Dressed for a Funeral by – Chuck Murphree…#450


Dressed For A Funeral

She had finally found death. It was in her bones and would be the last great test of her resilience to life. However, that was not quite true, as the old woman sat in her chair, tears in her eyes, thinking about the life she has lived, much of it full of pain, physical and emotional, the memories kept haunting her. The old woman had a film reel in her mind, playing in black and white, reliving her life in chapters, some longer than others. Many segments of her life were daunting, some just confusing. She had tried to edit the film that she carried within her, leaving the parts she wanted to cut out on the floor, but it seemed the memories kept being glued back together, not offering her any peace.

The old woman replayed her own birth, or so it seems, because even though she has lost much of her physical self, her memory remained intact. Though memory can be more painful than any disease. Thoughts catch you off guard. They sneak up on you when you are vulnerable and put a choke hold on your throat, leaving you gasping for air.

 As she neared death, one thing she wanted was shelter for her old, disease filled bones, and a place for her children to visit. She had always kept things simple, not wanting a lot, only a few canvases, paint brushes, a good pen to write with, some clean, off-white paper, and a little coffee. She also wanted love and acceptance, but it was often hard to come by. She wanted more love from her mother. She wished her father would have been there for her and not on the road, his great escape. She longed for a husband that she could have lived a life with, being kind with his hands instead of angry. She had sisters who didn’t understand her meaning or their own, and children that struggled to not be rushed by life. In fact, she had some children that had already dressed her for her funeral, only for the convenience of not clothing a stiff body. This one act shows the hurry of life. We not only rush life, we rush death.

The woman sat back in her chair and a warm depth of light through the window touched her. When she put aside the suffering in her heart. When she left some memories on the cutting room floor and let them lay there, still, without life, realizing that we are the ones that control gluing those memories back together, she thought of the happiness that was hers. She did have plenty of love in her life and she was told so daily, for if you are told even once that you are loved, it should be enough. Love can sustain you and the old woman realized that to live long enough to have wrinkled skin and a shuffled gate when walking, she must have been loved.

It takes great courage to look death in the eye and accept it fully and the reality that you are mortal. However, it takes greater courage to accept your suffering and realize that it is needed in order for you to recognize the joy in life that always came after the pain.

The old woman sat on a worn stool, painting a mountain range. She often painted the places she wanted to be. She also painted them for her son and grandson, and she painted for God. With every brushstroke, she was telling God all of her fears and desires, and she showed him what she wanted her heaven to look like. It was usually a meadow with flowers, a small cottage with a strong front porch where she was concealed by the afternoon sun and could patiently wait for the sunset. As her son had talked to her about, death is just a continuation of life, and perhaps we will get more choice in the next one.

The old woman’s appetite began to fade and her smile faltered. She knew her second chances were gone and she lay there with the evening sun shining through her window, and its rays momentarily covered her broken body. The woman was realistic, knowing that we all have an expiration date. This brought her some comfort because no one wants to live forever. If they do, they have not accepted what they owe, which is a death. It is part of the impermanence of life. Change is happening all around us, that is why we need to stop waiting for death to provide nirvana, knowing that we can have it now, in life.

Life! This joyous, wonderful thing that so many waste and take for granted. The old woman thought about this often, wondering about the time she had wasted on her journey? What thoughts had she wasted on so many meaningless things that she could never change or control? Oh, to get it all back, to do it differently. However, regret had no purpose but to weigh us down and churn our bellies. Regret is a useless emotion because what has happened in life was meant to be. The woman believed our lives were already mapped out at birth. This thought interested her and helped her make sense of her life. Isn’t that what we are all doing, trying to make sense of it all?

The old woman left her body and bones to science. She didn’t allow herself to be dressed for a funeral. She wanted to leave one more gift to the world, which was allowing them to try to understand how an old woman could become ill and maybe, just maybe, how others could survive it. It left her children without a body to cry over, but why cry over something that no longer carries a soul? The tears should be for memories and being thankful that the old woman gave them all a life. She carried them each for nine months, breathing for them, eating for them, and already loving them while inside her womb. Her children should also hold their own children, and great grandchildren, realizing that they too would not be there if it weren’t for the old woman. They should all stand around a tree, a creek, that holds her ashes and look at all that the old woman created, and then find wonder and gratitude in the life that stands before and next to them. It was all her doing. This was her purpose in life, her legacy, to be a mother and grandmother.

