Thursday, June 27, 2013


(As published in The Dead Beat, Summer, 2013)

Have you ever met your hero? Heroes come in many forms – whether based on their accomplishments on a public or personal platform, they are people who have inspired us to do great things in our own lives. This has been a unique year for me with regard to those I hold in this esteem. Earlier this year, one of my heroes, who was also a personal friend, died; I was able to visit the resting place of another hero who has been dead for decades; and I was able to see the performance of a third.

Whatever and however our heroes have influenced our lives, and whether they are living or dead, we share a certain connection with them – even if we have never met them. Their inspiration is often the thread that links us to their lives. Whether they are a statesman, a family member, a champion for a cause, a musician, or a celebrity, their acts of influence on us make them very special to us.

One of my heroes, Bill Moody (known as Paul Bearer), became a personal friend over the years, and I was blessed to count him in the number of those who have been special to me in this life. As a kid who loved professional wrestling (where he made his fame) who also wanted to become a funeral director, I was inspired by his creepy urn-wielding character. He was a connection for me to the funeral profession. Sadly he passed away earlier this year, quite unexpectedly, at the same time that I was going through a personal crisis. I was unable to attend his funeral service in Alabama, but I hope to one day visit the place where he rests.

Another hero, Dr. Hugo Erichsen, was the founder of the Cremation Association of North America. His advocacy of cremation is legendary, and I have been inspired by his writings and speeches on the subject even nearly 70 years after his death. In May, I had the opportunity to visit his resting place in the Woodmere Crematorium’s Columbarium in Detroit. The humbling experience made an indelible impression on me, and I will always remember the feeling of meeting an old friend for the very first time.

The third hero I mentioned, Sir Elton John, is someone I have never met, but who I have gotten to know through his music. I have sung along to every song, and most of the time you’ll find him playing on the iPod in my car. I had the good fortune of being able to see him in concert here in Arkansas in June. The joy of seeing him “live” deepened my love for his music.

All of this leads me to a very important point. These three people who have touched and influenced my life so deeply will always be part of my life – even if they are dead. Having had the good fortune of knowing them in one way or another keeps me connected with them. Two of these three have crossed the bar ahead of me, and I will always cherish the affection I hold sacred for them. Having the ability to visit the memorial resting place of these great men, I am certain that my connection with them may continue on.

This was evident to me in June, as having never met Dr. Erichsen in person, my visit at his niche brought full circle the appreciation of his work that continues to inspire me – and always will. That is the importance of the permanent memorial! I am thankful that Dr. Erichsen’s cremated remains were not scattered, but were permanently preserved so that I could visit and be further inspired by him and his work.

It isn’t only our heroes that deserve this devotion either. Every human being deserves to be permanently remembered regardless of the depth of their impact on this life.

At least, that’s my perspective…