One Kind Favor

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

cross posted from The Dream Antilles

You know it’s one kind favor, I ask to you

You know it’s one kind favor, I ask to you

See that my grave is kept clean

It’s a simple enough blues.  It was initially sung, I think, by the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson in 1927 under a pseudonym.  It was so popular that he re-recorded and re-released in 1928.

It’s been recorded by BB King, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Canned Heat, The Grateful Dead, Mike Bloomfield, Keiji Haino, Diamanda Galás, Meindert Talma & the Negroes, Lou Reed, Furry Lewis, Chrome Cranks, the Dream Syndicate, Thelonious Monster.  And, of course, by numerous, numerous others.

It’s been in my head for two days.  I heard BB King’s latest version of the song yesterday on NPR while I was driving home.  I can’t seem to turn it off.  “One kind favor I ask of you/one kind favor I ask of you…”

Join me in my head.

For me there’s something extraordinarily important about this lyric. And haunting. What does it mean, “See that my grave is kept clean?” I wonder about this. It’s about respect. It’s about preserving the memory of someone who’s gone on, it’s about the spiritual legacy of the departed. It’s not about the estate, the wealth, the works, the physical accomplishments of the departed; it’s about spiritual legacy.

Spiritual legacy. What is that? And what, I wonder, if I were to be struck by lightning as I sit here right now, would my spiritual legacy be? If I ran out of time right now and my brain or heart exploded, what would it be? How would I be remembered?

I’m healthy and well, but I find myself this evening in a world of imponderables, incomprehensibility. Have I said what I needed to say? Have I listened to what I needed to hear? Have I loved deeply and well enough? Have I done my personal work? Have I learned enough? Have I inspired enough? Have I fought hard enough? Have I made peace enough? Have I done my work? Have I stood for something important? Have I taught my children well? Have I showed up enough? Have I given enough? Have I prayed enough? Have I had enough gratitude? Have I served well enough? Have I been an adequate steward of things given to me? These and other questions arise. As many questions as there are stars in the Milky Way.

All I can do is invite you, dear reader, to join me in this with your own inquiry. And, if you survive me, to see that my grave is kept clean. Music for your inquiry follows:

Blind Lemon Jefferson:

Bob Dylan:

Mavis Staples:

Lou Reed:

Be well, be safe, be happy, be alive.

6 comments

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    • davidseth on October 24, 2008 at 3:47 am
      Author

    Thank you for reading.

    • OPOL on October 24, 2008 at 4:29 am
  1. Bury me beneath a spreading tree

    Bury me beneath a spreading tree

    Its cool on a hot day don’t you see  

    • RUKind on October 24, 2008 at 7:41 am

    Looks like a Samhain (Nov 1, cross-quarter day, Celtic New Year’s) tradition to honor the dead by cleaning the grave and/or illuminating the night for them.

    A possible clue: “in some of the English-Scotch-Irish countries, people kept their relatives’ graves free from grass. Why? Because grass growing on a grave indicated that the deceased was not cared for by his relatives.” Story link.

    A couple of snips from some Louisiana folklore that may shed some light (no pun int.):

    But what they inadvertently encountered—if the story recounts real events at all–was only the custom of marking All Saints’ Day, November 1, by going at nightfall to newly cleaned and flower-decorated graveyards and placing lighted candles on the graves to honor the dead. This ritual still has great vitality in Lacombe, and it is practiced in several other Louisiana communities, though it is little known in other parts of the United States (where All Saints’ Day is nonetheless a Catholic Holy Day of Obligation and marked in other ways).

    …snip…

    All Saints’ Day, we know–including Halloween which precedes it (and takes its name from being the Eve of All Hallows, as All Saints’ is more commonly known in England)–is perhaps the oldest continuously celebrated holiday in the Western world. It stems, ultimately, from a holiday in the ancient Celtic calendar called Samhain (pronounced something like Sah-ween), which was one of the “cross-quarter” days of the Celts. These were the days which fell exactly between any seasonal solstice and equinox and mark the transition to a new season. In traditional cultures, liminal time periods, those that lie on the borders between seasons of the year or “seasons” of life, are often thought to be dangerous or in some way powerful times. Samhain was the Celtic New Year, marking the border between the old year and the new. It was also believed to be the time when the souls of everyone who had died that year went to the other world. In this and other cultures this time of year was associated with the presence of spirits in the physical world, an idea which carries over into our Halloween, of course. The ancient Celts lit bonfires on Samhain, possibly to light the spirits’ way to the next world or possibly to keep them away from humans. That use of fire would conceivably be the ultimate origin of lighted jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween and for the use of a mass of candles in cemeteries on All Saints’ night in Louisiana and in Mexico (where they play an important role in celebrating the Dias de las Muertos, the “Days of the Dead,” the important holidays surrounding All Saints’).

    Very primal urge that one. To be remembered. This year I planted a Ginkgo and a Chinese Dawn Redwood (metasequoia), both living fossils, on a magnetic north-south axis in my yard. If well tended, they’ll live 2,000 or more years. No one will have a clue as to who put them there but they’ll know why – to be remembered, even anonymously.

    Satya.

    • kj on October 25, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    i’m living through the experience of opening up space to negative emotions…. mine, others…. and then  blessing the dust as it disintegrates.   moral of that story is… be careful what you wish for!  lol

    we sweep the temple’s steps.  and we decide what are constitutes a temple.

    i love this essay.  thank you.

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