Women are the creators of life, and with that, they are the creators of love. Old women should be celebrated because they have suffered for us all, and with their suffering, they provide us with joy. They provide us breath.

With love, I write this for the women that I cherish. They have made me who I am.


The Cashier- By Chuck Murphree…#454


The Cashier

He was a young man, twenty-three or four, married only a short time to a beautiful woman who he knew he didn’t deserve. Though, why would anyone use the word “deserve” to describe love? 
The young man was trying to find his way and he knew it wasn’t the current path he was on. He had to get off it fast. The “way,” the answers to life, were not in a whiskey bottle. His father did that and it left him with a frail, angry body, absorbed by hatred and bitterness. So he searched hard, digging deep within the trenches of his soul, to find some glimpse of a life that would be meaningful. Yes, love has meaning, but if one does not love themself, how can they fully offer love to another? 

On this particular day, the man would be tested. He was being taken back to events that were unfolding rapidly in his mind, as if a stampede of wild horses were running around him, an arm's length away from being trampled, and he felt the warm air from their strength that could produce his death in one moment. Of all the places to have an awakening experience, a gas station, holding a dirty pump handle, filling up a car that he could barely afford. 

The young man was looking inside the store and recognized the cashier, something about the hair and eyes, and a murderous rage overtook him. It was something he felt only once or twice in his life, mostly for his father. Every harmed man thinks of murder, revenge, and destruction at least once in their lifetime. It comes out whether we want it to or not. We want to take back the innocence, the vulnerability, and exact a price on the person who did us wrong. I’m not talking about something simple like being struck by words or a selfish gesture. This murderous rage comes in the form of wanting revenge on someone who changed the trajectory of your life, shaping and molding your thoughts and leaving you with depression and trauma. It’s this type of revenge the young man sought.

The pump clicked, signaling that the tank was full, which also snapped him out of his transfixed glare into the store window, wondering, hoping, but frightened that it was indeed the man who harmed him so long ago. He had to be sure so he went in to pay for his gas. As he approached the counter and looked directly into the man’s eyes, with his red hair, muscular arms, and creepy smile, he knew it was him. Then, as the shirt slightly unraveled at the pocket, the name tag of the man appeared and confirmed it. He handed the cashier money that was drawing sweat from his palms, and did not say a word. He smiled and then walked away knowing what he had to do. 
The young man went to his car, pulled it to the side, out of the lane but still within view of the window to the store. He felt the handle of the fixed blade knife he kept under his seat. It was a familiar feel, one he carried in the woods. He watched the cashier take out the trash and as the sun fell, he watched the cashier have a smoke break on the side of the building. The young man watched patiently and waited. His rage grew and he plotted the cashier’s murder. He was calculating the time that this red-headed man would finish his shift and then he would follow him, approach him so the cashier could look him in the eye, and then he would tell the man who he was and how he had impacted his life, doing things to him that a boy should not have to experience. It was something his father did to him as well, and for a moment the young man thought of killing his father on the same night since he was in the mood for avenging his childhood self. Both would be justified killings. “Yes, justice,” he thought. “There would finally be justice.”

His thoughts left his father and the revenge he wanted to take out on his failing, dirty body, and went back to the cashier. He waited thinking of what he would say as he approached him. Would he tell him who he was and remind him of the boy with the tortured soul? Perhaps he would have the cashier simply take the time to stare at his eyes and figure it out himself because our eyes don’t change. 

