Dead Man

Have you ever met a dead man with a sense of humor?…. I have.

We were at West Bank town of Gafna in the occupied territories, eating at a restaurant that is famous for its mesakhaan (a fabulous Palestinian dish). This town’s inhabitants are mostly Palestinian Christians. After pigging out, I decided to go out for a little stroll in the town to help me digest the chicken, ground beef fried with pine nuts and bread soaked in olive oil. Gluttony must be my favorite sin. I came across a little chapel, it is very old looking, rustic, but there was an air of serenity about it. Right next to it a small cemetery that is surrounded with a high brick wall. I usually avoid cemeteries but I think the masakhaan was effecting my brain so I went inside and started looking around at the tomb stones. On the side there was a big white oval shaped tomb stone and on it an engraved poem in Arabic, this is my feeble attempt at translating it. In Arabic it sounded better because it rhymed.

You! who is standing upon my grave.

Don’t wonder too much about my state.

Yesterday I was just like you,

And tomorrow you will be just like me.

Now that is a guy that has a sense of humor about his death. I could imagine the guy laughing as he was being buried. I wonder how many people, like me, left that cemetery with a smile on their face.

I suffer from a childhood crucifixion trauma. When I was a child we would spend a big chunk of the summer school break visiting my grandparents in the Czech republic. A huge (about 1.5 meters long) wooden crucifix was hanged on the wall across the stair well leading to the second floor. It had a wood carved Jesus figure hanging from it. Jesus is nailed to the cross from his hands and feet, there is a gabbing wound in his abdomen, blood all over. He is covered with nothing but a loin cloth and his face is looking downwards in an expression of agony. As a kid, I knew nothing about Jesus but that painted in real to life colors wooden carving gave me many nightmares. Later on, my mom explained to me the story of Jesus but it only made matters worse, the thought that somebody actually nailed somebody else to a piece of wood in real life horrified me. One night, while my mom was about to tuck me into bed, I suggested that we undo the nails and let Jesus sleep on the couch where he would be more comfortable, must he hang there 24 hours a day? Kids can say the funniest things sometimes. My mom laughed and told me not to think about Jesus too much.

I can’t understand why a religion would choose a torture and execution device as its universal symbol.

Despite my childhood crucifixion trauma, I enjoy watching movies made about the life of Jesus. I find it fascinating how the same story can be told and retold in a bazillion of different ways by different people. My all time favorite is the movie “

Jesus of Montreal

”, it is the story of what would happen if Jesus would come to live in modern day north American society. I found it to be a thought provoking and a moving movie, I think it is the best Canadian movie I have ever seen. I don’t know how to describe the movie in a way that would do it justice. You simply have to see it.

My maternal grandmother died few weeks ago. I wish she had left me the wooden cross carving. Turns out she had sold it to an antique shop a few years back for a good price. Maybe she was sick of looking at it everyday as her own end approached. Had I inherited the carving, I would have undone the nails, buried Jesus in my backyard where he could finally rest and set the cross on fire. The guy deserves a break, don’t you think?

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