Identifying the Body

The earth has completed another elliptical swing around the sun, signifying the passing of another year in my life. The event was celebrated by those closest to me in the sharing of cards, phone calls, cakes, bottles of wine. I managed to be out of town for the actual day, not by design, but by happy coincidence. You remember when you were young, and birthdays couldn’t come soon enough, representing sought after milestones in life: staying up later at night, a new driver’s license, the start of the dating ritual. Now, our focus has changed, as we congratulate each other on having survived yet another year, making not very original jokes regarding feared loss of bodily functions, not the least of which is memory. I have been rather fortunate in my life, with blessings in greater numbers than tragedies, and few, if any, regrets. One of my favorite writers, Mark Twain, once observed, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” I am grateful that I have been granted the grand essentials of happiness: something to do, something to love, something to hope for. I also appreciate that the ride is short, and we all have to get off at some time. Therefore, the following poem:


Identifying the Body


At the morgue dead are reduced

to a face


smaller than life.


My father: gray-orange

handsome, not cold.

I touched the hard cheek

and remember him

even in my fingers.


My wife could not view

her mother.


After twenty-five years

I remember her both ways, still.

Loss is persistent as bone.


When they raise the sheet on me

do this last kind thing:

tell them, That’s him,

my husband.


Husband once meant tiller

of soil or master of the house

but words have more lives

than skin.


Just say, Yes.

I will be in your hands.


Gary Stein

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24 Responses to Identifying the Body

  1. Anastasia says:

    How such simple words of claiming give our lives a sense of belonging to another – a sense of purpose.  Just as the evidence of the tiniest potato chip crumb is proof of an entire bag\’s worth, so do these simple words imply a depth beyond their definition.  It is well for us all to remember that depth exists in every one of the people that surround us, even while we yet live.  With your offerings here, you will be remembered beyond your mere internet address.  Thanks for your gift to us and happy birthday!

  2. Marge says:

    Happy, happy birthday, Jorge…
    I remember when I first discovered your Space and my excitement to also discover a creative mind, a generous spirit, and the presence of a friend and teacher who has taught me so much in the time I have spent here reading your words.
    Every experience in your life, every joy and heartbreak, has brought you to this point, perhaps a little battle-scarred, but prepared to take life as it comes, and those of us who are on the journey with you are fortunate to benefit from your wisdom and good humor.
    Thank you for the continuing gift of your inspiration and friendship.
    I shall always think of you as a gentleman in the best and finest sense of the word.

  3. Beth says:

    First, a belated happy birthday to you.  When you are young the ride does seem a long one but the older I get the more it is brought home to me how very short the ride really is.  Great post.

  4. Aimee says:

    love this post…
    *~* :o) everyone smiles in the same language… :o) *~*

  5. Etan says:

    Happy Birthday and many more. 

  6. Kathryn says:

    Happy Birthday! Let\’s see, what cake should I prepare for you? Oh, I can\’t take it lightly, it would have to be the perfect cake – maybe it wouldn\’t be a cake at all, but some other rich concoction, with nuts and silken whipping cream and layers and layers of pastry, each one just a bit different from the others, but none competeing!
    The poem – how poignant…

  7. EbonyWyvernDragon says:

    I hope that your birthday was a fine one and that you have many more enjoyable ones yet to come!

  8. PJ says:

    Good Afternoon Jorge,
    A Belated HAPPY, HAPPY Birthday to you. I have come to the realization that everyone should make their day of birth special in some way, shape, or form. Even if it has to be a few days after the beloved day. Glad you shared it with loved ones. 🙂
    You know, I wrote something not long ago that you may like to read. I am sure it can be construed many different ways, but when I wrote it and then read seemed to me to make perfect sense. LOL. If you are interested..just let me know. I was going to post it as an entry.but not sure people will understand it!
    Until next time…Keep Smiling.

  9. SANDRA says:

    Dearest Jorge, my good friend, May blessings be abundant in your life.  I read Gary Stein\’s body and memories of lost ones flowed before my eyes.  I am thankful however, that I was able to kiss my Michael\’s face and whisper my love to him before they carried him away from me.  Today ironically would have been our anniversary.  Tonight I light a candle in the darkness and I raise a glass of Merlot and in the Heaven above, I can see my Michael in the candlelight as he raises his glass…  So my dear Jorge..while you are alive..savor the life..the blessings..kiss your wife each night…cuddle close and know that you are indeed blessed.
    Happy Belated Birthday Dear One…love, Sandra

  10. David says:

    Well, Happy Bday.  I never looked forward to any bday when I was young (except 13, because I thot it would be cool to be a teenager – it wasn\’t really) – I was well aware even then that each year mean losing something – I remember still (altho this isn\’t exactly bday related) noticing one day that when I sat in kitchen chairs, my feet were getting close to touching the floor and I felt bad, because I liked sitting in my chair swinging my legs.  I was right; it all pretty much sucked after that. 

