Afterwards

Let's put the fun back into funeral

Sorry for the loquacity.

Before we go any further, please, whoever is in charge, if you're short on time, then please make sure you at least read this: Waiting for Religion 2.0. 

And, be sure to read the thank you section. Thank you.

And (and, and, and! Sorree!) please read the following when appropriate.:

Dear whoever is listening-

 

Please know that regardless of what I have experienced, none of it has risen to the level of true suffering. As I battled my way through the suffocations of IPF, the pain of transplants and biopsies, the nausea of infusions and IV drips, the loss of half my mouth, the failure of my kidneys, the debilitating cures that disabled and humbled me, only to have my lungs fail again due to rejection, none of this has come close to what children living in war zones experience on a daily basis as they dodge bullets just to find breakfast. They suffer - I have not. (Footnote: as of 12/25/2021 there are forty armed conflicts raging on our planet. You'd think by now we would have at least tried giving peace a chance.)

In fact, I would like to thank my illness for all it has taught me: patience, humility, a certain graciousness in movement that has hitherto eluded me; immense gratitude, resourcefulness, and the vulnerability to draw upon the strength of others, particularly Terri, my most amazing wife. My particular maladies have also taught me a crap ton about the human body, and provided a fascinating journey into the science of physiology and the intricacies of health care systems. As one who loves to learn, the education has been deep, wide, and always fascinating.

The reality is that my sunset years were spent in relative comfort, with excellent care, surrounded by friends and family. I prayed, cultivated a positive attitude, did what my doctors and wife told me to do and the chips fell as they did. As I progressed in my illnesses I did so knowing that I was allowed to live as long as I did, as well as I did, because I was privileged, due to the circumstances of my birth, in terms of both time and place, A visceral counterpoint that played in my mind throughout my illness was the drum beat of the billions of people on the planet who didn't have access to health care like mine. Some of them live here at home, within our borders. There is something terribly wrong with that , if we value life as we so claim, then why isn't that mission #one? Why don't the religious of the world lead the charge for fair healthcare?

It was an honor to face death head on, with introspection, a renewed sense of connection to the universe and what was truly important; and immense gratitude for the many blessings I have received. I lived the life, loved my work, was blessed with wonderful, loving wife and wonderful family and friends. No complaints, no regrets. From my perspective, wherever I am, I have returned home after a journey that seemed so incredibly long, yet passed in a wink

And just a reminder: there will be no drinking at the memorial service. (Just kidding).

With nothing but love in my heart- 

Jason

Burial and associated business

I donate my body to Norton Thoracic and St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix for the expressed purpose of furthering their understanding of IPF, the horrific disease that has sent myself and many others prematurely to our graves in slow, horrific fashion. If they don't want it, they are free to send it elsewhere. Should an institution takes possession, I ask that they please give my wife the titanium plate and wire that were put in my chest to close up my rib cage. (Please wash these first, okay? Geesh.) Please learn whatever you can by studying my body as quickly as possible, and then cremate whatever is left, giving the ashes to my wife Terri. Whether or not there is scientific interest in studying my body, I wish to be cremated as soon as possible. I want to dance with the flames of my mother and father.

I ask my friends and family to scatter my ashes in Juneau Bay (Gastineau Channel) in the area of the library with a view of Budzo Manor. Actually, anywhere in the vicinity will do.

.

Whatever you do, please do so with kindness. I don't mean to sound bossy.

 

Music

Dear Funeral (pronounced (FUHN-ehr-el) organizers: I realize everyone is anxious to get to the food, drinks and culinary masterpieces created by the genius and supernatural skills of the Peavine Coffee House, aka my step kids Micah and Torrey; So, play as much of this music as possible. Whatever works. Feel free to add whatever makes sense to you. If it makes more sense to intersperse the music throughout the event, rather than play all the music at once, that's fine. Also, to whatever extent possible, please put this information in the program:

 

I have provided links to my music on my site, and to other commercial music through SoundCloud and YouTube - some of the YouTube music begin with ads, so please find a way to filter those out. I'm still trying to figure out how to link to some of my commercial purchases; I'm not sure how legal it is to do that, so best to delete them when the service is over. Alternately, all this music is available on my computer or through iTunes; much of it is available through my music page on this site. 

Ahem, please note that Beethoven and I are on the same program! True, I had to die to make it happen, but that's a small price to pay I assure you…

Comments and Thank Yous

Please make this announcement:

 

I have asked my friends and family to read a few things, and you are welcome to say whatever you feel a need to say. Please know that if you are celebrating my life that the best way to do so is to refrain from invoking a particular religious viewpoint as "the truth."

 

(In fact, when anyone tells you they know "the truth," I suggest you run away quickly. I find the only thing that changes as a result of those conversations is that those involved leave the encounter liking each other less.)

