The Undertaker Who Gave Me My Groove Back

People often ask about my embarrassing moments. Here’s one, far removed from live television. It proves the power of blood humor to light our deeply human dark.

Emceeing an  event, before a crowd flirting with a thousand, I had to introduce a funeral director I didn’t know. I’d never laid eyes on him. His last name gave off some uncertainty, so I joked, “If I screw up this undertaker’s name, he’s bound to break his leg kickin’ my rear end.”

God as my witness, out of the crowd and up to that stage stepped a one-legged funeral director. Grinning a grin wider than the universe.

That undertaker had lost his leg in a ravaging motorcycle accident. The wreck had skidded him to the very sharpest edge of death. But he was back from that edge, absent the leg, and in possession of a joie de vivre I’ve never seen again. That man adores and celebrates being alive in THIS VERY PRESENT MOMENT unlike any soul I’ve known.

He and I became instant friends. Here, now, well after the crimson drained from my face, I celebrate him.

Last year, standing at a concierge desk at a hotel on Hilton Head, a man slipped up behind me asking, “Sir, would you care to borrow my wooden leg to kick some tail?” I turned to meet that grin again. Blinding. Unmistakable. The concierge, lovely woman, thought herself witness to a twin outbreak of male-bonded insanity. Watching our surprise reunion of friendship, she suddenly wore a face of stark horror. Like she’d just seen a baby the spitting image of Morley Safer. No matter. My undertaker’s way of seeing the world soon won her. It won that day and the entire hotel lobby.

I say this here to remind myself — and everyone who sees this — that no matter what happens to us, we get to define what it means. A man who’s breathed the very wind of death says plenty to us about how largely and wonderfully we’re called to live. Marilyn Monroe said she didn’t want to be rich, she just wanted to be wonderful. As your own democracy of one, elect to live wonderfully. I know an undertaker who can show you the way!

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3 Responses to “The Undertaker Who Gave Me My Groove Back”

  1. Mark Hildebrandt Says:

    As per the excellent novel She-Rain, an extraordinarily gifted author. Not to mention all of those Emmys!

    • Mark, I bow before your kindness here. Thank you for this, and for your outreach on She-Rain! Keep spreadin’ her word in South Cali!!! Peace and gratitude to you!!

  2. Beautiful Michael. A great reminder to be grateful everyday for our blessings…even the small ones, and even the tough parts of our lives which fill us up with strength and character…if we let them.

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