Who gave my e-mail address to the Neptune Society?

Okay, people, I know that the Neptune Society is a reputable organization founded in 1973 to take the fear out of cremation. But seriously, if and when I need their help, I’ll call them. I didn’t really need to find a link to a free creamation planning guide in my inbasket. (I think the guide was free, not the cremation.)

Cremation Preplanning Guide - Neptune SocietySure, it’s like writing a will. Smart people take care of it when they’re twenty years old so that if they kick the bucket, everything’s taken care of. Look how happy the people in this graphic are. But seriously, I’m not ready to be that happy, so I’m considering e-mails about this guide to be SPAM. Quality SPAM, perhaps, but TMI for now.

I’ve graciously added a link to this graphic to that if you want to “Create Peace of Mind by Planning your Cremation in Advance,” you can take the necessary steps before it’s too late.

In general, I consider cremation a good idea, but think it works best for people who have died (aka “passed”). I don’t believe assisted cremation is legal in most states except, perhaps, despair and maybe Florida.

When I find out who sent my name to the Neptune Society, I’m going to send his or her name to the funeral home in their town so they can have peace of mind and maybe even 50% off on a mahogany casket with WiFi and a bell you can ring if they’re buried before they’re ready.

Those of us who remember seeing “Diamonds are Forever” (1971) still have nightmares from the scene in which James Bond is stuffed in a casketed headed for the cremation facilities. So, getting an e-mail for this planning guide creates unusual and unwanted PTSD episodes along with dreams about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (That’s not a rock group.)

Sure, I know the good die young. That’s why I’ve done my best not to be good.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the satircal novel “Special Investigative Reporter.”


What’s your greatest COVID Fear?

COVID Vaccines

The statistics aren’t getting any better, though I believe there’s hope for an end to this pandemic as several countries have approved the Pfizer vaccine and the U.S. is considering it. Some say that there may be additional vaccines up for approval before Spring arrives.

Does the possibility of a vaccine make you feel better about things or are you in a wait-and-see mode about that?

Pandemic Lockdowns

It appears that large groups of people congregating together tend to lead to subsequent surges in new COVID cases, yet others are arguing that the lockdowns are worse than the disease because they impact our income and subsequently our financial ability to take care of ourselves.

Do you see the lockdowns as a blessing or a curse?

Hospitals at Capacity

Recent news stories are showing that the U.S. hospital system has very few beds available suggesting, some say, that hospitals will triage all prospective new COVID patients and accept those with the best chance of survival.

Do you worry about getting the virus and finding out there’s no care available?

Nursing Homes

The latest “AARP Bulletin” calls the COVID problems at nursing homes “An American Tragedy,” stating that “Fewer than 1% of Americans live in long-term care facilities. But 40% of COVID-19 deaths have occurred there.”

What bothers you the most, the fact that an elderly family member or friend is in a nursing home (and cannot receive visitors) or that at your age, you’re one medical problem away from being put in a nursing home that you may never leave?

Inconsistent Pandemic Advice

Lockdowns, business closures, masks, and prospective personal safety habits vary from state to state and seem to change weekly depending on which way the wind is blowing. Many stores require masks for shoppers even though their states have no over-all mask mandate.

Does this chaos make you feel more vulnerable or do you feel relatively safe by limiting trips outside your home and wearing a mask whenever you have to go shopping?

Worst COVID Fear

When people tell their COVID stories to reporters or send them to news sites that are publishing them, they echo some of the concerns mentioned here but also mention other fears that haunt their families, towns, and neighborhoods.

How about you? Do you have worries that aren’t mentioned in this post?


Gosh, is so and so still alive?

Do you ever see news stories about authors and actors you thought long gone and think, “Gosh, is s/he still alive?” Or, if the story is an obituary notice, one’s response might be, “Gee, I thought they were already dead.”

On Facebook, it’s not always easy to tell. Occasionally somebody posts a link to an obituary and people think, “Oh no,” and then somebody says, “Hey guys, this happened last year.”

The bottom line is this: the general population thinks the elderly are already dead–or should be. People assume Clint Eastwood will be directing and starring in movies with Oscar buzz when he’s 120. But, if you’re not old and not Clint Eastwood, folks assume your dead.