He knew the cashier was an ex-con, a great athlete who ruined his own life. He would not be an easy kill, which made the young man even more eager to confront him because no man wants an easy kill. He knew the cashier would try to fight his way out of being taken by the knife, but the young man’s determination for his revenge would be too much for the cashier. He knew this red-headed man would die by his hand on this night. He knew he would feel his knife go deep in the cashier’s belly and neck. It would be a good kill, just like he was taught, for this young man was not a helpless boy anymore. He was trained, skilled, and strong. He had prepared his body so that no one would ever make him a victim again. Yes, this cashier would stop breathing soon. 

The night would conceal him. It would give him an advantage and allow him to close distance quickly. What then? What would he do after his kill? He thought about the country roads and the rock quarry that he grew up within a mile from. It was a place he knew well and went to a hundred times as a kid, walking across a corn field to get to, where it was adjacent to a woods where he onced played war games, built forts, and almost hung himself from a tall tree just two years prior. On this night, the cashier's body would become part of the land. It was just a matter of time now. 

The young man thought for a moment, “Was this what he has been training for, building his body and skills for years, to make it right with this red-headed man? Was his purpose to bring justice to the boy he once was?” When the box that you compartmentalize all of your suffering in order to survive comes undone, it’s either a time to weep or a time to become rage, become vengeance. 

The cashier stepped out for one more smoke break and the young man started to remember how this red-headed man once controlled him, beat him, and made his youthful smile fade away. Then his thoughts went back to his father, who dwindled away in an apartment only a fifteen minute drive away, alone with his miserable self, two years after his mother had left him. He thought of how a couple of hours earlier he sat across from his dad telling him in a calm voice, “If you don’t leave mom alone, I will kill you.” His dad didn’t like being told this but there was not a thing he could do. Then, the young man rubbed his head, weary about how much murderous, violent, thoughts he was having in one night. Was this a test? Was it God laying everything out before him to see if he would act on his revenge? “No,” he thought, “This is the devil’s doing.” The devil leaves bad people alone and goes after the good ones because he has already welcomed the horrible souls to hell. The devil wants to cause chaos on the people that are trying to live a moral life. The young man knew his dad, after the years of abuse that he delivered, would have to at least have a conversation with God about his wrongdoings and at the same time, he would have one foot in hell. He knew for certain that the cashier, with his years in prison, and all of the harm he had caused others, would be delivered to hell in an express package. He also knew that he would help the cashier get there tonight. 

The young man sensed, from the grip of the knife in his hand, the time was drawing near. He would take back his lost innocence. He would have his revenge and bring peace to the child he could now protect. Then, in a moment of clarity, her face entered his mind. If he murdered this man he would be taken from her, either by the steel bars that would confine him if caught, or his own mind because he knew that it was not right to take another man’s life unless it was needed to protect himself or her. He would live knowing that his revenge was not just because he could never make it right for the boy he once was. You cannot recover by wiping out the people who caused you pain, his trauma. The young man knew his only hope of bringing calmness to his mind was working on himself, making small improvements day by day for a lifetime. It was living a good life and helping others that mattered. It would be living a life of suffering and joy and seeing things that would awaken his senses, like mountains and oceans and art. He knew he needed to stay with her, to show her love and make her feel beautiful and secure for her entire life. All he could think about right at that moment was the life he would have with the woman he loved, and knowing that if he killed the cashier, he would not get revenge he sought but be taken from her. That would be the worst pain of all. To not be able to hold and love her would deliver more pain than the cashier or his father ever delivered to him. The young man knew what he had to do and so he dropped the knife in the floorboard of the car and held his head, trying to squeeze out the pain, and wept. 

The cashier was allowed to go on living that night. The young man struggled driving away, knowing that there are bad people in the world causing harm to others, and chances are the cashier will continue to cause trauma to someone else. However, it would not be him that would stop him. He had to go home to her. He needed to see her and confess his pain while staring into her blue eyes. It was her that saved him and it will be her that will save him a thousand times more. 

The young man had aged. He considered himself lucky to have the privilege of aging. He tried to develop his life into what he thought it should be, fumbling, falling down, making mistakes along the way, but trying to live with virtue. He never took revenge on his father either. Instead, his father took revenge on himself, ending his life one year after the cashier almost lost his. 

