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On May 15th, a little after 11pm, my friend was visiting her boyfriend at his apartment one floor above her's. Her boyfriend answered the knock at the door, and there was a hispanic woman who asked for "Tommy". When the boyfriend explained that there was nobody by that name there, the girl was pushed out of the way by a black man wielding a hand-gun, who proceeded to demand money from 'Tommy'. The commotion alerted my friend's best-friend, Jeremiah, who was also living in the apartment. Seeing the gun, Jeremiah jumped the armed intruder and was shot twice through the chest. Jeremiah died at the hospital that night. My friend has been yo-yoing between nausea and numbness for days.

I remember 'Miah' most from our last meeting. I was visiting my friend and we stopped at Miah's apartment. A poster of some nails and a bible quote caught my eye, and I commented that it was cool. Miah proceeded to witness to me, since I was the first person in the two years that he had that apartment to notice the poster.

I went to his funeral this past week. I am not sure what denomination he was, but it seemed like a liberal Pentacostal. The service began with several songs, and I felt awkward because it was more like a concert then a funeral. I guess this is what Miah had wanted: celebration, no mourning, no dark clothes. I was dressed in all black because I was there to mourn, and to mourn with my very hurt friend. Miah's mother gave an eloquent eulogy. She recognized that the the pain she felt was her own pain, and that there was no reason to feel it because Miah had done what he had always wanted to do: die defending his friends. She brought his journal, which had entries about his fears that he would die at that apartment, but that he needed to be there for a reason. He knew that the divine had called him to some roll, and was worried that his lease, which was to be up in two weeks, would end and that he would have to move away without having completed a mission that he felt Jesus had sent him there to do.

I don't believe that my mother could have spoken so eloquently about me if I had been in that same position. Although some might regard his act as stupid, there was so much bravery as well. Even if he had known he would die, I believe Maih would have made that same decision. I hope that I can be that brave when faced with the moments to come in my own life.

To some extent I feel cowardly. I am entering a Master's of Education program at a Christian college to work at a Christian school, obeying Christian doctrines, many of which I don't agree with. Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and in being Christian I should want to be like Jesus, so I should sacrifice, and to me that means sacrificing myself to spare Jesus from suffering my burden. I seek to emulate the strength of the divine. Maybe I cannot, but I want to, and will do what I come to understand that I must. I do feel tied to the "God", though. Even at my most neo-pagan, I cannot gender the divine and it remains the same diety that I bowed before in my Christian youth. All that has changed are the rules, and the dynamic of our relationship. It is no longer a he, and I am no longer submissive. My calling hasn't changed though. I still feel pressed to teach. I still feel pressed to be part of the church. I know that teaching is what I am supposed to do, and getting to do it at a parochial school is correct for me. I just don't know if my beliefs can squeeze into the compartment I need them to be in to fit into the system.

It was interesting meeting the school's pastor. He was a very proud man, with a very clear idea of his place in the world. He demanded his place, and subsequently to put me in mine. Relativity keeps me from comfortable with this. Also, it will allow me to test boundaries. I worry that my students (low income minority) may have been raised thinking that growing up means trading fun for responsibility. I was raised in a household that maintained I could do whatever I wanted once I grew up, but as a child I had to abide rules. One mindset has 'fun now, and work later', the other 'work now, fun later'. Could I, from one mindset, reach students of the other mindset? I hope I can. I also hope that my awareness of matters of the occult will not undermine my role, even though there are a thousand biblical quotes against reading omens and keeping familiar spirits. Sure, I could give up tarot and sorcery for two years, or longer. That won't make me less of a 'heretic' for my deal with God.

Miah's funeral also had me contemplating more about my own funeral, and what the expectations are from neo-pagan death rites. Now, my wedding I think I would like to have more traditional, possibly Catholic (even though I'm not Catholic), just because I like the congregation of people forced to sit uncomfortably for an hour facing my beloved and me. Gregorian chants and stained-glass windows would also add nice touches to the wedding's ambiance. The funeral, however, needs to be dark, moody, and heathen. I want people to dress up, to take pride in how they look, to try and steal the show. I want to be dropped on a table with only a black cloth swathed around me, and be dressed in gifts to accompany me to the grave. I want people to eat me. I want animals to tear my flesh. I want the bones collected and boxed and stored in some cold, stone mauseleum where my grandchildren can come back and see my skull and recognize my face. I want my unborn granddaughter to sing "Mer Girl" by Madonna....

I ran from my house
that cannot contain me
from the man that I cannot keep
My mother who haunts me
even though she's gone
from my daughter that never sleeps
I ran from the noise and the silence
and the traffic on the streets
I ran to the tree tops
I ran to the sky
Up to the lake
Into the rain
that matted my hair
and the soaked my shoes and skin
Hid my tears
Hid my fears

I ran to the forest
I ran to the trees
I ran and I ran
I was looking for me

I ran passed the churches
and the crooked old mailbox
passed the apple orchard
and lady that never talks
Up into the hills
I ran to the cemetary
and held my breath
and thought about your death

I ran to the lake
and up into the hills
and I ran and I ran
and I'm looking there still
and I saw the crawling tombstones
of forgotten names

I've tasted the rain
I've tasted my tears
I cursed the angels
I've tasted my fears

And the ground gave way beneath my feet
and the earth took me in her arms
Leaves covered my face
Ants marched across my back
like sky opened up
blinding me

I ran to the forest
I ran to the trees
I ran and I ran
I was looking for me

I ran to the lake
and up to the hill
I ran and I ran
I'm looking there still

and I smelled her burning flesh
her rotting palms
her decay
I ran and I ran
I'm still running away

I want necrophilia, and necromancy! I want a necromancer, possibly one of my gifted children, to administer the final rites. Should we neo-pagans have a clerical order designated to funerary rites called necromancers? I dream of being such a person, with specialized knowledge in all rites of death of every culture from around the world. I want my wife to cry for me, the way I cried at the death of my best friend. I want my children to clutch my novel as their most cherished gift, to read it out loud to the crowds. I want to be crooked and old by the time I leave, and to have touched more lives then I could have known with cherished memories and the sweet fruit of ambition and inspiration.

Please, grant me this chance...

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