Friday Night at the Movies


The film is called Captain Fantastic. [My sincere thanks to the reader who gave me a heads up about this.]

It’s available via Amazon Prime and Netflix.

Without totally spoiling the film, I want to talk about it a little bit. The film centers around a homeschooling isolated family and a funeral, and that’s all I’m going to say about the film itself, other than recommending it and mentioning that it is not based on any true story. It’s entirely fictional and almost ludicrously exaggerated.

Right after Nathan died, his best friend, PJ Garrett, told us that he wanted to quit his job and travel.  His wife was an RN and had looked into being a traveling nurse (doing short term stints at various hospitals around the country). They bought an RV and hit the road.


In August of the following year, we were in our RV camped in Tennessee and got a phone call from PJ’s wife.  He was in the hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, in renal failure. He needed a kidney transplant.  He was about 32 years old then.

This wasn’t because of his lifestyle or diet.  It was because he had high blood pressure that had proved to be almost impossible to treat effectively.  He’d been on medication for several years, but had little success in getting it down and it finally just wore his kidneys out.

I got PJ on the phone and asked him if he wanted us to come out there.

He went silent for a couple of minutes and then said, “I don’t want to ask you to do that.”

I replied, “I didn’t ask that. I asked if you wanted us to come.”

Another long pause, and then a very quiet, “Yes.”

We left that evening and drove to Phoenix, in August.  You have to understand that only love will take you to Phoenix in August in an RV.

We spent a month or so out there with them.  We were there as PJ learned to manage his peritoneal dialysis and his diet.  He was simply an amazing person.

On August 22, which was the anniversary of Nathan’s death, he dragged us out for the day. We went to Sedona and then up to Flagstaff, and he did dialysis in the car on the road while driving, causing me to have heart palpitations, but he handled it like a champ.

And then we went our separate ways, physically, except for a couple of weeks the following year when he visited us at our place in Kentucky. But we talked on the phone regularly.

On April 30, 2010, I got an urgent message from his sister to call his mother immediately.  I was afraid to punch in the number, because I just knew it wasn’t good.

That morning, PJ, who had separated from his wife by then, and was living at his parents’ home preparing for a kidney transplant, had left his job to run an errand for his employer.  We’ll never know exactly what happened, but he came around a curve and hit a transfer truck head on.  He died on the scene, probably instantly. He was 34.

Dave and I made immediate plans to head for North Carolina, where he was.  His mother, who is very religious, assured me that she was planning to have the funeral outdoors in the field next door to her church.

PJ Garrett was an atheist.

When Nathan died, he helped us plan the memorial that we had in Raleigh, North Carolina, and he arranged the one in Southern Pines several weeks later all by himself.  This was no small task.  It involved getting the police to literally close off an entire street for the evening, as well as coordinating a sound guy and all the various musicians who performed and arranging for advertising.

He told me that he and some of Nate’s friends were concerned about what Dave and I would do when we arrived from Alaska. They were afraid that we were going to have a conventional church funeral and they were gearing up for a big fight.  PJ said that if we’d attempted it, he would have gone to the church and personally removed Nate all by himself if he’d had to, but that no church funeral was happening.  That is how strongly he felt about it.

After the memorials, Dave and I and PJ and his wife went to Wilmington, NC and took some of Nate’s ashes out on the pier and put them in the ocean.

So, we basically had three different memorial times for Nathan with PJ.

Then we drove to North Carolina to attend PJ’s funeral.

And when we got there, we discovered that we’d been conned.

There was no outdoor funeral.  The excuse given was that it was threatening rain, but it never rained a drop.  Funerals are used by very religious people as a ploy to get people into church so they can be preached at.  I know this. I recognized it when I saw it.

This was a conventional Baptist funeral in a Baptist church with a preacher who didn’t know PJ, along with all sorts of bullshit about how much PJ loved Jesus and how you too should come to Jesus so you can live forever with PJ.

I refused to enter the church.  I simply could not do it. The only thing his parents did do that he would have wanted is have him cremated. Other than that, it was everything he was afraid we would do to Nathan, and I was powerless to prevent it. I know that his parents were coping in the only way they knew how to cope. I know that in order to keep their worldview intact, they had to turn PJ into a Christian. I watched my mother do the same thing when Nathan died, so I understand it, but I couldn’t participate in the charade.

So we waited in the parking lot, sitting in our car, until the damn thing was over and then some of his friends came with us to the scene of the accident where we had our own little memorial time, and afterward we went to the bar where he’d had the memorial for Nate, and had drinks and cried.

If you watch the movie, you’ll understand why I bring this up.

