Years ago, my Gran passed away.
Gran was the name we called my mother's father.
He was full of personality.
Blind in his later years, he continued playing piano using unique chords reminiscent of George Shearing.
An elegant beauty to his music.
He established our family's Society of Chocolate Lovers, making a fudge with his secret formula passed down the ages and carefully guarded by his grandchildren.
Visiting Cleveland, he made a beeline for Mitchell's.
Mitchell's is a tiny shop in Cleveland Heights where Mr. Mitchell makes concoctions that put this legendary candy emporium on the map when his mom and dad established it in 1939.
A fluffy whipped mint marshmallow filling encased in a thick dark chocolate shell.
I've never tasted anything as unique and delicious anywhere on earth.
Gran was a West Point graduate who charged up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt.
He was filled with what the French call "Joie de Vivre".
The joy of life.
A friend of Gran's came to the wake, explaining that he wouldn't glance at the body in the open casket.
"I want to remember him the way he was: so alive!"
My friends, this column is not about a great man's death.
It's about the good sense in keeping caskets closed.
Research tells us viewing the body has psychological value.
Looking at the remains helps communicate the reality that the loved one is gone.
We are logical and sophisticated.
We know what death is.
Our bodies are merely the box our souls are packaged in.
We don't need to remember someone by standing around and staring at that empty box.
I am not this frail shell.
I am the time I made myself late by stopping to get the newspaper for my mother-in-law.
I'm the jerk who opens a new carton of milk even though there's still a little bit left in the previously opened carton.
I am all the acts of love or selfishness or shame or courage that paint the picture of my life.
We paint this canvas throughout our lives from pallets of varied behavior and experience.
Think about the life of the one we've lost and treasure the great memories.
Recall the example set by that life.
Examine that self-portrait.
Take care of that box while you're stuck with it.
But after you're gone, we should remember the contents, not the box.
Funeral directors may disagree but I'm convinced.
Take the position of prayer on that kneeler in front of the coffin and offer a petition for God to embrace the eternal soul.
Why would you take a long wooden box and open it up to display another box inside?
Please don't distract me with the packaging.
Celebrate the life.
Not the wrapper it came in.
It wasn't that complex configuration of carbon molecules that fought with Teddy's Rough Riders.
It was the man inside.
Let me see that man.
Close the casket.