Use this occasion to see beyond what you believe, and catch a glimpse of a larger truth. I know it is customary to think that the problems that beset the world are economic and political in nature. But I think the primary reason for much of the world's strife stems from a collective theological narrow mindedness. We are just not seeing the bigger picture. 

In fact, a party game you might consider is having everyone find someone from a different religion or political persuasion and figure out a common ground that would allow them to share the same planet with a shared sense of purpose and fun, so that they could behave the way they would like their children to behave in civilized society. They could share out their conclusions after a few drinks.  But only do this if you can be honest with yourself.

A few thoughts on science, religion and knowing

While science can explain much, it will never be able to explain the existence of existence itself. That can only be apprehended by faith. But faith is a double edged sword, dividing us and uniting us at the same time. Figuring out how to live a life based on core values while not excluding those with differing core values is the dance of our day. Dancing that dance will forever keep you from settling into your comfort zone. That is a good thing. It is the very stuff of tolerance, growth and self-renewal.

Science explains much, but in the end only highlights the mystery of life we can never truly, completely understand. I have embraced that mystery, grateful to live in a playground of questions rather than to clutch desperately for answers. Questions are the gift. Answers are at best temporary and beg to become questions once again. The moment you think you have found the answer, you can become lost within a closed system of myopia and self-righteousness. Don't fall for it.

To those Christian friends of mine who are worried about where my soul landed after my adventure on earth- please don't fret for a moment. I had my spiritual awakening early in life, third grade to be exact, when God became very real to me, and, at the same time, the limitations of religion became the ultimate blasphemy. Prayer is not the exclusive domain of the religious. Like air, it’s available to anyone with the ability to breathe. Besides, to be religious you have to be a religionist. That is, you have to believe in the realm of "religion" as something positive for worldkind. I could never take that step. I think God cries whenever religions pit themselves against each other and claim to be the one and only pathway to spiritual enlightenment. 

On the other hand, there is no doubt in my mind that, as we wield our imaginations, so do we paint the world of events. It is quite clear to me that faith is a productive activity, and intention evinces our real being, Bottom line: Reality begins within and moves outward. If we truly understood the power of intention, we could solve any problem to which we turned our honest attention. So, be careful what you pray for. But don’t forget to pray.

A few thank you's...

I know when Oscar winners start to thank everyone in the world who made their success possible, it gets old fast. But I do have people I want to thank. Believe me, this is a short list. Everyone I have met has taught me something. And for that, I am very grateful. 

" have had a wonderful life, done much, seen plenty, felt deeply. I have had wonderful friends, among them:

- the Budzos - Clay and Claire, Brett and Kristy, Mark and Trish and their children, my first circle, with whom I shared so much and experienced the challenges, triumphs and true love of friendship;

- my friends in artistic collaboration, so full of heart and soul, who helped me find my own artistic vision, especially John Fehringer the mega artist, Craig Harris the composer extraordinaire, Brett Dillingham the amazing storyteller and anthropologist, Clay Good the consummate musician and eco philosopher, Larry Addington the amazing graphic artist and book maker; Jamie Gregory, my enduring friend and inspiring bandmate.

- all those with whom I have enjoyed musical friendships, especially Steve Nelson, Adrian Minne, and Clay Good. It's hard to explain the language of music to others, isn't it? Thanks for being so fluent and sharing such interesting conversations with me.

- Frank Solivan, who did so much to inspire my musicianship and my cooking;

- my fellow educational visionaries, particularly Mary Wegner, Scott Christian and Suzie Ohmer, who always pushed the boundaries in the name of better, more soulful learning, and always invited me to come with them;

- Dan and Amanda and their family, and Madeline, all of whom opened my heart in beautiful ways;

- my colleagues at UAS, Fielding and Full Sail, who made life a truly amazing learning journey; 

- Juneau, Alaska, for accepting me so readily and providing such a beautiful home during times of such personal searching;

- the Alaskan Native community from whom I learned so much about what it means to be a human being; 

- my many colleagues in the worlds of educational technology and digital citizenship who urged me toward a greater understanding of what it meant not only to teach, but also to learn and to serve; the thousands of students whom I have had the honor to serve and from whom I learned so much - I do hope I helped you tell your stories;

- to my many neighbors over the years who are too numerous to mention- who have borne my many illnesses with me, always looking for ways to help out;

- the good transplant doctors and their team members - nurses, staff, and everyone else - at Norton Thoracic and St. Joseph's Hospital. You are brilliant medical practitioners and excellent human beings and I salute you.

- the stranger I never knew for the donation of a set of healthy lungs. Your foresight and magnanimity enabled me to enjoy life for a number of years. Please know that I fought as hard as I did to stay alive because I didn't want to let you down. 

- my kidney and dialysis team, Dr. Gerges, is the very definition of a great and humane doctor.