  11. Michelle says:

    A Big Belated Happy Birthday to you!
    I would sing Happy Birthday to you, but that would be more torture for you than delight. hehehe
    I am glad you had a good Birthday. I love reading your entries. You are very good at expressing yourself and you always make me think of what is important and good in life.
    Life is a gift and each day is a blessing that we are allowed to experience it.
    Grande Abrazo
    y Guten Nacht Jorge ;),

  12. Hope says:

    Happy Belated Birthday.. sounds like yours was pleasent all the way around.. age is what we make of it.. as is life.. its ones attitude that makes the difference.. i love yours..
    soft hugs ~Hope

  13. dawn says:

    ( birthday bigboy!
              may be   old er   but oh                                                             so much Wiser ;)p.s:
    is not the body but a shell?? i mean like granted that the body is our
    vehicle to \’enlightenment\’; that we have to earn health to stay alive,
    that the essence of narcissism is. nothing have i against it. for i too
    enjoy the looking glass. i love it—not cos it is perfect, only cos it
    is mine. smiles. ooohkay, Identify The Body, eh??? i say
    Live Well…. Love Much…. Laugh Often, dawn
    [how\’s              this                a  n  g  l  e?]

    p.p.s: and Jorge,
    Yes! I am in HIS Hands. smiles.

  14. Pamela says:

    Dear Jorge,
    A happy belated birthday indeed! Life goes and goes for the individual; it is only when a dear one departs the trail that we notice the brevity and still…it goes…
    Your words are always touching.
    Be well.

  15. Kathryn says:

    What a difference a day makes – I\’m all hip hip hoppity whee tday *laughing*
    Enjoy your weekend *smiling*

  16. Gelert says:

    I remember going to see my father in the undertakers. He died like \’that\’ – in the snapping of fingers together with no warning. When I saw him, I made the error of kissing his forehead. It was cold and hard like a slab of marble. Things rocked on their axis that day. That was a beautiful poem, ty, and I wish you a happy birthday – I\’m glad to have brushed against you this time around.

  17. Holy says:

    Happy belated and many, many happy returns.You must let me know the month date year of your birth so I can read your chart….I\’m very intrigued.You dredge up the most wondrous poetry.  If you were to measure success in your life no other way, ((although surely you have many from which to choose) at least weigh it on the scale of this one important balance.In blogland as in heaven, Amen.

  18. Stephen Craig says:

    Jorge,  I kept my last post up a bit longer than usual.  That some old friends would slip by and read and smile.   Am glad you visited t he Painting Studio and read the work.   Thank you for the comment.  I laugh with myself when I read my own words.   Am glad to share some smiles as one is able to get on in the real world with compassion, care, hope, humor and joy. 
    The Stars hold Holy the Turning
    In the Diamond dust
    Sparkle in
    The Awe.
    As we age, the growing
    SPANKS!  the body
    Back to Action. For the power of the word.
    And only sad memories
    Of the
    Undertakers dust.
    Sing old songs,
    Hold hearts close.
    Water the house plants
    Wait for Spring.
    Do what we can do,
    And do it well.
    As ever be well, my friend.
    Stephen Craig Rowe

  19. Fenix says:

    Hello Jorge
    I hope that your birthday was very very nice.
    Hugs and Kisses for you!!!

  20. Gayle says:

    I am not so much afraid to die as reluctant to find its time has come.  I believe I will cling to every moment of breath.Gayle

  21. J says:

    Hello Jorge,
    Happy Birthday! Certainly each one brings us closer to the final ID. Self reliance is such a shallow vanity. It is humbling to be known and to know that Yes, is all that will be uttered. To know the loving hands into which I will fall is a daily assurance that blunts the sting of death. Nevertheless, lying naked on a cold table gives me the shivers! Be great my friend.

  22. Charlotte says:

    Happy Belated Birthday to you!!! What a delightful way to bring in another year of your life.  I remember turning 38….  someone said, "ohhhhh my yer soon gonna be 40 and getting OLD!"  I had had 6 surgeries prior to that in my life, the last one which ended with staph and strep infection a few months prior to that 38th birthday..  My answer was, "Yep, and I plan to celebrate each and every one to the fullest!!!  \’cause ya never know how many yer gonna have……"  One year, I celebrated for 6 weeks…  Well, I have a lot of friends and they kept calling and saying.. "hey, we haven\’t celebrated yer birthday yet…"  Well, after lots of good food and celebrating and 10 lbs later…  That year made history!  hah…  So, celebrate your birthday once again for Mr. Guppe and I and have a wonderful year.  It is great knowing you as a blogging friend. hugs, lottemae

  23. Donna says:

    What a great poem! Yes, we only have one life to live and we should make the best of it! Appreciating every moment, really. Difficult to do in hard times, yet oh, so easy when there are good times! Take care, my friend,

  24. Deborah says:

    If I only have one life and this is it, I\’m glad I didn\’t do it as a blond.  JK, because I was a towhead as a child.  But thank goodness I think there may be more.  Happy birthday Jorge, mine is coming up at the end of the month.  At least I\’m not stressing over that.  I came home tonight and my hard drive crashed, first one in my life to do that.  At least my old lap top is working and connects great with the new router.  Somethings are good.
    Blessed be

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