Sunday, February 14, 2010

Death and Other Happy Matters

I've had a fear of death since I can remember. It's the whole facing your mortality thing, I'm sure, and something I have in common with all other humans. Well, except for the ones who have zero doubt that Heaven awaits them. Me, I haven't been that good. Sometimes the fear's a gripping one--one that makes me flush with panic; one that makes it hard to breathe. It's over. Forever. It didn't help any when people I loved died. It was just so heart wrenching and awful. Just like that they were gone. Forever. One of my ways of dealing with this is to avoid the cemetery. I just wind up crying my eyes out, so why would I go? I'd rather "visit" with them in places I'd spent time with them. To me, a cemetery is a morbid, depressing place. And then I started researching the next Sammy Keyes book and I found myself learning about the way other cultures use the cemetery as a place of celebration. At first this notion seemed so strange to me. Party? In a cemetery? But the more I read about how these cultures remember their dead, visit their graves, share stories, and have family reunions in graveyards, the more I started thinking that our culture has it all wrong. I mean, I do not want to be a bunch of bones in a box in the ground where glum visitors hang around for a little while and then leave. But if they brought me my favorite foods and laughed and danced and remember-when'd, and told the new generation wild stories about me...well, that would be kinda cool. Maybe our country doesn't celebrate the dead this way because we're "transplants". My parents came from Holland, so all our ancestors are buried in Europe. I've been to my grandparents' graves twice, and it was very somber. But even so, after my siblings and I are gone, who will ever visit them again? Or maybe it's because our culture fears death in ways others don't. As much as we'd like to avoid facing it, death is unavoidable. And so I think our approach to dealing with it is all wrong. Celebrating with the dead would make death seem not so finite, and would remove a lot of the fear of "The End". One of my favorite things about being a writer is that I'm always surprised by what I learn. I never in a million years thought that researching a Sammy Keyes book would make me feel better about death. Not that I'm ready to go anytime soon! But when I'm a bunch of bones in a box in the ground, come visit me. Bring some friends. Tell some funny stories. Dance a little. Oh, and pack me a frappuccino, some salmon sushi, and a few chocolate chip cookies. I'd like that.

33 comments:

xxCammyLoverxx said...

I learned in Spanish class that they have a holiday where they party on the graves and celebrate death. It was kind of interesting how a country right below us can be so different. I mean, why do we cry and mourn so much when they celebrate their death so festively? If they can do it, why can't we? It might be really hard... especially when we're actually standing there by the grave and thinking, "How can I ever be HAPPY about this?" but we should also think why they died- did they have a disease? Medical problems like that? Were they always in pain? Because it makes me feel like they shouldn't always have to hurt and their passing was for the better- so they don't have to face the pain anymore. That's what I think about for my parents. I mean, I know that at one point, they *will* be gone, and I never ever want them gone. But my ever since a car accident a years and years ago my dad has never actually been the same- he was really bad back problems. So it makes me feel better thinking about it that way.
And you're researching this for SK14? Which makes me thing someone important died... and if its Hudson, I'd cry. I love Hudson.
But actually, now that you bring it up, its kind of interesting- I'm also so afraid of death that when someone does die, I seem to be in shock for a while. Now, a book character is completely different, but if Hudson did pass away, then for some reason, it wouldn't suprise me. He always seemed like "that character" that readers would never know much about. About his past, at least. It wouldn't be so.. shocking.
Don't get me wrong.
I'd still cry.

Anyways, I liked this post. (:
See you next week!
Sincerely, Steph.

SelphieFairy said...

I'm Vietnamese American and when my family goes to visit my grandfather's grave, it's generally a fun experience. It helps that the place he is buried is extremely nice. My grandfather liked noise and always complained whenever it got too quiet, so he put him near a place that was close to an airport where planes are always flying by. Near his grave is a reservoir with an artificial waterfall. The cemetery is actually a very beautiful, bright, and happy looking place.

We bring incense, pray, and place them around his grave. We put fresh flowers, and then we break out the food and drinks, a beach umbrella, and some chairs. We just sit, eat, and talk. My grandmother does it almost every week, I think. Even though my grandfather isn't alive anymore, we still want him to enjoy life.

Some people give me strange looks when I tell them what we do. And most of the time I'll tell people "I'm going to visit my grandfather for Christmas!" or something to that extent without mentioning that it's actually his grave I'm visiting. To us, there's no difference. We're visiting him to spend time with him.

