Thoughts on Death: Five-Year-Olds, J. Geils and Sean Spicer

Death is out and about every day, hovering above and behind us, but for me it impacted a few things over the past 48 hours: My 5 year-old daughter, a reminder of how good the J. Geils Band was and my hate for Sean Spicer.

Unquestionably, people die all the time, but sometimes the subject of the grim reaper comes up at the strangest times, under the oddest circumstance and with the least amount of warning.

Let’s start with the five-year-old daughter. An innocent pre-dinner time conversation with my wife regarding her father coming to our house for Easter resulted in this exchange:

Kid:        Daddy, you must be sad because your father died.

Me:        Yeah, it’s sad, but I try not to think about it.

Kid:        Yes you do. You always think about it. (Hysterical laughter follows).

Me:        It’s not really funny.

Me:        Yes it is. If he came back to Earth, you would jump up to the sky.

There are shelves full of books written by “experts” on how to talk to kids about death. I haven’t read them, but I’m sure many of them contain information that can be quite helpful. On the other hand, rather than becoming apoplectic because someone died and as a parent we’d have to explain it to a kid, there are times and things that kids just understand from seeing how things transpire around them.

We haven’t “talked to our child about death,” but it seems like, at least in her five-year-old mentality, she gets it. And no mention of heaven or “a better place.”

As a college student in Boston, I really enjoyed the music scene there and while working part-time at the then-Boston Garden, I had the chance to go to a bunch of concerts. One of them was J. Geils and Aerosmith.

I realize that many people may read this and think “Who the f*** is/are J. Geils?” Can’t say that I blame anyone that wasn’t around in the 70’s and 80’s to hear this bluesy, Boston-based rock band with hits like Freeze-Frame, Centerfold, Love Stinks, Whammer Jammer, and Musta Got Lost. The eponymous leader of the band died yesterday at the age of 71. While front man Peter Wolf was the star, the guitar playing founder was the one who truly brought the funk. Check it out (8 minutes, but well worth it):

So, yeah, some guys are dying off who don’t rise to the level of Prince or Chuck Berry, but their music made people happy just the same. You’d never go to a more charged up concert than the J. Geils Band. So, RIP J. Geils.

To top things off yesterday, death swooped around me when I made the mistake of listening to the incoherent, asinine ramblings of the White House’s designated spokesmoron, Sean Spicer. His wrongheaded references to Hitler and comparing him to Syrian strong man Haffez Assad were not only ignorant, but also insulting to those of us whose relatives actually died from Hitler’s use of poisonous gas.

At this point, it seems almost fruitless to dwell on his insensitivity or abject failure on Spicer’s part to understand history. Instead, his words are quite enough ---

"You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons ... "

and operate to open wounds that some people can’t seem to ever close.

My mother escaped with her parents from Hitler and the Nazis while her grandparents weren’t so lucky as they sucked their last breaths filling their lungs with Hitler’s “chemical weapons.”

As a result, my grandmother never could get over the horror and rarely smiled. If doctors had invented it, she was surely a sufferer of PTSD. At the same time, my grandfather held her hand and suffered silently with strength, grace and sadness. As for my mother, she recently said in response to the White House failure to even mention Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day, “I just can’t talk about the Holocaust any more.”

As death and dying continues to be a regular part of our lives, give me rock music and the thoughts of a five-year-old and I’ll be just fine.

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