Playing with Time


They were two men, one wearing a green and black Woolrich shirt, the second in a rough cut camouflage jacket, ordinary dress for the North Country, but the topic of conversation in the general store was certainly out of the ordinary.

It concerned the funeral.

Standing next to a tank of minnows beneath a sign that read “Bait” and near an eight pound bass stuffed by a taxidermist in Albany, they shook their heads in disbelief. I never heard the names of the two men and there was no one to ask, except for several heads of eight-point bucks mounted on posts near a rack of guns. And, since dead deer cannot utter a sound, or, for that matter, neither can live deer, I will arbitrarily bestow names on these nameless men–thereby enabling me to personalize this story. From now on they will be Woolrich and Camo.

It was quite obvious that something unusual had happened at a recent funeral attended by Woolrich and Camo. I edged closer to the men and, to avoid  appearing too obvious, I pretended to study the six packs of beer in glass refrigerated cases. Budweiser. Saranac Ale. He’Brew. As a member of the clergy the latter name, He’Brew, amused me, especially since there are relatively few Hebrews in the North Country, let alone imbibers of the somewhat eclectic He’Brew beer. Undoubtedly, the Adirondacks have been transformed into an exemplar of diversity!

But about the funeral.

Woolwich was commenting on a strange occurrence. Immediately before the service a relative had approached the open coffin and placed a watch, set to the current time, in the coffin. This was not the normal accoutrement found in most coffins. On the other hand, after many years officiating at funerals, I have experienced a variety of strange happenings. There was the case of a 91 year old gentleman who, in the middle of my service for his wife, interrupted and, approaching the coffin, placed that days New York Times inside. Then, with whimsy, he explained that the hour was 10 AM, the exact time when his beloved wife, wrapped in a knitted afghan, would sit in her cracked red leather chair and read the paper. There was also the man whose will stipulated that his body should be encased with golf balls. Would this man, who had lived for golf, discover golf on the heavenly fairway? And the dairy man, whose wife buried him with a small wooden cow. White with black spots. Yes, we are what we were. Even in death.

But a watch! Why a watch? I reflected on this phenomena for many days until I finally understood the rationale. The man, according to Woolrich and Camo, lived his life to the fullest, relishing even the final moments. He did not want time to tick away. That watch symbolized timelessness––until the battery ran out. As Yogi Berra philosophized: “It ain’t over till it’s over.” And although the deceased could not really extend his life he became an inspiration for me to keep on keeping on as long as time permits–and my battery remains charged.


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