I assumed Don DeLillo was dead until he released a new book this year. Good for you, I thought. My mood went downhill quickly when one critic said the novel looked like a rough draft of one of the author’s earlier novels. Hell, he’s 84, give him a break.

Some of the confusion comes from the romance novel biz in which the books of dead authors keep getting released under new titles. Years ago, a lot of people thought Victoria Holt was still alive when she wasn’t while others thought she was dead before she was.

I wonder how many people think Tom Clancy is still alive and still writing “Op Center” novels.

Every year about this time, we start seeing such headlines as “People We Lost This Year.” I think we also need, “People We Lost Who We Presumed were Already Long Gone” and “People We Presumed Were Long Gone Who Are Still With Us.” In the political arena, we need “People Who Are Still Alive Who Shouldn’t Be.”

Sure, this sounds rather cynical, but the public needs somebody out there “keeping score” to keep us from stumbling into so many faux pas.

I think now of the Lee Marvin character in “Cat Ballou” in which he and his horse were always drunk. He stumbled into a funeral thinking it was a birthday celebration and acted accordingly. I hate it when that happens.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s novel “Special Investigative Reporter” is filled with one faux pas after another.

Las Vegas – those we mourn

Our mourning does not begin and end with the dead. It includes the injured, the relatives of the dead and injured, their friends, their co-workers, and the others attending the concert. It includes the first responders and those at the hospitals where the dead and injured we carried. The list has no end.

Here are the dead whose names we know at this point:

Wikipedia map.

Hannah Ahlers, Murrieta, Calif.
Heather Alvarado, 35, Cedar City, Utah
Neysa Tonks, 46, Las Vegas, Nev.
Thomas Day Jr., 54, Corona, Calif.
Melissa Ramirez, 26, Los Angeles, Calif.
Jack Beaton, 54, Bakersfield, Calif.
Christiana Duarte, 22, Redondo Beach, Calif.
Denise Burditus, 50, Martinsburg, W.Va.
Dorene Anderson, 49, Anchorage, Alaska
Adrian Murfitt, 35, Anchorage, Alaska
Lisa Patterson, Lomita, Calif.
Jennifer Irvine, 42, San Diego, Calif.
John Phippen, 56, Santa Clarita, Calif.
Michelle Vo, 32, Los Angeles
Charleston Hartfield, 34, Henderson, Nev.
Rocio Guillen Rocha, 40, Eastvale, Calif.
Jenny Parks, 35, Palmdale, Calif.
Angie Gomez, 20, Riverside, Calif.
Jordan McIldoon, 23, Maple Ridge, Canada
Bailey Schweitzer, 20, Bakersfield, Calif.
Christopher Roybal, 28, Corona, Calif.
Stacee Etcheber, 50, Novato, Calif.
Carrie Barnette, 34, Riverside, Calif.
Susan Smith, 53, Simi Valley, Calif.
Jessica Klymchuk, 34, Canada.
Rhonda LeRocque, 42, Tewksbury, Ma.
Quinton Robbins, 20, Henderson, Nev.
Dana Gardner, 52, Grand Terrace, Calif.
Sonny Melton, 29, Big Sandy, Tenn.
Lisa Romero-Muniz, 48, Gallup, N.M.
Sandy Casey, 35, California
Rachael Parker, 33, Manhattan Beach, Calif.

The murderer is also dead, but I won’t sully the names of the innocent by including the guilty.

We’re slowly hearing information about the dead in addition to their names: their lives, their jobs, their photographs. We’re also hearing stories about those who helped and saved others in the middle of this tragedy.  There were many heroes. We may never know the names of all of the dead and injured, the first responders and hospital personnel, or the heroes on the scene who pulled people out of harm’s way.

Journalists and others who keep records will call this the worst shooting in the United States. Others will discuss prospective gun control legislation and concert security measures. This is probably necessary as long as we don’t forget those who died, those who were injured, and those who tried to help them. The real tragedy is what happened at ground zero, and those who were in that place are those we mourn.


See the CNN In Memoriam Page for updates.

The tragic losses of 2016

Americans like statistics almost as much as baseball aficionados. As we wend our way toward the end of a year, we see them, those statistics.

