Not to be morbid, but when you reach a certain age, the number of dead friends and relatives you have increases, and you find that some of your favorite confidants are no longer available when you need advice. I think about today’s poem sometimes when I seek guidance from my dead parents who listen intently from the photos on my bedroom dresser.
My Dead Friends
I have begun,
when I’m weary and can’t decide an answer to a bewildering question
to ask my dead friends for their opinion
and the answer is often immediate and clear.
Should I take the job? Move to the city? Should I try to conceive a child
in my middle age?
They stand in unison shaking their heads and smiling—whatever leads
to joy, they always answer,
to more life and less worry. I look into the vase where Billy’s ashes were —
it’s green in there, a green vase,
and I ask Billy if I should return the difficult phone call, and he says, yes.
Billy’s already gone through the frightening door,
whatever he says I’ll do.
I’d like to think that my parents advice would be “whatever leads to joy and less worry,” but, unless they’ve softened in the afterlife, I’m not convinced that’s what I’d hear. I might have to go to the study where my dead grandmothers are framed for that kind of Marie Kondo-like response.
Some questions to consider:
- Who might you consult (dead or alive) when you need advice?
- Which dead friend or relative’s advice do you miss most?
- Do you have a guiding principle, like “whatever leads to joy and less worry,” to help you make tough decisions?
“My Dead Friends” by Marie Howe, from What the Living Do, 1998. Copyrighted material used for educational or therapeutic purposes.
Photo credit: Steve Boor, 1977. Photo of June, Roger, and John Boor.