There’s a part of me that empathizes so completely with the father in this movie.  I get what he was attempting to do for his children.  I understood when he read the will in the church.

I also understand the grandparents and their horror at all of it. I cringed as the kids struggled to interact with their peers. I also noticed how comfortable they were with each other and how uncomfortable they were with outsiders.

Even if the parents actually educate their kids and provide things like shelter and medical care for them, is the isolation in and of itself harmful? Surely different isn’t bad, provided the child knows what the rest of the world sees as normal.

Watch it and see what you think.



27 thoughts on “Friday Night at the Movies”

  1. I loved that movie. I am a sucker for Viggo Mortensen at the best of times, but he was great in this, as were the children. He and his wife did a great job of educating them, in that they taught them to question things, and encouraged critical thinking. However, I do somewhat understand the in-laws perspective as well, although I didn’t agree with it. I can’t really say much more, as I don’t want to spoil it for others…but I will say this – go see it if you haven’t!!


  2. So much death in your life, Sally. Too much. 🙁
    I’m sorry you lost so much in such a short time period.


  3. I’ve seen Captain Fantastic, many months ago while it was in theaters. I thought it was a bit of a dangerous fantasy – and indeed some of it was hard to watch, given the dire, contrasting reality I know to be the Nauglers and their “blessed little homestead”. Regardless, it was a good movie. And I always try to support independent films. Further, I love Viggo Mortenson – my captain, my king!

    The effects of isolation on children are real. They include major stress-induced health risks, such as heart disease, later in life. I just learned this in my health psychology course, this last semester. These are modern stressors with major health implications. Other modern stressors for children include socioeconomic disadvantage and neglect. The health-risks are beyond sobering – they are scary! And one of the studies’ we reviewed, it’s participants were only lower-middle class. I cant imagine the implications for Joe and Nicole Naugler’s children!


  4. He sounded like a wonderfull man. My BP was out of control for years and I ended up with a aortic annurysm. I was forturnate to still be here. I got so tired of hearing God saved you for something, No,, it ws the skill of surgeons that did it. I am so sorry that Nathans friends wishes were not followed. I was one of those for years then woke up that this life is all there is, no afterlife. No asking for things like a kid asking for a BB gun for Xmas, it was freeing to get away


  5. I loved the film:)

    From the first scene, you know these are people who embody a similar world-view as the Nauglers. And your mind does go there. A couple raising their tribe of kids in isolation. Homeschooling deep in the woods somewhere, obsessed with the ills of society and government, feeling smug about the perceived superiority of their position. Children encouraged to kill animals and other such “survival” shit.

    Here are some ways the families differ:

    *Captain Fantastic’s family doesn’t live in shed. He has actual carpentry skills and applies “book learnin” to their construction and to basic needs and conveniences like water, heat, etc.
    *Captain Fantastic’s family is actually SCHOOLED at home. With books, and curriculum strong enough that a child can write the SAT/ACT and knock it out of the park. And a Mom who supports her children going away to college.
    *Education is respected and valued.
    *Captain Fantastic realizes some injuries and illnesses require hospitals and mental health professionals.
    *They stopped at six kids.
    *Mom has teeth.

    But Captain Fantastic’s brood and the Naugs share some problems…

    *Not all the children are happy with the arrangement. Not to spoiler too much, but in one particular scene a VERY angry child picks up a knife with the idea of using it on Dad.
    *Anti-establishment rhetoric is used to manipulate the kids into doing illegal things and feeling justified….setting them up for disaster later.
    *The poor choices of the parents endanger the kids repeatedly, and unnecessarily.
    *The sons are naive to a fault and easily become intensely infatuated with the first pretty girl who pays them attention.

    But here’s the big difference…

    In the end, Captain Fantastic learns from some of his mistakes, has a huge wake up call… and makes some reasonable compromises with his children’s welfare in mind.

    I really don’t think that’s how things will turn out for the Naugs. Time will tell, but they never stop fighting long enough to really reflect.

    Tick. Tick. Tick.

    I enjoyed the film tremendously.


  6. Just watched the movie. I couldn’t find it on Netflix…Thanks for the recommendation. I can’t say that this family is even remotely close to the naugler’s situation. The kids in the movie were actually homeschooled/educated.