Years later, when the young man wasn’t so young anymore, crossing the threshold into middle age, he sat across from his wife and told the truth about what had happened to him. He told most of it, what he thought she could handle, and how his suffering was why she would occasionally find him sitting alone in thought with dark eyes and tears that ruthlessly gathered with tainted memories. He needed to give her an explanation for his pain, so he told her about the men who caused it. Mostly those same men, with all of their brutality, assured that he would be resilient and strong because he wasn’t going to let anyone or anything ruin the life he wanted. He would find a way to take his trauma, depression, panic, and anxiety, and help others. He would help children, like the child he once was, who drowned in their suffering but had no idea what to do about it. He would show them the way, a new path to walk on, where they could survive and build resilience to face a world that was often cruel, but mostly to face themselves, giving grace to their own pain, and understand and accept it. Between loving his wife and serving others, it was the only way he knew how to heal. 

What did he want in life? What was the meaning of it all? The man asked himself this often. The answer was to simply love his wife with everything he had, his entire being. He wanted her to feel it. He wanted her to realize that everything he has done and every decision he has made was out of love for her, trying to be the best man, the best husband, he could be. 
The man sometimes sits with strong shoulders and wrinkled eyes and thinks about how he came close to killing the cashier that night, but mostly he is grateful he had the courage to walk away. Love is always stronger than hate.

The Forged Tongue…#453

The Forged Tongue…

Standing in a graveyard alone

to mourn, to stare at the mound

of dirt, below was the shell of the

one who loved but a few. The seed

of kindness never sowed, the love

they did not seek. Now silence lies

beneath. Entitlement is all that

remains, no grief, no greeting,

unwanted presence, gestures, tone

and in death, there was a joy of

greedy ploys. Gluttony bloomed

before the setting sun, looking

for more to take; life took on a

forged tongue. Open jeers, false

deeds, and honor lost, the price of

greed can be at great cost. Roars

 the misty breath of strife and

destiny has finally caught up with

your liar’s life.


Cleansing Waters…#452

Cleansing Waters –

Raw, is this fatherless

and motherless flesh

life in troubled times

blues gone to grays.

why do some people

cause others pain

in this all too familiar

love-hate game as

the red around me

spreads, I prayed for

cleansing waters then

suddenly came the rain.


Born to Mourn…#451

I was Born to Mourn…

Do not weep for me but understand my pain.

My world has been like grains of

sand upon the shores of time, changing,

ever-changing, and washed out into

the sea of life. Infinity is in my soul.

Eternity floats upon the clouds of heavenly


My hours caged; my spirit angered

at the thoughts of those who have

walked away from my gate. My feet

have left their mark upon these

sands of time. Waves of tears splashed

upon the rocky cliffs of my mind

bearing scars of what I have lost.

My mind wanders to the caverns of

the past. A mother’s grief screams

into the endless nights, leaving

scars upon a heart that is already

torn and ragged. Words of doubt

have poisoned my faith. The days

are winding down. I was born to mourn.


Solace by the Creek…#450

Solace by the Creek...

The pasture is covered with newly fallen rain. 
Walking among the tall grass barefoot, the 
palms of my hands are damp. Everything 
is fresh and new; my fingers move slowly, 
trying to catch the raindrops. The wild 
Johnson Grass growing next to the broken
down fence gives a presence of what was
once; a no man's land before it became 

Soon the colors of the rainbow spread 
across the sky. Mother Nature paints a 
perfect arc of many colors. A fresh 
rainbow appears in the Western sky. 
Her invisible brush created joy for all, 
ribbons of colors that only Mother 
Nature could paint.  

A small branch of water flows out of the 
boulders creating a spring that runs t
hrough the pasture. Wildflowers flourish, 
framing the bubbling waters that flow 
gently between the Oak trees, where small 
pools gather before the trip continues 
toward muddy Flint Creek.

Time has changed the landscape, so I do 
not return where I once took solace. It 
now lives among the sweet memories of 
a time gone by, lost in a time that only God 
could recreate. This is where I once cried, 
prayed, and laughed as I created dandelion 
crowns and danced among the wildflowers.