Arnie. Part VI.

Aaron, around age 8

Aaron, around age 8

Funerals may be for the benefit of the living, but this one certainly resembled Arnold.  Arnold was an inveterate letter writer, and even in dying, he kept his correspondence until he could write no more. At the end, he had his mail read to him.  Arnold’s surviving son Robert (he lost his other son, Bruce, to a brain tumor as a toddler) stood in front of the congregation, as his Father wished, and read snippets out of many letters.  It was a teary sight. Robert is a very brave man.

Aaron squirmed in his seat through much of the funeral.  Except for the reading, and the crying, it was a stone silent congregation as we heard Robert soldier through the many tributes his father received.  Garrison Keillor once wrote that it was such a shame to miss one’s own funeral, to hear all those nice things said about you, and to come so close, only missing by a few days.  From the mail, I’d say Arnold may have made his own funeral.

Aaron turned to me and said, “Are these all about Dr. Schaffer?”

“Yes, Aaron.”

“Are they all from different people?”

“Yes, Aaron.”

“Boy, he sure knew lots of people.”

“Indeed.  You don’t get to seventy years old without meeting lots of people.”

“I’ll bet I was about the only one who got to visit him all the time, though, huh?”

Coffins are scary. Aaron and I discussed coffins on the morning of the funeral.

“Aaron, there’ll be a wooden box in the front of the sanctuary, about the size of our piano.  That’s the coffin.”

“I know, Dad,” he said, with enough ennui and rolling of the eyes to qualify as a teenager. “Sheez.”

“Well, I don’t want you to be scared or surprised.”

“Geez, Dad, I know,” he said in the voice I’ve learned to recognize as the ‘I’m nervous but much too cool to admit it’ tone.

“Aaron, what’s inside the box, then?” He’s silent.


“Umm, Dad, well, er…”

“Aaron, it’s the body of what used to be Dr. Schaffer.  The things that made him Dr. Schaffer aren’t there anymore, so it’s not like there’s anything really important in that box.”

“Right, Dad, like his spirit or his brain, that funny laugh he did. That stuff is all gone, isn’t it?”

“Right. That’s what dead is.  The box you came in is left behind, but the stuff that made you you is gone. Did you know that some religions believe that your stuff can come back later in another body, or even as an animal?”

“That’s silly, Dad.”

“Well, Aaron, you know how you learned about the hydrologic cycle on Bill Nye?”

“Sure, about all the water on earth that has ever been here has always been here, it just keeps getting recycled.

“Maybe your spirit is like the water, Aaron? I sure don’t know, and I’m not so anxious to find out.”

“So at the turn of the next millennium, there’ll be another kid just like me? I don’t think so. You’re weird, Dad.”

“Hey, Dad.”

“Hey, Aaron.”

“You remember how he always used to say hello to me? He’d always say, ‘Ah, hello Aaron, my young friend.’ That was so funny.”

Here’s where to find:
Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part VI


The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at

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