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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

    My name is James Black. I'm on Facebook and Twitter. Friend and/or follow me if you like.

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Final Tasks

Keith built his coffin when he was still in his 20s. He made it from pine and stained it. On the lid, he carved, “Those who truly love will never die.” For about 20 years, it stood in the dining room, serving as a place to store poetry books. After Keith suffered a stroke and nearly died, his partner insisted they move the coffin, so they stored it in the garage, where it has been for the past decade.

His body was placed in the coffin yesterday. Some neighbors had helped dig the grave in a wooded area on the property Keith and his partner have shared for most of their thirty-some years together. After the memorial service, friends and family took turns helping with the final tasks. Everyone who was there helped in some way. We carried the coffin to the grave over the rocky path. We recited poetry. We used ropes to lower the box into the ground. We shoveled earth and stones into the hole, then set plants on top of the mound.

We walked back to the house quietly along the path, tired and thirsty, our dark suits and dresses and shoes dusty with earth. Some of us sat in the dining room drinking lemonade and considered what Keith would have said if he were there, although if he’d been there, we would have been elsewhere. Most of us probably wouldn’t have talked to him yesterday if he were still alive. We may have thought of him briefly, wondering how he was doing, assuming we’d see him again soon enough.

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