The truth is, we all are going to have to face this issue. It is just hard to get our heads around it. According to The Onion’s headline, World Death Remains Steady at 100%, it is undeniable. Still, we kid ourselves into forgetting this fact. I, for one still hold out the tiniest hope that technology will somehow advance so far before my demise that I will be able to avoid the issue entirely. Maybe Mary Kay will put out a revolutionary anti-aging serum that will make all adults look like they are 25 again. It is the tiniest of hope though.
According to the Wall Street Journal’s podcast advertising, August was Write a Will Month. Every time the announcer mentioned this advertisement, I first pat myself on the back for actually finishing our will this year and then reminded myself that I still have a few more things to finish up with that process. Blah.
While we do have our family trust legal paperwork finished by a law firm (we went to one that specializes in Estate Planning for those of you who are looking for counsel and are wondering who to see), we still have a few more things to finish. As it stands so far, we have all of the big stuff in writing (children, house, car, etc.), and all of the big people chosen (executor, etc.). However, we still have to write down the little stuff that is still important to us, like specific funeral wishes and who we would like to give certain sentimental items. That kind of thing, nothing that requires a lawyer, just writing letters with the hopes that who we leave behind will read them and follow our wishes.
Yes, this stuff is kind of a drag. It took us SEVEN years to get this far. For six of those years we thought we could just download a form will from the internet for $35 but the form sat on my iMac’s Desktop until I finally opened it and decided we needed counsel about six months ago. So as you can tell, we have been dragging our feet avoiding the tasks involved.
I am pushing to complete this stuff soon partially to be a grown-up as I want to make sure we take care of the children. Also, it is because the most stressful thing about being left behind after the death of the loved one (next to the death and departure) is NOT knowing what those final wishes are. I do not wish that on who I leave behind. I have seen the NOT knowing go badly before and it is awful.
However, the subject of death overall made me do a lot of thinking.
Perhaps it isn’t really foot dragging that is making the process take so long. Maybe part of this is that these are just big questions to ponder. In the end though (ha ha), I believe that just making the decisions will be relieving. And kind of fun! Once we get going, that is.
As a side note, I will say that I might have a head start on thinking about death when compared to my peers. When I was in my 20s, I knew quite a few harpists who embarked on the journey of learning to be a therapeutic harpist, which is playing music for people in hospitals and hospices, taking care to play music appropriate to patients’ state of healing or dying. Since I moved to Tucson, I have two close harpist friends who play for hospice. The subject has been knocking around in my head for awhile as I often hear stories from them about the sometimes beautiful, sometimes sad, and sometimes surprising deaths of patients. It is good work, though draining, I hear.
I’d also like to share on this side note two podcasts on the subject of death I thought were really interesting:
This American Life: 523 Death and Taxes. Act 1 is a fascinating exploration of hospice and hospice nurses. This podcast made me grateful to hear about the death process and the care that goes into dying with dignity. Hooray for medicine, for sure.
Planet Money: The Town Where Everybody Talks about Death. This podcast describes a town where almost everybody has a will. The amazing thing is that the hospital’s costs are very low because most people’s wishes are to have do-not-resusitate orders in place. Just sayin’ its pretty interesting how important having your will completed is to the benefit of everyone around you.
But anyway, the point of this blog entry!
My final wishes, or at least the ones I am OK with sharing with the public.
The boring stuff:
– Cremation. No fancy box in the ground. No burial plot. This was the hardest choice for me. For a long time I was afraid that I might be able to feel my body being immolated if I chose creation, that it might take awhile to really be dead. Then I was freaked out that I would feel the worms eating my body for weeks if I got buried. Maybe I needed an airtight coffin! A nurse friend assured me that dead is dead within hours. After that, it was easy to decide. I don’t like clutter. Ashes to ashes is best to me.
