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Sally Forth: And So I Googled…

Posted in Uncategorized by cesco7 on November 8, 2017

As many of you may know by now, the current Sally Forth story arc is a in memoriam/grieving process/farewell (but one never truly says goodbye) to my father, Frank Marciuliano, who passed away last November.

It has been a break from the strip’s usual humor (or usual attempt at humor), building not only on a story that started last Christmas but on a relationship that has been portrayed in the comic for almost as many years as I’ve been writing it. For many, it has been a cathartic experience and healing process, as readers have shared their own experiences and hopefully found a community of individuals who have lost a loved one but hopefully have found they are not alone when it comes to handling grief and the months/years afterwards. For others, it has been an unfunny, unending slog that has generated such comments as “Comics should only be funny. Period.” “This is not what I want to see first thing in the morning.” And “You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

To the former group, thank you very, very much for opening up to us, for reading, and for understanding what we hoped to achieve. To the latter group, I completely understand. Many people view entertainment as a means of escape from reality, not a reminder. And we cannot nor should not tell them they should perceive our work.

Now, I have found that sometimes when a show/movie/strip tackles the concept of death, often the passing is the closing chapter to the story. And in that sense seeing Ted and his mother hug in the long empty hallway should be the closure for both that arc and the characters. (Please see Jim Keefe’s wonderful post on how he drew that very strip.) But as anyone who has lost a loved one knows, that is the start of the next process. For just when you need the time to grieve, to try to grasp what has happened, that is precisely when you have to go into overdrive and address one necessity after another.

Like I said, this is based on my own experiences. It is informed by what happened to me. And so like Ted, I had to Google funeral homes almost immediately after my Dad passed away.

This is in part because just like Ted’s parents, my own never made any plans for what is, alas, the inevitable, healthy or not. In fact, my dad stonewalled any attempt to discuss such. And I understand why someone would not care to discuss such. It’s by far one of the least pleasant topics. And in some way we all need to think ourselves indestructible to get through certain periods in our lives. But it is something that has to not only be talked about but actually addressed. So a little over ten years ago I tried to broach the subject with my dad.

It did not come out of the blue. (“Can you believe this weather? By the way…”) And it was not done without a great deal of hesitation. (“Weather…weather…whether you wan’t to talk about this or not…”) But once the conversation started it almost immediately, repeatedly fell apart. Nothing was every resolved nor put into motion. There were no plans. That’s in part because my dad never liked to look forward. Planning. predicting, and preparing were not his strong suits because the future is by definition uncertain and so intimidating to some, not to mention where it all leads in the end. And it’s also in part because my dad did not believe he would die. I don’t mean not soon, I mean as in never. Logically I am sure he knew that wasn’t the case, but every conversation indicated my dad was holding on to the concept of immortality minus the vampirism or Doctor Who intervention. And so Ted’s mom’s dialogue (especially in the third panel) in the following comic is about as true of a representation of my dad’s philosophy as I could show.

But it is an important conversation to have. You do not want to be scrambling afterwards. I managed to get everything working in the end but, like Ted, it involved betting on a Google algorithm and suddenly finding myself reading Yelp-like reviews for funeral homes which do exist, do discuss service, and do let you know this is all going to be strange for a little while longer.

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7 Responses

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  1. docmomma said, on November 8, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    I did exactly the same thing. Crematories have Yelp listings. Too surreal. Thanks again for this series.

  2. oldskool said, on November 8, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    ….wow.

    Ignore all the petty critics. This is intensely moving, and notably with the top strip, punctuated with totally unexpected and cathartic humour.

    Great work.

  3. Jasey said, on November 9, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    I want to thank you again for telling this story. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is used by therapists for years to come to help the grief-stricken realize that they are not along and that other people have gone through similar loss and pain. No two people have the same experience, but knowing that someone else has even a hint of what it’s like, well, I hope that is a comfort for others. For me, it is.

  4. Gill said, on November 10, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    Mr. Marciuliano, Thank you for your current Sally Forth comic strip about dealing with death. Assumed it was about your father but didn’t know for sure until I “googled” it. Sorry for your lose last year. This series of comic strips should help you heal further. Have been reading a book “The Five Invitations” by Frank Ostaseski which deals with living in the moment and accepting that you and your loved ones are going to die some day and that is life. Live it to its fullest being honest, loving and giving along the way. As the old saying goes: “You only live once”.
    Under “sunny believe it or not” Seattle skies, Gill

  5. Melinda S said, on November 11, 2017 at 7:23 am

    The end of my father’s life was not pretty and somehow, all post-planning landed on my lap. I planned and shopped for the entire funeral, wrote his eulogy and contacted everyone…all on my iPad. Maybe everyone thought I did such a great job planning my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah that they thought I’d be a shoo in for the role. (See? Humor does have a place in even the darkest of hours!) It wasn’t until the months passed when I had time to process my own grief.

  6. todd jennings said, on November 15, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    I have had to take care of three funerals AND estate administrations in the past decade for relatives that left no wills…but weirdly enough I have made NO plans for my own demise…no will, no living will, nothing…and I am 53. I really should have learned something from these events.

  7. Cecilia said, on November 18, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    I love your treatment of Ted’s father’s death. Ignore the rude people. Blessings and peace to you.


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