  7. Agree with KatataFish’s compare and contrast of “Captain Fantastic” to the Nauglers.
    The Nauglers play at their “convictions” and “intelligence”. Viggo’s character was an intensely educated man who would never subscribe to posting “quotable” memes. He was an intellectual, perhaps with a distorted worldview but his character proved he could compromise on his “ideals” when it impinged on his children’s welfare. He was strict with his children, including not only academics but survival skills such as rock climbing, daily runs through the wilderness, hunting. Imagine Joe huff and puff running up and down steep trails? He can’t even climb out of a ball pit without rolling sideways. Imagine Nicole or Joe having a daily academic schedule? This went the way of “unschooling” (feral) years ago. Captain Fantastic’s family was also TRULY off-grid, disconnected from the internet and social media, no Netflix or Amazon movies. The children had no mindless social media and film entertainment, and were able to focus on studying, albeit in a bubble.

    Sally, your story of PJ was deeply sad with so many parallels to the funeral of Captain Fantastic’s wife. It is mortifying that even in death, some parents superimpose their belief systems on their deceased children. As Khalil Gibran said, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.”

    Whether religious, agnostic, atheist, Statist, populist, anarchist — we do not have the right to hijack our children, to ignore or sabotage their different personal beliefs.


  8. People grieve very differently. And their death rituals are different, too.

    Some people need religious bullshit. Some people need a drunken wake. Some people need a private ritual. Some people need art and music. Some people need humor and tears and launching of lanterns, and bittersweet celebrations. Some people need privacy, and distance and to be allowed to be pissed off for as long as they need. Everyone’s different.

    A good friend of mine once told me his childhood playmate was death. Which I thought was very dramatic until I got to know him better.

    From the time he was two, the family knew his older sister (who was five) was dying of a horrible illness. She finally did die when he was ten. His parents went catatonic, didn’t speak to him for days other than generic obligatory mumbles. Clean that up. Take a bath. Go to bed.

    He says his most vivid memory of his sister’s death was a huge candied ham someone brought over. He ate it, day after day, because his parents had checked out, and he remembers those first weeks in terms of the ham receding as he cut off pieces to feed himself.

    When I was 16, I went to his house after school one day around Christmas. It snowed heavily, and I was invited to stay the night because the roads were too treacherous to drive on. I slept in the dead girl’s room. In an untouched gallery of her brief life, with her strawberry shortcake dolls, and her dresser still messy with drawings and cups full of markers and hair ties. My friend’s mom…WANTED…me to sleep in the room. To have a teen girl sleeping in there in some unfathomably weird way, was comforting to her….so I did.

    I slept in the dead girl’s bed. So did her brother after he snuck in. We talked most of the night about the hurricane that happened two weeks after his sister died, and how his parents chose not to evacuate, probably hoping to die. His mother tried to give him sleeping pills when the storm got close, and took some herself. He spit them out, and remembers playing catch outside in the storm with his father, and how he nearly getting swept away by the waist deep river that had been the road in front of his house. And how they had to wait on the second story of their house for the water to go down. He told me about being sick at his sister’s last birthday party and his father calling him a little bastard for barfing birthday cake on the table and ruining her last birthday on Earth.

    These sound like monstrous people, but they weren’t. They were shattered people driven half mad by grief. You’d look at this nice upper middle class family and think they were lovely people. They had all the right stuff and all the right friends to be lovely people. A nice home, a nice dog. They had families who cared, and a loving community….but they were in hell.

    So, the next day was a snow day. My friend’s folks got out to go to work, sharing a four wheel drive truck, and we were left home alone. I would be taken home when the roads were better that evening.

    I remember sitting on the floor by their Christmas tree, when I noticed a present with my friend’s sister’s name on it. Like…six years after her death….there’s this beautifully wrapped present. Shiny opalescent paper and a silver bow, and her name on the package in silver paint pen.

    Whoah. Does your mom still get her presents every year? Is this like an old one from the year she died?

    And my friend goes…..Shake it.

    So I did. It was heavy and shifted a little. About the size of a shoe box.

    This creepy smile spread across his face.

    What’s in it?

    My sister.


    Her urn. She’s cremated. You just shook my dead sister.

    My reaction must have been priceless, because he keeled over laughing.

    I very carefully put his sister back where I’d found her.

    Why does your mom do that? Why wrap her up like a present? Dude, that’s fucking bizarre!

    I know!

    He keeps laughing….but then he stops and smiles.

    I think it’s her way of keeping her close through the holidays. Having her under the tree is like…having her there ready to open presents with us like old times or something. She’s part of decorating, part of it. I don’t know. My mom is nuts. Oh yeah…and she wraps the present in a different color every year and takes a picture of it. So we have photo albums with me, mom, dad and a box.

    And he starts laughing again.

    Sibling grief is invisible. People don’t think about it. They think kids are resilient. No one remembers that they’re going through their own kind of hell.