Now what to do with the ashes after? A good friend of mine told me there is this company that will make your ashes into a diamond! Isn’t that awesome? I did a little search and I found some companies that do this! Here is one of them. He joked that he wanted his wife to wear him on a ring. While my husband thinks this is the most hilarious thing ever, I think it is rather sweet.
But, really, where? Lake Superior. It is pretty there. I love staring at the waves and the water is quite clear. I saw the best Northern Lights there. Like fireworks! Plus, whomever spreads the ashes gets to go visit Late Superior. You’re welcome.
– The Memorial/Funeral. Do I really need one? If you have to, have a potluck at my house. Drink. Or don’t drink. Make sure you eat a lot. Don’t skimp on the cheesy casseroles. But you can also skip this and go straight to the dance party.
– All My stuff. I’m making a list of the stuff I care about and where I think it should go. It won’t be long. Everything else, I don’t care. Really. So don’t worry. And don’t fight over it or I will seriously haunt you if I can. In fact, here is my wish based on Mommy Law: if anything is in contention, it gets donated to the Salvation Army.
The fun stuff:
– The Dance Party. With the exception of one or two, most of my friends and my family will not dance. I don’t know what happened with those great overzealous Czech and German dancing traditions. I never saw them. Maybe that is why my ancestors came to America, because they refused to dance. So, perhaps this final wish will be rather torturous for them. Trust me, I do love you all.
The thing is, this will also be my last ditch attempt to get those very people to stop walking around with a stick up their butt and enjoy some real booty shakin’ joy. It’s a human cultural desire to dance. And it is soooooo fun! You know you want to, you are just worried about looking like Elaine from Seinfeld. Get over yourself. In case you didn’t notice, Elaine IS having the BEST time. It’s a gift. You can be a wallflower or actually discover what you were missing all this time. You’re welcome.
Will there be alcohol? Sigh. Yes.
I know some of you guys will need something to loosen you up.
So, what do I think will happen after we die?
I’m a rather fanciful person so I am rather attached to the idea that there will be something for us after life on earth. However, I am completely aware that there might indeed be nothing at all. In all honesty, I believe that this is an unknowable question.
On the one hand, no one has come back complaining. On the other hand, no one has come back period.
Throughout my life, I have met people that are deeply convinced that there is something more after life on earth. I have heard this from all sorts of people, not just those of a faith. These people are often highly intuitive so that feels reassuring to me.
I was brought up a Christian Scientist and as those childhood beliefs run as deep suggestion no matter what I believe as an adult, so the idea that we go on after death but there being no Heaven or Hell still resonates with me.
However, my brother, who is also highly intuitive (but not at all spiritual) felt from a very early age that there was nothing after death. He didn’t feel this way as a way to rebel. He just felt this was the truth. It is hard to deny his opinion is weighty as well.
There are also the Near Death Experience (NDE) people, who write down their encounters. Some of the stories I’ve read seem rather self serving to me, while others seem quite believable. I found Embraced By The Light quite beautiful. There were some things in the book that seemed very real to me. I had a hard time NOT believing this NDE story. I know, most of you probably won’t read it because you think it is too weird and woo-woo of a book, but trust me, even if you don’t think the story is true in any way shape or form, the book was a beautiful read. I also have a friend who wrote a book after his experience in a coma and it has a similar metaphysical feel as Embraced By the Light. It is called the Tao of Shu.
There are also quite a few near death survivors who report no visions at all.
The one thing I do know is this: if you live your life as well as you can, think about how you make other people feel, learn from your mistakes, don’t hold onto grudges, don’t waste time, work diligently on your bucket list, minimize your regrets, enjoy your family and your community, take in the beauty of this world and of this life, you will be in a good place.
If there is life after earth, then you will have learned a lot for the next life and being some joy into it.
If there is no life after earth, then you will have enjoyed what you have thoroughly, which is the best you could do.
I would like to leave you with this video from George Carlin in one of my favorite monologues about death. Enjoy!