I'm a second generation(I can't even speak Vietnamese), so I could be wrong, but whenever we go visit my grandfather, that's how I feel. (:

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

xxCLxx: I cry over my characters all the time (and laugh, too), so it's nice to have company! (Don't read anything into that about Hudson, okay?) I like that my mind is expanding over what I've always held as a very closed subject. Thanks for your comments :-)

SelphieFairy: I love the idea of beach chairs and an umbrella! And that you go back to Vietnam to visit relatives. And that your grandfather liked noise! What a cool guy :-) Thank you for commenting.

Everybody: What would you want people to bring / do / say at your gravesite? Would you want a party? Or just peace and quiet?

Purple Monster said...

Hey Wendelin! I'm SOOOO excited for the next Sammy Keyes book! Oh, and I got "Confessions of a Serial Kisser" It's SOOOOOO funny. I like what you said about her Hungarian teacher and his middle finger!!!!! I was cracking up!! ("The middle finger may be used for pointing in Hungary...") Anyway, just wanted to say I LOVED the book!!!!

Pooja Dimba said...

Well in the Indian-Hindu culture you don't exactly bury people.
You burn them.
Then you'd take the ashes and throw them in a river.
Its considered holy... weird.
I've never exactly been to a funeral... people have died in our family but the people who died lived in India and we live in California so... we couldn't exactly go see them.
I can't imagine seeing them burn I mean it hurts, right?
So yeah... nothing really happy for this culture... :P

quintessajazz said...

I don't think I'll really be afraid of death til' I'm staring it in the face.

Since I live in New Mexico, there's lots of Hispanics, and my writing teacher thought it would be fun to study "Dia De Los Muertos", or Day of the Dead. They don't party in graveyards, as far as I know, but they do celebrate death as moving on to a better life. I mean, they think of things so much more beautifully than we do. We're all depressing and sad and such.

SelphieFairy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SelphieFairy said...

Thanks for replying!!

I think you misunderstood, though -- my grandfather is actually buried in Southern California! That be difficult for my grandmother to go every week if he was 14 hours away by plane. (:

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Mark mentioned that he thought I had misunderstood your post, but I was thinking your grandmother was still overseas. But regardless, I think your family tradition is way better than mine!! Thanks for posting :-)

sammy4ever said...

i would have commented yesterday, but my dad took my whole family on a biking "adventure" around stanford university. it was fun though.
anyway, in spanish, we talked about how people don't fear death. they see it as kinda like another life, i guess. they mock death, is what my teacher said. on el dia de los muertos (the day of the dead) they celebrate the lives of all their loved ones that have passed. the make special bread and sugar skull candies and the make an "ofrenda" or a shrine-type thing for the dead relative. they put a picture of the relative on the ofrenda and put the persons favorite foods and drink, along with paper designs, incense, sweets, toys, "bones and skulls", religious symbols, candles, and this special type of flower that i forgot the name of. and it's actually a really beautiful celebration. and people have fun and are happy.
so yeah. i agree with you about the whole grave yard thing. is sure wouldn't want people to come visit me at my grave sight and have them crying. that makes me feel guilty. i would much rather have them bring me sushi and chocolate milk and have them party on my gravesite. that would be a happy scene. and COLOR! i love colors. when i think of a graveyard, i think of black and white and that's just yucky. i like colorful things. blues and greens and maybe pinks if i'm desperate.
and you've given me a lot to think about when you say you were researching for SK. i don't want to make any wild guesses yet, (NOT GRAMS!) but i think it might be clearer once SK 13 came out.
by the way, when is that?
well, bye 4 now,
your biggest fan ever!
p.s. cempasuchitl (accent over the u) that's the name of the flower. it's the aztec name for yellow marigolds (ha, i sound like a super-smart genius)

sammy4ever said...

p.s. happy belated valentine's day everybody!!!
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Katya said...

i cant wait for the next sammy keyes book i hope there will be a cammy!!!I still can't belive its going to take so long to make the next sammy keyes book. its sooooooooo hard to wait.how come its taking so long to make this one? the other sammy keyes books didn't take this long.When is Sammy going to learn the truth about her dad?????????????????? please please please comment back.

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Hi, Katya -- this is a first post for you, right? Check earlier postings about "Cammy" and why this book took a while. The next ones will come out without gaps, promise! I'm planning Book 16 for Sammy's dad. So hang in there! Thanks for checking in. Wendelin

Sammy4Ever--I like super smart, and I liked all the info in your comment. And COLOR. Yes!