    I’m pissed at her. She left me with fucking zombie parents. It’s like a bomb went off. I think they’re divorcing. I have no fucking idea where that leaves me. I miss her and I hate her. And I love her. Cystic bitch. She really liked origami. One time for her birthday, I made hundreds of paper cranes and covered her bed in them while she was asleep, and got her a rectal thermometer. It said RECTAL right on it. We thought that was hysterical.

    My friend had a tough adolescence. He quit the creepy religious college his parents sent him to and hitchhiked around America. Then, he started a different school. He went into a Vedanta Monastery in the middle of no where with the idea of stealing things, and the monks found him, talked to him, and ended up hiring him as a groundskeeper and goat herder. He didn’t plan to stay, but he liked the food. He lived in a cabin without electricity behind the Monastery and was able to finish college. He then moved out west, lived in a tent, and worked as a martial arts instructor through grad school. These days, he teaches creative writing in Pennsylvania.

    When he got married, he asked me to be his best man, in spite of my gender. I made all the flower arrangements for his wedding, including his wife’s bouquet.

    When my dad died, he wasn’t able to come to the funeral, but showed up about a week afterward. We went out to the cemetery and he stood on my Dad’s grave and said, Hey, Mr. Katatafish. How’s it going?

    After a moment of silence, he looked at me and goes…..He hasn’t changed much, has he?

    Which was true…because my dad never really bothered with my friends. He acknowledged them with a grunt if they were lucky…and continued with what he was doing.

    It was well placed humor. The kind only a friend who knows you deeply can pull off. Some people touch us at a depth from which there is no return.

    We laugh to survive.


  9. Free with Amazon Prime. (can be purchased if you don’t have Prime)
    You need a DVD from Netflix.


  10. The story of PJ’s funeral broke my heart.
    I can understand parents needing to grieve in their own way, but to do so in a way that completely contradicts their child’s beliefs is both sad and arrogant.
    I am so glad that you and his other friends were able to have your own private memorial.
    And I hate preachers who ‘take over’ someone at death to be of their views!


  11. People grieve very differently.

    I completely concur with all of that. Beautiful stuff, BTW.

    But it’s the height of something wrong to try to paint your dead child as something he wasn’t. It wasn’t her grief that bothered me – I knew all about grief. It was the dishonesty about who PJ was.

    By the way, we have Nathan’s ashes (or some of them, actually a very small portion of them) in a beer stein on his piano in our living room. When we drove down from Alaska, moving south, it was February and well below zero for the whole Alaska Highway. I wouldn’t pack that beer stein away. I kept it in the cab of the UHaul with us, and took it into the motel every night. It was irrational, but something like wrapping the ashes like a present. I totally get it.


  12. This reminds me of a part of S-Town. No more on that so as not to spoil it for those who haven’t listened yet.

    I’ve homeschooled and known/been around them for the past 20 years, although not as much in the past 5.

    I’ve seen those that did great jobs, and their kids are well socialized and accomplished adults now.

    But I’ve also seen it go bad and actually know people whose adult homeschool kids are doing a correspondence course college course because the “world is so evil.”

    No doubt the world is evil, but still, you have to learn to make your way in it.


  13. No doubt the world is evil,

    Well, most of the world is not one bit evil. It’s actually pretty excellent. 🙂 But yeah, I get the point.


  14. These sound like monstrous people, but they weren’t. They were shattered people driven half mad by grief. You’d look at this nice upper middle class family and think they were lovely people. They had all the right stuff and all the right friends to be lovely people. A nice home, a nice dog. They had families who cared, and a loving community….but they were in hell.

    Anyone else find themselves remembering the movie “Ordinary People” all of a sudden? I doubt I’m the only one. Mary Tyler Moore earned an Oscar for her role.

    I’m glad your friend didn’t succumb & was there with you. I hope his parents found better ways of coping, KatataFish.


  15. I get it too….as an adult. As a sixteen year old, not so much. Your story is heartfelt, Sally.

    I had another crazy friend (a guy who had actually hitchhiked around the country with the first guy…we were all pretty close) whose dad was bringing in firewood when he slipped on ice and drove an arthritic bone fragment into his spinal cord. Cervical…not good.

    This was a TOUGH situation. This guy, Jeffie….was living with a cult in Hawaii when his mom called him home to say good bye to his dad before turning life support off.

    His Dad, Woody….was hell bent never to live on life support. He’d told everyone this. Was written in his will. Was a no brainer, he was very clear he wanted to be turned off and not live as a quadropelegic.