  • Most important news stories
  • Best books of the year
  • Top-earning movies of the year
  • Deaths of famous people.

In the social media, people have been saying 2016 is a bad year for the high number of deaths of famous people, most recently Carrie Fisher and Watership Down author Richard Adams. And a few days ago, George Michael. Those who die younger than some unknown age are said to have died too soon. Even so, the loss of people who have lived well past the normal life expectancy is said to be tragic.

statsCelebrities impact us in larger-than-life ways. So, it’s not surprising that the deaths of well-known people impact us more than the numbers of people who died in Aleppo or the fact that traffic fatalities exceed the death tolls of most (if not all) of our wars.

So, we mourn the losses of the rich and famous whom we don’t personally know as though they are close friends and family. Those we don’t know, aren’t on our radar because–suffice it to say–in spite of the large numbers of dead in Aleppo, there’s no apparent connection between us.

That lack of an apparent connection is one thing that, quite possibly, keeps us sane as individuals, for we do not have the capacity to mourn everyone who dies with the same level of grief that’s present when we lose a spouse, parent, or child–or, apparently, a celebrity.

In some ways, celebrities are stand-ins for the heroes of old, and we celebrate them for doing and being what we believe everyone should be capable of doing and being; likewise, we chide them and turn on them when they disappoint us almost as though they’re our own wayward children.

How odd life and death are. We know in our hearts that everyone dies, yet express surprise when they do. As a writer, I often wrestle with this seeming paradox, but I have to tell you I haven’t come up with a suitable answer to it. In my other blog, I wrote that It’s hard to say goodbye to Princes Leia.  And it is. It seems natural that it is and it seems ironic that it is when those closer to home who are, say, friends of a friend impact me less. I hate to dismiss all this with something lame like “that’s just the way people are.”

Perhaps like Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, I mourned the loss of Janis Joplin in 1970 while wondering why I was mourning her loss. Yes, I liked her music. But I never met her, never saw her in a concert, didn’t have an autographed picture of her, hadn’t memorized her discography, and didn’t drink Southern Comfort. But still, I felt bad about it more than just shaking my head at the lost potential of her “going too soon,” “dying too young,” and the other things people said when when she was gone.

I still don’t understand the tragic nature of death or why the deaths of strangers often impact us more than the deaths of people who, by all reasonable statistics, are much closer to us. But mourning is what we do in good faith and quite naturally, so other than wondering about it as an author might, I can only say that it’s the way things are. That’s okay, I guess.


Rolled Carpet: Dead Body Not Included

Several of us were “talking” on Facebook this morning about the fact we can’t see a rolled up carpet alongside the road without thinking there’s a dead body in it.

If any organized crime enforcers are reading this blog, I have a question: Do real killers roll bodies up in carpets?

If a cop or a nosy neighbor sees a couple of guys putting a roll of carpet in the trunk of a car at night, you’d think the scene would be a dead give-away.

This picture probably causes nightmares.
This picture probably causes nightmares.

Perhaps we’ve seen too much TV where bodies are lamely rolled up in carpets. A popular show last year showed a bunch of college students moving a body that way. Gosh, if that’s the disposal method of choice for students, just think about older people who’ve seen a thousand crime shows where carpets and the dead always went out in the trash together.

When I see ads for rolled up carpet, I expect a disclaimer at the bottom that says: Dead Body Not Included.

There must be a better way of removing the dead from our presence that doesn’t attract attention. The wood chipper in Fargo had possibilities until a lot of people saw the movie and assumed that if they heard a wood chipper at night, somebody was going to be reported missing in the morning.

The TV series Bones finds interesting (and usually gross) ways of disposing of bodies at the beginning of each show. They seem to like the “high yuck” factor to attract the disturbed segment of the population.

As an author, I speculate about this kind of thing for research purposes.  However, what with the feds spying on us, it’s become harder and harder to do Google searches like “How Can I Hide Uncle Ned’s Body” without some web crawler bot finding it and flagging the query at one of the alphabet soup agencies that claims it isn’t watching for key words like “body” and “rolled up carpet.”

