Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How do you bring back the dead?

I've been reflecting on the philosophy that, during Day of the Dead, the veil between this world and the afterlife is lifted, and the dead visit altars dedicated to them. I've always made altars for loved ones, especially for Jenny. I try to follow some of the traditions, incorporating flowers, candles, foods, water, pictures, and mementos. And I add my own elements, like alebrijes, paintings, favorite books, masks, vinyl tablecloths, Max's drawings, tissue-paper roses, and medallions from bread of the dead.

But it's an atheist's altar, beautiful and, in some ways, meaningless. It's a hedge, too, just in case I'm wrong about my belief that there is no afterlife. I know, though, that, if she could, Jenny would only visit something that I deeply believed in, so I've explored some options.

I rented a DVD from Netflix on how to communicate with the dead. They recommended writing a question and meditating on the the dead person and, somehow, the answer will appear. I went to Ecstactic Dance and tried the same thing--posing a question to Jenny at the beginning of class and hoping for some kind of inspiration in her voice, her persona during the class.

Recently, though, I rediscovered the best way to bring Jenny back. We were on a long drive and I started to sing to pass the time. The songs were all Jenny, all her silly fantastic Ethel Merman operatic ballyhoo and pathos and hilarity. It was her "Scrappy Doo" song, sung to the tune of "Desperado". And the themes to "Mary Tyler Moore" and "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air". Old-timey stuff like "Red River Valley", "You are My Sunshine", and "Clementine". Jenny had a way of belting out a story song--"Killing Me Softly" "I Will Survive" even, sort of, "Like a Prayer". She always sang loudly, which made up for our shared trait of lack of staying on key.

So, I'll lift the veil and bring back a little of Jenny tonight. Here are the lyrics to her "Scrappy Doo" song. You must sing it loudly, to the tune of "Desperado":

Scrappy Doo, when will you stop chasing crim'nals?
And start singing hymnals,
Just like you used to do?
Scrappy Doo, you've got that pu-u-ppy power
to catch crim'nals by the hour...
But have you forgotten Saint Jude?
Scrappy Doo, you have left me in a lu-urch
So get your dog ass back to chu-urch
What do I have to do?
Scrappy Doo, when will you stop chasing crim'nals?
And start singing hy-y-y-ymnals...
Just like you used to do?

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