“Rest in peace” is what we’ve been culturally trained to say to or wish for those who have recently passed away. I don’t know where or how this started but it’s fair to assume it has a lot to do with the understanding that life for some can get pretty rough especially towards the end.
It was that way for a cousin (first level, once removed) my family lost last week. And so at the wake as I approached George Friday afternoon, “Rest well” is the thought that I wanted to express. George had been suffering labored breathing on account of his failed kidneys, so RIP was the right last wish I could have offered.
But I’ve also had some time to think about this over the weekend. George was not a man who did things “peacefully.” I mean this is a loving way, and am interpreting “peace” to mean quiet, calm, and collected.
And that’s exactly the rub. George was not quiet. From as early as I can remember, whenever my parents were visiting George’s family there was ALWAYS excitement. There was laughter. Discussion. Competitive banter. (Yes, sometimes argument, but the good kind. Hey, we’re family!)
Then there were all the “toys” my brother Rob and I would explore at George’s place: satellite dish in the front yard something like a decade before they were common, riding tractor lawnmower before we owned one ourselves, motorcycle (George loved the Harley brand, but I can’t remember if this model actually was), an A-Frame house. And the taxidermy: George was the quintessential American hunter and fisherman–ironic given his background–and trips through parts of the U of M’s Bell Museum years later would in a way remind me of his displays.
Again, I’m acknowledging that the meaning of “peace” is a lot more broadly defined than how I’m using it. But it’s the best way I can frame up these thoughts. The notion that something in RIP just didn’t seem right for George. It doesn’t seem like something he would actually have hoped for himself. There was always “that bike” to ride or that fishing or hunting trip to take.
I wish I had video or sound files to do this post better justice. But I don’t. Instead I’ll be keeping memories. All of them. And the ones I’ll remember most fondly are the ones when George laughed. It was the deep, hearty loud kind.
George: rest your body in peace. Your spirit and memory remain as vivid as ever.