I found myself thinking about death recently. Not my own (necessarily). Not yet. Yet given the societal norms, even with the strictly philosophical discussions about meaning of life and death I am about twenty years too early, or about fifteen years too late.
Two developmental stages display acute curiosity about all things death – adolescence, when all big life questions first come to the surface, and middle adulthood, when mortality is suddenly salient.
I am firmly out of adolescence (except when it comes to striped socks), and not quite in middle adulthood. And while death is not here for me, I hear her steps on a neighbouring trail. She is having a heart to heart conversations with people in my life.
There was a period of time about five years ago, when all of a sudden I was of age when my parents’ generation was having heart attacks, getting diagnosed with scary things starting with the letter “C”, and in few rare cases, dying unexpectedly. Now, in my thirties, with many of my friends and colleagues a decade older, I am suddenly few rows closer to death doing her thing on stage.
I find life endlessly entertaining. By extension, death has gotta to be at least somewhat entertaining as well. Why give it special status? Do you follow my logic? Although death itself does not seem nearly as entertaining as the various ways in which we choose to deal with it.
So, if no one is making fun of death and funerals yet, someone should. Hell, there’s a wealth of material for stand-up comedy.
A local funeral home’s website is filled with photos of smiling people – which I find inspiring, but somewhat counterintuitive. It also describes cremation as “the accelerated reduction of the remains to ash, through the process of heat and fire”. My goodness… talk about a polite way to put it. I guess the slogan “We burn your grandma!” would be bad for marketing.
It’s so polite, it’s so polite It’s offensive, it’s offensive It’s so unright, it’s so unright It’s a technical, accept it
The words “dignity” and “integrity” are used a lot. Legacy, Heritage, Honour and Tribute. Those are casket collections, if you are wondering. With pre-planning services, you can choose your own casket – woot! After all, “often the most difficult and emotional part of funeral arrangements is the selection of a casket.”
I sincerely hope when I die, selecting a casket will not be the most difficult part of the process for my loved ones. “When Auntie died, the hardest part was choosing what kind of box to put her in! Phew.”
Italian asks what happens if you choose a casket for yourself (or someone else), and they discontinue that model. Do they automatically upgrade you to a fancier one? Do they call you?
“Mr. Johnson? Hello, Mr. Johnson. How ARE you feeling?”.
Here are some features that you may want to consider when selecting your casket: “an interior liner which is leak proof and puncture resistant; a lift and tilt bed mechanism which helps achieve an ideal viewing height; interchangeable corners with various themes such as sports, hobbies and religion; memory drawer which can hold pictures, letters and other memorabilia; memorial record system consisting of a small plexiglass capsule which screws into the side of the casket allowing families to add personal notes”.
I hope they have obstacle racing in their catalogue of themed casket corners. Along with golf and Catholicism. And would it be in poor taste to be buried in full running gear with a hydration pack, and some energy gels “for the road”?
Perhaps, I’d hire professional wailers, like they do in Taiwan and China? “Singing, crying and crawling on the ground” are included. True story, bro.
A number of books dealing with end of life (both other people’s and authors’ own) have crossed my path in the last few years – “Tuesdays with Morrie”, “The Art of Asking”, and most recently “Chasing Daylight”. The latter struck a chord especially, as a busy type-A CEO who is given only months to live, sets out to have the best death experience yet. Talk about achievement-oriented.
It seems that the universal approach that makes death more tolerable is also the approach that makes food especially delicious and sex especially pleasurable. It’s attention. Attention to now, to present moment, to what is happening to your body, in your body. Rilke wrote “Death is our friend, precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love”.
Oh, and since we are talking about this: yes, I am a donor. And I am thinking of a green burial. No wailers, please.
P.S. I just realized that if in some humorous twist of fate I am hit by a truck tomorrow, my last words will include references to sex and Family Guy. #missionaccomplished
And if the truck incident occurs, please add this blog post to Wikipedia’s entry on “Irony“.