We, therefore, commit this gourd to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life.
I loved my dorm room pumpkin. I received him at the start of October and he arrived in a tissue paper bundle enclosed within a care package sent by my mother. The month came and went. I did not, however, throw the pumpkin out after Halloween. I couldn’t. The connection was too strong and my dorm room pumpkin was still healthy. But also I didn’t dispose of him after Thanksgiving, after Winter Break, or even after Spring Break. In all honesty, I had him up until a few weeks ago (sorry Mom).
Until April, the pumpkin looked the same. It was orange—duh—and it was round. It was about the size of a grapefruit and sat on my windowsill overlooking Broadway. It was a pop of color against the beige building that faced me. The pumpkin rested on a loose brick I tripped on earlier in the semester and took with me for stubbed-toe justice. My dorm room pumpkin was an impactful addition to my dorm room, a welcome resident that transformed a tight 180 square foot double into a snuggly triple.
But in spring, my pumpkin’s appearance and turbidity began to change. It was notably less turgid, wrinkled, and yielded against the pressure of my thumb. This was the first sign of the end. Still, I kept my pumpkin on the windowsill. While I soaked up the sun rays on Low Steps, it soaked up the sun rays on that brick. Over time, the last bit of its vibrant life force dimmed. Its death was slow but it was painless; it’s a pumpkin after all—it can’t feel pain.
I did though. The pumpkin stood for something more than just a gourdic festivity. It was my muse. It made me silly one day in October and I wrote a fun article and I felt community and then felt too sentimental to destroy it. It was symbolic of my freshman year of college.
It also stood for nothing. I was busy; I forgot about it most of the time. It was just another decoration but one that would serve as an inevitable feeding ground for mold. And that was the fate it succumbed to.
Upon my dorm room pumpkin’s death, the pumpkin was hard to the touch. Seemingly dehydrated, it had semi-sharp ridges and the development of colored patches. A small white colony that was probably mold but I don’t want to say it was mold had grown at the base. That’s when I decided to call it in and planned the funeral. Like any good warrior, he was going to get a Norse funeral from the Viking Age. There was going to be a ship and a cremation. It was going to take his valiant soul to the afterlife, to Valhalla.
Now there are two ways to tell the rest of this obwituary: a feeling-truth and a factual truth. Indulge in both. Pick the one you prefer, or both, or neither. Whatever choice you make, enjoy it. It’s what I want and what my dorm room pumpkin wanted.
The service was scheduled for Saturday. It was a busy time of the year because the semester was coming to its end. It rained. The world itself was shedding tears for the loss of one of its most excellent specimens: the dorm room pumpkin. As a result, I postponed the funeral a day because of the torrential teardrops. Now it was Sunday, an equally romantic and evocative day. The weather was the perfect mix of melancholic cloudiness but not outright depressing dreariness. As much as this was a goodbye, it was also a celebration.
A hearty entourage came to pay their respects. We made our way to the private shoreline in a quaint corner of the city. It was a thoughtful and introspective journey. In quiet reflection, everyone considered and unpacked their relationship with the gourd. Even though there were millions of people in the town, it was quiet for these moments. It was as if everyone was paying their respects. It was a universal loss, after all.
The funeral preparations were made beforehand, and everything was set to go smoothly. Several members of Bwog served as pallbearers for the coffin boat. Everyone dressed in all black. There were several veils. It was a full family event. We gathered by the shore. A minister—the Pope, actually—began to speak on the pumpkin. He spoke of life everlasting and mortal life, of human connection and human love, of devotion and service and goodness. It was touching. Tears, previously thought to be exhausted, were revived in full force. It was full power waterworks.
The air filled with the smell of incense to give a final blessing over my son. A professional orchestra and choir began to perform the hymn “On Eagle’s Wings.” The coffin was set out onto the water. And the water, previously raging, was now still. The raft, pumpkin inside, floated out towards the main current, got carried away, and reunited with the larger life force of the world.
Stationed on the shore was a ceremonial crematorial archer. They stood with their bow readied, arrowhead pierced with kindling and tinder that, once set alight, was perfectly launched towards the funeral pyre. It quickly caught the raft—with my dorm room pumpkin’s body—and the transition from corporeal to incorporeal commenced. The fire formed hearts with its blazes, a sign of its eternal and lasting love. The growing specter of the pumpkin glowed in the dim afternoon light.
The nautical spire burned. Everyone was silent. Tears streamed down cheeks and fell to the sand. The raft burned—dramatically, as a sign of our love manifested in this destruction of the body. But it also burned safely as a sign of the pumpkin’s love for us. It cared, and understood that its departure should not limit us in our pursuit of life in its absence.
For a second the world rumbled, a second mournful cry of the pumpkin’s departure. I, the father, felt this most intimately. Then all was rested. All was still. The boat was adorned with wonders fit for my dorm room pumpkin’s rank. Adazzle with sparks, it floated down the waterways. Like a crossing star, it faded out of view, likely raised to heaven and off this bastardly mortal existence. It was an assumption.
