A sandwich is a thing framed by another thing, with the thing in the middle being the part that matters when it’s being named: it’s a ham sandwich, not a rye sandwich. This is why I find the phrase “compliment sandwich” utterly nonsensical; it should be called a criticism sandwich, a putdown hero, an insult slider, or something of that sort.
I can say with confidence that the warm part of this year, for me, has been a death sandwich.
To begin with, my wife and I bought our graves. It’s the most expensive thing I have ever purchased as a result of writing an article for the Wild Hunt. Spending is in my nature, which is why I focus a lot of energy on saving. I bought something pretty much anytime I went on a trip, and any number of items in my possession resulted from an interview I did, like the Hermes oracle cards I got after lunch with Bob Place, the stone divination set I picked up at Changing Times-Changing Worlds, or the steampunk belt with thigh holster I ordered after seeing one at Rites of Spring. It was when I wrote about my friend Deana Reed, and learned that she was buried in a natural cemetery just one town away from my own, that I knew it was time to invest in some real estate.
My dear old dad used to say, “Just toss me naked in a ditch,” knowing full well that he had a guaranteed spot in a veterans’ cemetery which wouldn’t allow for that. I’m not entirely sure he was joking, and regardless I find the idea appealing. Certainly more appealing than embalming, or cremation (which can also include embalming), which are really quite nasty from an environmental perspective. Now that we have the deed to two adjacent plots in the wooded natural burial section of this local cemetery, I’m that much closer to getting away with it. Certainly I cannot be buried with any artificial fibers or plastic crap, and my only container options are a pine box or just a board. If I outlive my wife, I think I can probably get away with naked, but it would certainly take careful planning.
A sandwich, I already noted, is a thing framed by another thing. Purchasing a grave is not death, and even if it was this is the bread, not the meat. The meat of a death sandwich is death.
I told my mother about my new purchase when we took our annual pilgrimage to my father’s grave around Memorial Day, when the flags are everywhere. As was her wont, she looked at me like I had two heads, not for planning ahead (she’d planned and paid for her entire funeral some 15 years ago), but for my enthusiasm. I was thinking her reaction two months later, when after a month of drifting back and forth through the veil, I was again at that cemetery to commit her mortal remains and rejoin them with those of her beloved husband. I and others shepherded her as best we could in the weeks ahead, and I continued that work with offerings of tea with milk as she transitioned to being an ancestor. She was ready to get to work in short order.
A death sandwich is death framed by another thing. The thing which sandwiches death for me this year is the idea of death. In the spring I purchased a grave, acknowledging death, and this autumn I acknowledge it again by inviting my co-religionists to honor Haides with words.
October 31 is when submissions open for The Host of Many: Hades and his Retinue, and it is long in coming. I frequently see posts from Hellenic polytheists grumbling about portrayals of Hades in popular culture, or expressing frustration that his emerging cult doesn’t have a lot of historical sources upon which to be built. This is an opportunity to change that. At the same time, I know there are a huge number of underworld deities and spirits who might never see the cover of an anthology; they deserve honor, and I dearly hope to see as many submissions about these lesser-known gods as I receiver for Hades himself.
Do the research. Write the paper. Script the ritual. Offer the prayer. Help me finish making my death sandwich.