SK13 in the "Fall", which I think is, like, late summer.

xxCammyLoverxx said...

Guess we all learn similar things in espaƱol clase. ;D
I want to learn french. (Sorry, random.)

bookfreak said...

I have no idea how to do the Tildie thingy over the n for Spanish (totally random i kno)and i agree, funerals are way too sad. Im cristian and i believe in heaven so i think people should be happy especially wen they kno that the people they love are going to heaven. so on a lighter subject....... i cant absolutelyy wait for sk 13!!!=D and back to depressing, i have to finish hw thats due on friday =( its easy though so its cool =)got to go

-bf XP

xxCammyLoverxx said...

Oh, I'm an athiest so I'm undecided on heaven/hell and God. :/ But I'm perfectly content with that. My sisters are all Catholic though, so, yessir. :)

Rachel Bird said...

I'm gonna start practicing baking chocolate chip cookies for the big event right now! <3

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Hey! Those are gonna be some STALE cookies

ning99 said...

That's amazing. I never thought of death that way. I still don't want to go anytime soon but now it doesn't seem as bad. Besides, I know a great sushi place! I love salmon sushi! P.S. Your amzing I loooove your books I've read every Sammy Keyes book. Runaway is better thiugh It's soooo interesting.

ning99 said...

PSS I can't wait until your book My friend who wrote the letter with is sooo excited so am I. I can't wait.

ning99 said...

PSSS I would want a party with moji (it's asain like me) and cranberry juice I've also heard of the celebration for the dead in mexico

ning99 said...

PSSSS This is my last comment for the day I remember when my great grandmother died and I met all my 2nd cousins afterwards we had a big dinner party and it was sooo fun. All the kids sat in this table by the window. Whe my grandfather died we did the same thing

xxCammyLoverxx said...

How come you didn't tell us the cver art was out?!? I saw it on Amazon!
:D :D :D

bookfreak said...

wendelin is there absolutely any way that sk 13 will come out earlier than you said it will?!i think that ill go crazy now that ive seen the cover for it!
-bf

xxCammyLoverxx said...

Yeah, I'm living in hopes that the date will be changed to something earlier. It happened for Cold Hard Cash (It's not like I, like, was *counting* or, like, anything.. pssshhhhhh.. :/ Hehe *guilty face*) But yeah, anyways, I was also wondering if a preview of the first chapter or something will come out? October seems miles away! My birthday October 7th, too, so the 12th would be like 5 days after my birthday. It would kill me knowing that on my birthday. ;D

sammy4ever said...

okay, i went on to amazon.com and i saw the cover art for SK 13, and i'm hyperventilating. literally. why does it say 'die dude' on a dog tag? and who is the person with the chicken on their head? i'm sooooo excited for october!!!! can't wait!!!!

sammy4ever said...

did i mention that i'm hyperventilating out of excitement? i did? go figure.

sammy4ever said...

ha ha, i just texted my friend (another hard-core sammy fan) telling her to go to amazon.com and type in 'sammy keyes and the wedding crasher'. she texted back saying it's out?!?!?! i said. no, on oct. 12 it is. she said, aw :(

xxCammyLoverxx said...

I know you're encouraged not to read Fanfictions about your books, but would you be allowed to read Fanfictions about Wedding Crasher since you already finished writing it? Just wondering. I know if I was an author I'd really want to read the FF's but that's just me. Some authors dont even allow Fanfictions to be made of their stories. :/

Elizabeth said...

Is that Billy with the chicken on his head??? I just saw the cover art too, I can't wait for the next book! And about death, my mom wants to be cremated and have her ashes scattered in the ocean. She loves the beach and shore fishing, and doesn't want to hold us to one place once she's moved on. She says that if we want to visit her, go the beach and have fun, remember her happy. I love that idea. Everyone's comments were really interesting, and I love your post! Waiting on the next one :) (though I ought to be doing homework... lol)

bookfreak said...

I was lucky enough to start reading the sk series last year because all 12 books were out already and i dont have to wait that long for book 13...i hope its even less hahum but lets see, shall we?=D
-bf
ps have u noticed that bf flipped is fb as in facebook? just noticed that right now...thought you might wanna know..

quintessajazz said...

Hey, that's right! The cover art for Sk 13 is out on amazon! Just saw it! You never mentioned that!

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