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But I’m not the king of anywhere, nor the president of anything, even though I used to amuse my kids, when they were small, by declaring myself to be “the king of my hair and the king of my chair, and the king of that trash can over by there.”

No, I was just one passenger, albeit up front, part of a long funeral procession headed from St. Thomas More Catholic Church at 56th and Grover streets to the Westlawn Hillcrest cemetery at 57th and Center streets.

So there it is, then, another branch of the family tree complete, dates of birth and death laid stark in black and white, but not before sprouting three new branches, which branches long ago sprouted their own branches, which branches have themselves already sprouted even newer branches.

The little kids ran around the funeral home, blissfully unaware of the great human mystery that lay in that casket. The man who I first met in 1981 when he was 48 years old, bearded, burly and warmly curious as to this foreign fella his daughter was bringing home, will forever be unknown to those kids, to whom he will be just another name on the family tree with a (b) and a (d) in front of two long ago dates. I know this because there are unknown people like that in all of our lives, people who lived and breathed and triumphed and failed, whose names we carry but whose reality evaporates the moment we see a year beginning with 18.

He was a plumber and an Army vet, a capable bowler and a Pole two or three generations removed from the old country. His Catholicism was intrinsic, marked not so much by formal practice as by an easy acceptance of the faith of his ancestors and of its time tested truth. A two foot Mary, in her blue and white robes, kept vigil outside the front door of his lakefront home, and if Turner Classic Movies was for some reason not worth watching, then EWTN was a frequent fallback. The hand crafted Stations of the Cross, on display at St. Thomas More Church after being imported from Italy, were his gift to the church in memory of the death of his epically beautiful wife, 31 years ago.

And now, there he lay, as still and cold as any stone, posing again the great question: Is this the end?

Readers will surely be disappointed, perhaps even surprised, to find that I offer no definitive answer to a question that has puzzled mankind since Ugg noticed that Glugg wasn’t moving any more.

But I have a hunch, and that is that death is fake.

That the “brain,” that greatest of computers, is the source of “mind” has always seemed unlikely to me.

The late, great atheist Christopher Hitchens used to argue that we do not “have” bodies. We are bodies.

He might be right. I just don’t think so.

The masterful works of art and poetry, of architecture and music that humans have produced, their ability to inspire tears or laughter through the spoken and written word, and their capacity for unconditional love persuade me of a higher origin.
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