all things Charlie Daniels. And not just “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” either. I loved “Drinking My Baby Goodbye” and “Simple Man” and “The Legend of Wooly Swamp” and his cover of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” I even loved reading his own blog, “Charlie’s Soapbox” from time to time. He was a legend, an incredibly talented musician with a soft heart and easy smile.
So, in keeping with the jokes about death, I sent a text to my siblings today to let them know about Charlie’s passing. John Wayne said, “Yeah, I just saw that too. What a crap year.” Helen Keller says, “I saw that. Better protect Willie Nelson.” My response: “Jesus be a fence.”
And so, together we pray. “Dear Lord, it has been a rough year. There’s a pandemic. My mom died. And before that everyone else died. There have been murder hornets, and flying snakes, and a dust storm from Africa. And now we have suffered the loss of Charlie Daniels, and Kanye says he might run for president. We need you Lord. Please protect Willie Nelson, Betty White, and Leslie Jordan. They’re all we have left. In Jesus name, Amen.”