Planning Ahead

I live across a cornfield from a cemetery and a crematory. Until this year, there was a lovely line of 40′ pine trees that separated me from death, but the electric company didn’t like that the power lines kept setting our trees on fire, knocking out power to the neighborhood, so they cut them down. Now there is no barrier between me and a full-on zombie attack.

As I gaze upon the view from my couch, I feel like Haley Joel Osment, if Haley Joel Osment was a 45 year old woman. I see dead people. Frequently seeing the final resting place of others has me thinking about death, not in a philosophical way, but in more of a practical way.

I’m not dying tomorrow, at least I don’t think so. I don’t plan on it, anyway. But I have decided that when I do kick the proverbial bucket, I want my body to be cremated. My mother, who had a biblically literal upbringing, has expressed worry about this. “What if you need it?!” she exclaimed. But I seriously cannot foresee any situation in which I would need a decaying arm or a shriveled appendix.

I prefer an “ashes to ashes” departure plan for several reasons. I have no desire for a typical open casket kind of funeral. I’d like a memorial service where people can remember good times with me, then weep openly and perform dramatic displays of grief while “That’s What Friends Are For” plays on a loop. But I don’t want people to look at me while I’m dead. I can’t be sure, but I think I look ugly when I sleep. I can’t imagine I would look any better dead. Plus, my hair is very curly and it takes a while to straighten it just right. I just don’t trust anyone to do it when I am unable to give direction. So a caskety funeral is out.

Caskets themselves are an issue with me, also. They are unreasonably expensive, and to what end? They get buried. It’s like totaling a car the first day you get it. Looked nice on the showroom floor, but once it’s towed away, you’ll never see it again. And then there’s the whole vault thing. Apparently, the casket goes into a concrete vault, which is also ridiculously expensive, and it is all sealed and buried in the ground. Seems like overkill (no pun intended) unless a person truly is concerned about a zombie apocalypse, and regardless of my remark in paragraph one, I am not.

I want any organs or tissue that might be of use donated to others who need them to live or to live better lives. Maybe someone could use my eyes to see the sunrise for the first time. Maybe my heart will help someone love for a few more years. Maybe there is someone out there who needs a kidney or a liver in order to feel healthy again. Take it all. But my sister has dibs on my boobs.

I’d like for my ashes to be spread in the ocean. I have heard it isn’t legal, exactly, but since my ash isn’t going to jail for it, I’m ok with that. I have always loved the ocean, and since it is where all of life began, it seems fitting. Besides, it would be a great place for my husband, sons and grandchildren to go to remember me on Memorial Day. My parents dragged me from graveyard to graveyard in May when I was little, while my friends attended family picnics and trips to King’s Island, and I hated it. I’d like my family to think of me with margaritas and floppy hats, and for sunscreen and salt to replace the smell of funeral flowers. I want them to know I am a part of the cycle of life, rising and falling with the rain, and ebbing and flowing with the tide.

In the end, it is my soul that I want to take up space in the universe, not my vault, casket, or body. I want to be remembered not with a headstone, but with the sound of crashing waves and the coolness of wet sand underfoot.

5 thoughts on “Planning Ahead

  1. Beautiful post, especially the last paragraph. For me, it was a timely thing to read. My father died last week. He was elderly and infirm and we all knew it was coming. He had been ill for 20 years. He had suffered a long time and we are glad he has to suffer no more. He wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread in the river that runs through the town he grew up in. We plan to do that this summer. I found a pretty covered bridge north of town which seems perfect. That way he can float through his favorite place one more time. And we will remember him with a Pabst Blue Ribbon and river mud under our feet.

  2. It’s a beautiful piece, but such perspective is often lost in someone who is facing imminent death. If only everyone can have such peace and acceptance when the time does come.

  3. I love this post!! What a thoughtful perspective! It is so funny you mentioned hair worries and casket burials…I’m all for cremation…I will NOT be wearing that chalky funeral home makeup! Well done, you!

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