    So something awful happened. Woody woke up and started to improve. He had intermittent tingling and sensation in one hand. He was staying stable longer each time they removed him from the ventilator. He couldn’t talk, but he could blink and use alphabet cards and make his wishes very very clear. He was in there. There wasn’t a thing wrong with his mind.

    Tragically, if he had had the choice to die if he wanted to…..he would have taken six months to see how much function he could regain before making the decision. But because his options were limited….he chose the sure ticket out. He chose to end life support and die while he was still dependent on it.

    Believe it or not….THIS isn’t the awful part of the story….because his family honored his wishes. It was horrible, but they were all on the same page.

    The awful part came when our classmate Matt…who had recently become a Baptist minister….showed up.

    He got up at Woody’s funeral and told about seeing Woody at the hospital…. and that Woody binked twice to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior….so clearly he was in heaven and all was well…and he’s a fine example to us all….

    I hadn’t planned to, but I got up to speak.

    Woody was a college professor. Politically, he was mixed bag, he was pretty liberal socially, but liked his guns. We’d talked about religion a few times and he said he didn’t have much use for it. He didn’t go to any churches, didn’t pray, never really mentioned it. Most interesting of all, once day Woody disclosed that had been raised Jewish.

    A lot of people were really suprised, and Jeff’s mom looked relieved I was following up with this factual account of Woody’s “faith” after Matt’s misrepresentation.

    This of course was complicated by the fact that Jeffie had been in love with Matt since freshman year….and part of the reason he was in the cult had to do with running from his homosexuality.

    So it was still sort of a mess.

    But yeah…wow…it’s bad enough when a family member misrepresents a person’s beliefs. There are people who are so aggressively religious that they’d do that to a grieving family….they’ll take right over and start manufacturing shit. It’s obscene.

    My favorite part of Woody’s memorial was the wreath we made. Jeffie and I went for a long walk out by the lake where his dad loved to hunt and fish and chop wood….where he lived…where he was happiest….and we cut a bunch of sprigs of spruce and white pine and cedar and curls of birch bark, and artist fungus, turkey feathers and pine cones and these weird shiny red berries that were probably poisonous….all just stuff we found. And we took them home and dumped them on the dining room table….. and me and Jeff and his mom made Woody a wreath. And it came out amazingly beautiful. Everyone admired it because it was so utterly….him.

    That was the best part. Because if felt like the one part of the whole mess Woody would have liked.


  16. Dear Sally,

    Given your own religious upbringing, the school you attended and later, the epiphany that freed you from Christianity, I do believe you might find The Keepers a compelling watch. …But surely you must receive far too many recommendations from your readers as it is, so it is with humility that I recommend this to you, nonetheless – it’s that compelling!

    The trailer is here; “The Keepers”, on Netflix.

    It is centered on the lives of these young girls – now, much older woman – who were raised in a heavily Catholic town, all of whom attended one particular private Catholic High School in the 70’s. The series documents their individual, inter-connected stories; the powerful, religious polarization they experienced as naive teenagers, and what it all has to do with the disappearance of young Nun who taught at the school. It’s shocking but well-grounded. Complete with plot-twists and scandal! The direction is engaging too, for a documentary. I am already on episode 5!

    Anyway. If anyone out there has Netflix, give The Keepers a try! 🙂

    Speaking of Catholicism! If anyone cares to read, this is just a personal anecdote:
    Out of curiosity, I found one of the few remaining Papal-approved Catholic Churches in CA that holds a traditional Latin mass, aka Tridentine Mass. I just had to go. There are strict dress-requirements under cannon law, but I had fun planning and styling my look. I wore a refined dark green silk blouse, with a full-length, high-waist black skirt and a black lace head-covering – I looked and felt like a glamorous madonna. …And although I am an atheist, in summary, it was a beautiful service – a beautiful experience that brought me closer to my paternal Grandmother (RIP), who not only came here from Mexico as an immigrant, she came from a very Catholic upbringing and maintained its practice until her passing. So now, even as an atheist, I can see why or how Church is important regardless – you see, this connection I felt with my Grandmother was as spiritual a connection I have ever felt – I felt like I was honoring her life while I was in that building, adhering to her traditions and Canon law. Maybe the traditional Latin hymns just got to me, like an emotional trigger? They too were absolutely beautiful.

    Best wishes to everyone out there on the other side! Have a blessed day – one with running water and septic! In other words, treat ‘yo self!


