Oh, brother!

By Maralyn Lois Polak

What’s all this fuss about the so-called “brother of Jesus” bone-box? I am certain many of us have an ossuary or two hidden in our closet, were we only to search.

Whether they are “real” or “fake,” I suspect, depends largely on the quality of our faith.

Why, just this week, finally finished with several years of outstanding back paperwork for my ever-patient accountant “Wodehouse” – doubtlessly consoling himself in its absence by taking his Irish Water Spaniel, “Fletcher,” on extra-long woodsy jaunts – I was doing some deeeeeeep cleaning-out of my office storage compartment, a cross between a cubby-hole and a cave-let, really.

After the surprise of unearthing an actual electric typewriter I’d completely forgotten I possessed, original carton nearly intact, molded Styrofoam packing still capable of those annoying squeaks, and oblique instruction manual indecipherable as ever – list price $299, sale price $249, what an archaeological relic, I bestowed it upon my friend Djuna’s artist husband Bruce so he can type exhibit labels – I find … the “brother of Maralyn” bone box.

For some reason, bones have been frequent in headlines lately. I’ve been listening to captivating smooth jazz by Bony James. A few days ago, Ananova ran a macabre account of thigh-bone soup. And now, this.


Regular, or at least attentive, readers of this column may recall how, barely a decade ago, my beloved brother Marty was nuked to death by chemo in New York state. Alive one moment, gone the next, he suddenly and unexpectedly succumbed to a particularly nasty regimen of ultimately lethal conventional medical treatment for AIDS and Kaposi’s Sarcoma.

Naturally, I was devastated.

Especially after his lead physician – let’s call him “Freddie,” any and all references to the movie “Halloween” completely unintentional – had just assured me a week prior to Marty’s passing, that my brother would surely grace this planet for six more months, at the least.

In other words, “Freddie” planned adding on a wing to his mansion from the insurance proceeds.

Although “Freddie” and I were united in our grief at the outcome, we did not communicate further, lest I violate my core beliefs on politesse.

Certainly I’m aware predicting life-spans and similar matters are out of man’s hands. Ultimately, the Lord – or whoever’s currently in charge of our chaotic Universe these days – decides. But still, it was a severe emotional jolt to me, the apparent discontinuity, nay, disconnect, this physician “Freddie” had in his mind between his medical practice and the actual deteriorating physical conditions of his patients.

You may recall how I rode home from Poughkeepsie, disconsolate, my brother’s cremains in a box on my lap as I sat in the back seat of a car driven by my brother’s ex-lover “Tank” and his then-current lover, “Mill,” and how those very same cremains sat for several days in my dining room where we, uh, communed, until they were, well, supposedly buried after an ineluctably sad ceremony in which each of the men attending was marked for death by that tragic disease.

Or, I should say, each of the men but one. And he was the balding human pyramid, “Trike,” scamming rehabber of my newly purchased historic brick town-house – let’s leave it at that – who had taken it upon himself to temporarily fill the momentary emotional vacuum in my life, and CARRY MY BROTHER’S BOX during the funeral!

Worse yet, he subscribed to Biblical Archaeology Review, a publication pivotal in the Jesus’ brother’s bone-box contretemps.

I am not making this up.

Well, folks, I shall not claim that somehow, apparently this miscreant spirited the box away and I eventually unearthed it in my office storage closet. No, it was not that simple at all. While I did discover a pair of misplaced urns of ashes – the tin “Cleopatra and Cheops” container for my first cat Ninis, that part-Persian sweetie, and the tasseled crimson brocade box from my unbelievably adored dog Freda – wedged behind stacks of meaningless detritus was an Adidas shoebox once belonging to my late brother.

My brother’s bone-box.

Inside: a wish-bone, and a science fiction story he might have written – how, after our bodies become dust, we live again, as pure energy. The soul as the intersection between quantum physics and spirituality? Who knows what he had in mind – original intentions can be so obscure.

We are trapped in materialism, addicted to “answers” and “closure” and “proof.” Whether the ancient ossuary of Jesus’ brother is real or a fraud, the point is, I think, this: Never forget.