Howard’s Divine Comedy: Canto 5

It’s time for the next installment of Howard’s Divine Comedy, wherein Howard continues his journey toward death with his hero companion.

Jerry Garcia: [sings] The other day they waited, the sky was dark and faded, solemnly they stated, “He has to die. You know he has to die.” ( –from Cryptical Envelopment by the Grateful Dead)

Howard: But, a grateful death, right, Jerry?

J: That’s right, Howard.

H: Yeah, but isn’t that just like when it’s over 100°F in Phoenix and people say, “But, it’s a dry heat!” I mean, it’s still freaking hot!

J: Well, I guess it all depends on how you think of death. Most people are scared of it, which is a real bummer. For instance, Halloween is a lot of fun, but all the skeletons and ghosts and Grim Reapers, the way they’re presented, it’s all fear-based.

H: So, then, we could think of death as something to celebrate, like Día de los Muertos?

J: Exactly! It’s beautiful, even! After all, death is just another version of birth.

Instead Of A Stork, The Great Pumpkin

IMG-4807My son was born on October 31, 1997.

The doctor arrived in the delivery room wearing a witch’s hat and skeleton earrings.

Little Julian came into the world with a small tuft of bright pumpkin orange hair atop his head. 

Halloween, then, as I’m sure you can imagine, was kind of a big deal in our family.

Julian’s mom did a lot of theater in high school, then majored in it and starred in many stage productions in college, so she infused his birthdays with a wickedly fun flamboyance. The house was transformed with elaborate All Hallows’ Eve décor by mid-October. Costumes were designed, developed, and refined. Outrageous cakes were baked, parties held, apples dunked, scream contests waged, and Trick-or-Treating campaigns made the rounds to as many doorways as possible.


And so, what can I say about the fact that, thanks to ALS, Halloween 2020 will be my last, and our last as a family?

Well, I’ve already written, in Canto 3 of Howard’s Divine Comedy, about the devastating and growing List of Lasts, also courtesy of ALS, which I described as an ongoing parade of loss. And, I suppose this Canto here might just as well look ahead to the upcoming last Thanksgiving, last Chanukah, last Christmas, and last New Year, only I’m not sure how many of those I’ll still be around for.

No, I’d really like to reframe all that, to be able to see it through a different lens based on a fear-free relationship with death. Really, I would if I could, but instead…


About the best I can muster is to focus as much as possible on the immense gratitude I do actually feel for having been blessed with 23 years of Halloween joy.



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