  17. Most interesting of all, once day Woody disclosed that had been raised Jewish.

    That sort of thing infuriates me. I’m indifferent to religion. Interesting to study, no – I don’t believe in an omnipotent, omniscient something or other that started everything, etc. So when my paternal grandfather’s name showed up on the list of “posthumous baptisms” by the LDS church, despite a lifetime of Catholicism, I blew a gasket. I had to go to the parish priest and he had to go higher up and THEY had to go have words with them to have his name removed. Plus the LDS have been told to knock it off and quit misappropriating the identities of Jewish people (yet Anne Frank and others still are on that damn list), as well as by the Catholic church.

    It’s a form of identity theft and it’s incredibly arrogant. They’re co-opting people’s beliefs and in a manner it reflects what Joe and Nicole do. If you repeat a lie often enough, you can drown out those who are telling the truth. Or maybe that is where Joe and Nicole got the idea.

    The truth is that my grandfather who fought in WWII, traveled extensively internationally with my grandmother in the decades after WWII, donated money to various causes (including those that weren’t affiliated with the Catholic church) and was a sharp businessman was perfectly aware of the LDS church. If he had been interested, he would have converted before his death. No need to try and pretend that he needed to have his name added to some list about “posthumous baptisms”.

    The Catholic church is a white-hot mess and I have no use for it, except that one time. He was horrified by the scandals that rocked the church because he was a good man – but he didn’t step away from it. So yeah, I really resent anyone in the LDS who says, “Well, it doesn’t mean anything really. It’s an offer.” If it didn’t have meaning to you, then why add peoples’ names to that fucking list? Particularly as they’re now HIDING it from the public so they can continue to DO IT? I don’t trust them. Not one fucking little bit.

    “One scandal that came out earlier in the campaign was that members of Mr Romney’s family allegedly performed a posthumous baptism on his wife Ann’s atheist father, Edward Roderick Davies.”


  18. “The Vatican directed its clergy to keep their parish records from Mormon genealogists, in an effort to hinder Mormon baptisms for their dead members, even though Catholics believe that the baptisms have no authority.”

    Fuckers. It’s still insulting and I hope if any of the readers know anyone doing this, they tell them to knock it the fuck off. The fact that list is no longer public means that the church is slyly giving a little wink, nod and turning their heads.

    After all, if they were so certain of it, it would be made readily available rather than being done in the dark.

    The only thing that they care about is their pile of money. Ditto for the Catholic church, but at least they aren’t wandering through graveyards, scribbling down names and then pretending people are something after death that they weren’t in their lifetimes.


  19. Last one, I promise!

    I found it in this article:

    Rituals regarding the death of a loved one are designed to bring comfort to the living, but they are not supposed to lie about the dead, either. I wonder why it isn’t enough to join family and friends together to remember the person – warts and all.

    It’s why I sat shiva for a friend’s mother who died of ovarian cancer (she was also my friend). She donated her body to USUHS and I went to the ceremony after her cremation too. She wasn’t perfect, nor was she religious. Fortunately, no one in her family respected her enough not to try and make believe she was someone she wasn’t just to have a ceremony that she would have never agreed to while alive.

    My favorite part of Woody’s memorial was the wreath we made. Jeffie and I went for a long walk out by the lake where his dad loved to hunt and fish and chop wood….where he lived…where he was happiest….and we cut a bunch of sprigs of spruce and white pine and cedar and curls of birch bark, and artist fungus, turkey feathers and pine cones and these weird shiny red berries that were probably poisonous….all just stuff we found. And we took them home and dumped them on the dining room table….. and me and Jeff and his mom made Woody a wreath. And it came out amazingly beautiful. Everyone admired it because it was so utterly….him.

    That was the best part. Because if felt like the one part of the whole mess Woody would have liked.

    Why in the world would anyone think that this wasn’t the best way to honor someone? I’m sorry that your friend’s dad and his family had to deal with this but I’m glad you, Jeffie and his mom had this moment together. It didn’t make the whole fiasco right, but at least it made some small portion of it a little bit better.


  20. LP….there are no non-“Papal approved” Catholic churches or masses….they’re all…every last one of them…sanctioned by the Vatican. That’s why Vatican Two was so important. Because churches wanted to be able to say mass in English and had to wait until approval from the Pope. Before the 1960’s ALL masses were said in Latin.

    And there’s no dress code. You can go to a Latin mass, or any mass… in rags if you want to. No one will say a word. There are no bouncers. LOL.

    The old gals will probably wear hats, but no one really cares. You are not required to wear chapel veils…blah blah. Anyone saying so is giving you misinformation. But you can if you want to…and it’s a neato steampunky look, so knock yourself out. LOL.

    It’s kinda weird to go to a mass where there priest has his back to you the whole time…but whatevs…Catholics are weird.