- Mike and Bethany Felix and family, whose unwavering generosity and kindness kept me going during darker days;

- Jan, Terri's mom, who was incredibly generous during as I battled IPF; Bob and Diane, Terri's stepmom, and their family, who welcomed me without reservation into the Kozy extended family;

- Aunt Priscilla and all of my cousins and extended family in New Hampshire and beyond, who live amazing lives and extended me nothing but unconditional love.

- two excellent brothers of the highest caliber - Rick and Mike. I hear of the strife that besets so many families and think to myself, How is it we never experienced that? I guess we were too busy having fun loving each other. Thank you, and your families, for enriching my life.

- and of course none of this would have been possible without two of the most extraordinary parents in the world- Richard and Susan. I hope the rumor that you get to meet up with your parents is true because the last seven years have been very tiring, and I would love to take a vacation with them, just like we did when I was a child, with Rick and me in the back of the station wagon as we motored our way to Jaffrey, New Hampshire, looking for out-of-state license plates, and enjoying life in such a visceral and ethereal way. They gave me the gift of unconditional love, expert guidance and true support. They developed my intelligence and awareness of social inequalities starting at a young age. They weren't afraid to stand up to racists and bigots and disagree with them, and raised me to. do the same. Thanks to them,I have become a human being who enjoys a life based on social mindedness, kindness, inquiry, fun, adventure and a true sense of community. ​

But of all the bounty I have experienced, at the top of list are the years I have spent with Terri. Saint Terri. I have loved you so much, so completely. It was an honor to have the opportunity to do so - an honor of the heart, mind, body and soul. You are the very best that humanity has to offer. Sorry to embarrass you publicly but hey, it's my memorial service. You know what is really important, and you never waiver. I used to tell Terri that my only fear in life is that I would die having never done anything truly beautiful. It took me a long time to realize that embracing what you had to offer was itself the greatest act of beauty I could ever hope to be part of. And, for the last time, I apologize for everything that my many illnesses put you through. When I told you how sorry I was, you graciously told me not to worry about, that it wasn't my fault. But your support was saint-like. Thank you for being you, and for bringing your wonderful family of children and grandchildren into my life, giving my life a richness that I never thought possible. I love you - and Torrey and Jesse, Bethany and Dom, Micah and Jessica, Eaben, Shea, Deklan, Sully, Blue, Hazel, and Robert- now and forever.

To Torrey, Bethany, Micah and Amanda- please know that if I could have special ordered children, they would have been exactly like you. I have truly enjoyed being a part of your life. I am proud of you as people who pursued your dreams and simply as human beings who know what is important. You have hearts and minds that would make any parent proud.

To my grand boys- always aim to be gentlemen. To my Grand boys and Grand girls - never be mean, always take the path of kindness, be bold and have dreams. Do that, and you will lead lives that you will love and that you will be able to look back on without regret.

To all my grandchildren.: Thank you for the mess, for the Legos wedged between couch pillows, the chalked up sidewalks, the cardboard box obstacle courses that filled my living room. You always reminded me that life is meant to be celebrated as a performance art project. My advice to you: Be honest but kind, a difficult balancing act at times, but one that will define your character in ways that will ripple through time and change the world in small, powerful ways. To those who would judge you or your family, and do so out of a sense of self-righteous, religious indignation: feel compassion for their misguided anger and their misunderstanding of God's love. Know that their judgment is a result of hurt they never processed. Find a place to shelter your heart until you are on your own and the storms of their rage have passed. Above all, don't become like them. Be better. Think bigger. Feel more deeply. Don't judge like they judge.

Please encourage the grandkids to visit jasonOhlerIdeas.com if they want to learn more about me in the years to come.

Readings

As I said at the beginning, if you only have time to read one thing, please make sure you read Waiting for Religion 2.0, originally published in the Juneau Empire. 

If there is time, please consider reading the following- Or perhaps it might work better to read them privately, or in small groups, when time and muse allow. Whatever works.

Preface to my book, Digital Storytelling. I recommend that whoever reads this practice doing so first because the punctuation is a bit different than normal.

The Long Trek Upstairs, an essay I wrote about living with IPF and what I thought about as I took a half hour each day just to walk upstairs. It talks about the amazing care shown to me by Terri and how the pain of challenge generates immense gratitude if you allow it to. And it explores what I, as a dying man, thought and felt, and how I connected to my situation spiritually as I faced each day as though it were my last. There is also some nice stuff in it about our dog Buddy.

Kurt Vonnegut's letter to a group of high school students. It is one page in length and it is priceless.

Take poetic license with this – “read these” however you like. Brett, Clay, and my brothers Rick and Mike could have fun with this. Might make a good public performance for another venue, now that I think about it. You could charge and give the proceeds to arts in the schools programs. Yeah. I like that.

With nothing but peace and love in my heart-

Jason