Despite all the pain, there was so much life. And that was what my dorm room pumpkin represented, embodied, and projected. We, as viewers, felt the loss but used that loss to move forward. All of us move forward with a piece of the pumpkin in our hearts. So until next year, dorm room pumpkin, until next year.
The factual truth:
At first, I wanted to cremate it. I was going to congregate with some friends and give my dorm room pumpkin a fiery first step, mostly because I didn’t want molding fruit in my dorm room anymore. I especially wanted it gone because I slept with my head close to the window, where the pumpkin sat. But the timing didn’t work. Schedules got busy and there were no grills in nearby parks. This was probably for the better because after cremation I still would’ve held a Viking funeral but double fire is just overkill. I decided on just the Viking funeral instead.
The service was penciled in for Saturday. I made a cute Canva card and everything and sent it to the Bwlack (Bwog Slack). I did get a lot of reactions but few could attend. I at least wanted a photographer to document the event. So I pushed it back a day only a few hours before the original event was supposed to occur and right in the middle of finals season. As it turns out, even fewer people could attend. And I didn’t even get the photographer as I wanted.
Regardless, I spent the entire night after one of my exams making a flammable coffin boat out of cardboard and biodegradable tape because I was worried about polluting whatever water source and leaving litter.
My dorm room pumpkin’s funeral also followed another one of my finals. After handing in my paper, I left the exam hall, went to my dorm room, and decompressed for a little bit. The time for departure—if I wanted to remain on schedule—was approaching. I didn’t bother though, no one was going to attend anyway. It was likely just going to be me and that was kind of indie and cinematic so I wasn’t bothered.
But then I got a text that one fateful staffer was en route to the park where I was holding the service. I was still on campus. I texted a friend to come along with me and we made our way to the sea. After a public transit journey with some stares, spectating of a drug deal, and general unease, we found ourselves at an empty park on the water.
The selected resting place was far from campus. I didn’t realize how far because I had just talked with a friend about the best place and they recommended a place in the general area. Also because of how the current apparently would flow to help carry the pumpkin away. The dutiful location selection was not effective; the main waves would still push toward the shore.
There were birds everywhere—full flocks—and what looked like a groundhog. Ten minutes later we met with the early staffer who accidentally got off at a bus stop next to a psychiatric hospital, to add to the absurdity. There were three of us, four if you include the gourd corpse, and five if you include the eventual spectator at the park bench when we started the event.
With my friend and a fellow staffer, I began to prepare my dorm room pumpkin for its Viking funeral. Using a hardware store lighter fluid, I doused the pumpkin coffin. Because it was windy, I used a few rocks to weigh down the padding made from tissue paper and collegiate newspaper publication copies. Then we searched for the perfect launching dock—whichever rock juts out the most and was safe to get to. I walked onto a few different widowmakers and attempted to place the coffin on but usually to no avail as it would float right back towards the shoreline. Eventually, we found one that looked suitable enough but was close to the only other person in the park, who was sitting at a picnic table, had driven in on a motorized scooter-segway hybrid, was playing music from their Bluetooth speaker, and was burning incense or some other substance. They seemed cool but a dorm room pumpkin funeral was not the kind of event for random observers; explanations would be too absurd.
All the compromises for geographic logistics were settled. The ignition was the remaining step. My friend passed me her roommate’s lighter—a nice one, with a dinosaur in front of the moon on the body. I had never used a lighter; I don’t smoke. No one there did. A few minutes were spent learning the technique (which hurts your thumbs). My friend passed me a newspaper “torch” to light and then cast it to the likely highly flammable coffin on the water.
But it was windy, and the lighter flame extinguished on every try.
There was to be no fire for this pumpkin.
Which was fine. Naval funerals are equally respectful, glorious, and poetic. After settling into a sad goodbye to the effigy of my college life, I pushed the coffin out into the river and watched it make its way along the waves. It made it a few feet before getting carried back to the shore and getting caught between two rocks. On the second try, success was closer but the tide came in, drenched my boots, and my friend dropped her phone into the water. The device was fine but my feet were absorbing New York City river water. The boat floated back to the shore a second time after a deceptively longer time a sail.
With a little consideration about physics, a few more rocks were placed inside the boat. A little more mass gives a little more inertia. Almost an hour and a half had passed. A cinematic silence fell over the park. This was the last hurrah. It was going to be good. And it was good.
With an overzealous push, I set the coffin to sea. It disembarked. The boat splashed into the current; it burst into the sea and began its journey to the end. The front bucked down and water rushed inside the cabin. I used too much force. It flipped. The boat was upside down. My dorm room pumpkin soared out. It was flying, then settled a few feet to my right. The boat sank underneath the surface. Both wandered downstream, too far from the park’s shore to gather. And adrift, they floated out of sight.
Photos of Pumpkin Funeral via Author, Paulina Rodriguez, and Angelina Mao