    What most people don’t understand about Catholocism, is that the slant it takes on…socially, politically, etc….is very regional. Yep, there are ultra fundie Baptisty Catholics in the Bible belt. Out East, you’ll find Catholics who are very Mainland Protestanty. In Vermont, you’ll find damned near Unitarian Catholics. In the Dominican Republic you’ll find Catholics who practice with a side order of Voodoo. (not kidding) You’ll find Catholics on both sides of the political spectrum and everywhere in between. Pro Life and Pro Choice, Pro and Anti Gun Control, Pro and Anti Assisted Suicide, Pro and Anti Death Pentalty. There are extremely Liberal Catholics and extremely Conservative Catholics. There’s a massive diversity of races and cultures, too.

    I was raised Catholic. The whole banana. First Communion, Confession, Confirmation…Encounter Christ retreats….all of it. And with only a couple of sticky spots…I was treated really well by the Catholic Church. Rebellious justice seeker than I am…..I was very lucky to have a really cool Irish priest at my church who found me really amusing.

    I think I was ten the first time I went to see Fr. Fitz and told him I didn’t want to be Catholic anymore. LOL. He of course asked why. I told him I thought it was unfair that women could ‘t be priests and I think the church got that wrong. He smiled and told me a lot of people agree with me, and that someday he hoped it would change, because he personally felt women would make great priests.

    So what’s the hold up?
    The Pope. He makes the rules.
    Well, he’s wrong.
    I agree. But he thinks he’s right.
    What’s it like to work for a guy like that?

    Father Fitz asked me if I wanted to be a communion server. Our church had never had an “Alter-Girl” before. He said maybe if I did a good job, I could help change minds about women priests. That’s the kinda guy he was. Someone who encouraged fights against injustice.

    This of course caused all sorts of trauma for the blue hairs, but most people liked it, and at that particular church there are still female communion servers. (the kids who swing the incense and rings the bells and crap like that.) One year, I was snuffing candles after mass and accidentally snuffed out the eternal flame (the candle that is NEVER supposed to go out and is lit from one Easter candle to the next each year…I was horrified) Fitz didn’t miss a beat. He whipped out a bic lighter, lit it again and went…Shhhh! And winked.

    Fitz was a good dude. He knew I’d eventually cross over to being a disbeliever, and he understood why. We had a lot of lively conversations, and he never played apologist for the church’s shit decisions. He was almost always on my side. Interesting to note, Fitz’s best friend in town wasn’t another of the parish priests. His best friend, who he played chess with every Sunday afternoon, and went to baseball games with… was the local Rabbi.

    Fitz knew I was an atheist when I got married. He knew my husband was, too. I asked him if he’d marry us anyway, because I couldn’t imagine anyone I would rather do that kind of thing….and I knew it would make my mom happy. My mother still thinks I’m Catholic. I could join Al-Queida and she’d just say I was just a “bad Catholic” LOL! She knows I’m about as Atheist as Richard Dawkins…but that still just makes me a “bad Catholic”. Sometimes I bring a cheese ball shaped like Jesus to Easter. Cheesus. My brother the Baptist Bible Banger says my Cheesus Ball is “Sacrilicious” (and yes, I can provide a photo of this)

    At the end of my wedding…where the officiant typically says….I’d like to present to you Mr. and Mrs. Husband’s Surname. Instead, Fitz said, I’d like to present to you my irreplaceable friend Katatafish Surname Hyphen Husband’s Surname….and her adoring husband, Jack. It was perfect. We wrote our own vows, and got married in a huge empty cathedral on a Thursday afternoon with eleven friends and family. And Fitz, who I maintained a friendship with until he died a few years back.

    I wish I could tell good Catholic horror stories. My brothers went to Catholic school and they have doozies about the nuns. Later, we moved, and I ended up going to public school. The only nun I ever knew was a lesbian nun at our retreats, who was quiet and kind and liked to arrange canoe trips. I always had Fitz, and he and I always understood each other. My experience was so much different than theirs.

    One of my very closest friends was molested by priests in Europe and the church covered it up. I can’t rectify the horror of that betrayal. I can’t support the church, or be it’s apologist. What happened was sick beyond measure. I know it happened in the states, too. A LOT of sick things happened in the church that cannot and will not (by me) be forgiven. Ever. Some crimes are a bridge too far.

    But myself, personally? I was treated very fairly. I was shown compassion and friendship and decency. I have good memories of Fitz saying midnight mass, going to dances at youth group, having community festivals and events, doing volunteer work. There were others in the church hierarchy that took offense to my questions and criticisms, but Fitz always had my back and said I had a right to express myself. I have great memories of talking for hours with Fitz about the true archeological records of Jesus, and about my evolution as a disbeliever. He was never once patronizing or disparaging. I always felt heard and respected. I got the sense that he understood quite a lot about questioning one’s faith.