We hear on TV and the Internet that cops think cop shows are unrealistic. They could help. All it would take would be a web page with information like this:

  • How to put granny on an ice floe without getting caught.
  • How to poison your husband/wife so that even Abby on NCIS won’t figure out how it happened.
  • How to dispose of a body without getting caught by the police.
  • How to successfully launder money, hire a hit man, move weapons around the country, and get away with running a numbers racket out of your kitchen.

Frankly, all of us would benefit from this kind of information: (a) authors would make books and screen plays more realistic, (b) readers/viewers would have higher quality entertainment, (c) kids would stop getting scared when they see rolls of carpet in the ditch because nobody would be using carpet improperly any more.

Those of us who have been scarred for life worrying about what’s in rolls of carpet would finally know that carpets are safe.  The country would save billions of dollars that go to therapists who are helping patients cope with this problem. (My guess is that most health insurance companies don’t over “Carpet Phobia.)

Personally, when I see a roll of carpet, I want to visualize how beautiful it will look in the living room rather than thinking, “hmm, I have seen Dad for a couple of days.”


AtSeaBookCoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of “At Sea,” “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Sarabande,” and other books in which no dead guys have been rolled up in a carpet.

Amazon Author’s Page

The Messy Spiral of Grief

patToday’s guest post about grief and coping with the death of a spouse or a life mate, is by author Pat Bertram (“Light Bringer,” “Daughter Am I,” “More Deaths Than One” “A Spark of Heavenly Fire”)  who, I’m happy to say, has stopped by Malcolm’s Round Table several times before for some great discussions.

Pat’s most recent book is “Grief: The Great Yearning.”

The Messy Spiral of Grief

I am no stranger to grief. In December, 2006, I lost my younger brother, and exactly a year later, I lost my mother. I thought I knew what grief was all about, but the grief over those deaths in no way prepared me for the depth and breadth of the grief I experienced after the loss of my life mate/soul mate.

I’d known he was dying, and I’d prepared myself for the inevitable — in fact, at the moment of his death, I felt only relief that his suffering was over. When I returned home without him, I realized he was truly gone, and grief slammed into me with such ferocity it stunned me. It wasn’t just mental agony, but also physical pain. My chest ached so much I felt sure my heart had shattered. My stomach hurt. My arms ached. I felt dizzy and nauseous. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t swallow, couldn’t even think. The only way I could relieve the incredible stress was to scream. And so I did.

One of the worst aspects of grief was the feeling of his goneness. I could feel the void in my life and my soul where he’d been ripped from me, but I couldn’t sense him at all. Toward the end, as we struggled to go our separate ways — he to death, me to continued life — we spent much of our time in separate rooms, and somehow I figured that’s what it would feel like after he died, but it was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I still have no words to describe the finality, the undoableness, the vacuum of death. He was part of my life for thirty-four years. We breathed the same air. We were connected by our thoughts, our shared experiences, the zillion words we’d spoken to each other. And then he was gone from this earth. Erased. Deleted. Almost three years later, I still can’t wrap my mind around that.

griefOne of the ways I handled my grief from the beginning was to write letters to him. For all those years, I’d talked over everything with him, and I desperately needed to talk to him about this horror that had befallen us. So I wrote him. Sometimes it even made me feel connected to him for a few brief moments, as if perhaps we were still in this situation together. I also did some stream of consciousness writing to help me try to figure out what was going on.

My grief, and the grief of most people I have met since, does not follow the neat timeline of Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief. Grief is such a messy spiral of hundreds of different physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual permutations that it’s almost impossible to know what is going on, and writing helped me make sense of it.

I never intended to make my grief public, but shortly after he died, I read a novel about a woman who lost her husband, and the only acknowledgment of her grief was a single sentence: She went through all five of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief. That so appalled me that I decided to tell the truth about grief after the loss of a spouse, if for nothing else, to keep novelists from such superficial descriptions.

Selections from my letters, journal entries, and blogs have been combined into a book, Grief: The Great Yearning, which chronicles my struggle to survive the first year after his death. Grief: The Great Yearning was published by Second Wind Publishing, and is available from Amazon, B&N, and other online stores.

Pat’s Website: http://www.patbertram.com/

Pat’s Blog: http://ptbertram.wordpress.com/