    Fitz wrote amazing poetry and short stories about the traveling he did in his youth, the humanitarian projects he helped with, the protests he was a part of, the people he met. I will always think he was a truly good man. Flawed, like everyone else, but genuinely decent.

    And the priests who raped my friend as a child in an orphanage? If I wouldn’t be prosecuted, I would kill them. Without a second thought. With no guilt. And no regret.

    So yeah…there’s my Catholic ramble. For what it’s worth.

    I think it’s funny that my best memories of Catholicism have more to do with skepticism and protest…. than faith.


  21. Funerals are for the living, you can either show your love and respect for one who has passed by honoring their wishes, or you can be selfish and disrespect them and do as you wish.


  22. Our son died at 76 days old. My husbands family had a Christian shitfit, yanno judging but never brand enough to say it directly to us, about our choice to cremate him. While we’ve always been realistic enough that it could happen to the point of having life insurance on everyone no one who loses their child suddenly preplans their funeral. We didn’t have his service in a church, no preacher because exactly what you said Sally. No one is using my kids death as a “reason” to indoctrine anyone into religion. No hell fire brimstone or promises of a magical afterlife if you can praise a god through all the horrible shit that happens in life here on earth. Our daughter played with balloons danced and sang and yes I laughed. I had to you laugh to keep from going insane.
    We had him cremated because at the time my husband was active duty and we were 5000 miles from “home”, I wasn’t about to leave my Baby there and couldn’t leave him at home. So for now he’s on our mantel we celebrate his life on his birthday, he gets no candles and he’ll never be any older. One day my husband was vacuuming and the cord kept getting in the way so he tucked the cord behind baby’s urn and said “you’re one of the kids too, you’re not getting outta chores” our other kids looked horrified but busted out laughing because if he were still alive he’d have heard the same thing.
    I also think it helps them understand that just because someone is gone you don’t have to forget them and it’s ok to be happy. We had pictures done his funeral at first my husband was against it, and we don’t hang them on the wall obviously, but for us and for him his death is part of his life.
    Sorry for the rambling been up all night and at the airport.


  23. LP, thank you for the recommendation, I’m about to start The Keepers series now!


  24. I’m about to start The Keepers series now!

    I already did. I’m on the second episode. Rabbit hole. OMG.


  25. I watched Captain Fantastic over the weekend. It was good! I was pretty skeptical at first but I found it was worth the watch. I watch TV while I’m sewing or some other sedentary activity, my mind is always going and can’t handle being bored. I tried the Keepers too as suggested by a friend of mine but I just couldn’t get into it. I’m going to try that whole audio book thing again though. I tried it for my drive to and from work (half hour each way) and it just didn’t capture me like reading it myself. I’m a huge podcaster though! My car is in the shop and our spare car is…..tape deck! It’s the first car I ever bought, we take good care of that old fart. So I am currently podcastless until my car is fixed and home.


  26. Thanks for the suggestion- fascinating movie. This is my first time commenting here. I enjoy reading your blog; you’re an excellent writer. And the comments are just as interesting!

    I’m big into documentaries and couldn’t help but think of the parallels between the Naugler’s and a film called “Following Sean” (albeit the families live(d) under entirely different circumstances). It was on Netflix years ago, but I can’t seem to find it anymore. It was a follow-up to a short documentary film from 1970 called “Sean” (which is on YouTube). He was a child that lived sort of free-range in San Francisco in the 60’s/70’s. There is, however, a French version on YouTube of the follow-up doc, and you can hear adult Sean at the end speak about his father’s need for “freedom”. Such similar rhetoric. It is an encouraging film though. I highly recommend it if you get a chance to view it.

    And I just finished ‘The Keepers’. Wow. I worked at Johns Hopkins and passed the Basilica every day…I’m not catholic but grew up with friends/family friends that went to Seton Keough up until its closing (I’m in my mid-20’s…there are few catholic girls schools around here from what I’ve heard) and had coworkers who went there in the 80’s…they had absolutely no idea. They recognized footage from inside school itself… sickening to say the least. I was absolutely dumbstruck watching the series. Just moved out of Baltimore in April…it’s a complex place, for lack of a better word. I do not miss it.

    Anyway. Just wanted to share that if you like documentaries. Keep on exposing the truth, and I can only hope that there will be a promising future for some of the family members like Sean showed us.


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