Here in the late middle part of my life I have lost several friends my age already. Most often it has been those who did not take care of themselves and abused their bodies. It seems the late 40’s and 50’s is when such behavior catches up. Also, more than once there has been an unexpected disease that took someone dear to me. All are signaled reminders there are no absolute certainties in life except we all depart at some point. One rarely knows when we see another for the last time.
I am uncertain of any particular reason why, but lately I have had thoughts about what I would prefer to happen in remembrance of me after death. Here I am going to try to write down a few of the random threads of thought that have bounced through my mind on this subject.
1 – Church hymns are just not my preferred type of music and if any are going to be included I’d prefer one my Grandmother used to sing as she worked. “Amazing Grace” is what I remember most clearly in her sweet off key voice.
2 – Being a rock and roll fan my preferred music would be favorite artists like Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles. That is the music of my youth I love the most. Two other songs I assimilated are “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor and “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan. Both those songs I have always felt could have been written about me.
3 – I’d prefer a party for people who cared about me far more than a church service although to cover bases maybe both would make sense. Since I would be dead I will leave that up to others to figure out.
4 – The geographic location of any remembrance gathering is a quandary. I have lived many places and feel a kinship especially to Tulsa, Dayton, Colorado Springs and in the country where I grew up in Shinbone Valley, Alabama. I think the “where” should be a case of the living figuring how what they want to do, for I won’t be here anymore.
5 – Should there be partying in my name? You betcha! I can think of no finer tribute than those I care about sitting around having a very good time with music turned up a bit too loud.
6 – To bury or cremate? Now that is an interesting subject. My ego says I would want to be buried with a nice headstone so people can walk by and wonder who the heck I was. On the other hand, not taking up space and letting my body revert to dust quickly in a cremation appeals to my “green” sense. At this very moment, I think I’d prefer to fertilize a tree above me in the Union Baptist Cemetery in Alabama.
7 – If my body is committed to a grave, PLEASE don’t bury me in a suit and tie. I will try and come back to haunt people who would do that to me! No matter what trappings I have adopted on the outside, inside I am just an old hippie who’d prefer to be laid to rest in his jeans, a chambray shirt and a pair of my cool “tennis shoes”.
8 – If there is a grave that calls for a marker try to find a spot to inscribe “Learn to smile at yourself and you’ll always be amused”. I have learned there is much wisdom in that thought and the practice of it lightens my load. I am convinced God has a sense of humor and laughs along with a self deprecating funny about one’s self.
9 – My will currently leaves all my possessions to my son. Most of all he has told me he wants my jukebox and record collection. I would like that and be honored that he would carry on my love of music. Also it is my wish that my closest friends, Brother and Sisters get something from my mountain of “stuff”. And what no one wants, sell it all or give it away!
10 – As for what might be read at a party or service some suggestions are the Lord’s Prayer or Psalm 23 (but go easy on the bible stuff otherwise), a page or two from the Prophet by Kahlil Gibran such as my favorites on “love” and “death”, Sonnet #43 from Elizabeth Barrett Browning and find a good passage from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden”. And if that is not enough, Mark Twain had a way of putting things into words that aligned with my feelings better than just about anyone. Make it a funny one!
When I try to think ahead to a time when I won’t be here any more, I hope most that those I love will know how much I cared about them. I have tried hard to show it and have become not shy about saying “I love you” to those I keep in my heart. If I said it once to someone I meant it. The love for him or her never left my heart. If the world and people left behind are truly better for my having been here, one of my greatest wishes will have come true. I truly do not want to leave a life behind that just took up space and consumed.
Before you jump to conclusions and think I am writing a goodbye note about some pending occurrence, please know I am not. I am healthy as far as I know and I have absolutely no intentions of harming myself. It is my prayer that my Higher Power allows me a long life deep into old age or as I have called it “the full ride”. For me doing so would be coming to know the full spectrum of the mystery of life.
There is nothing like pondering death to make one deeply grateful for being alive.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. Mark Twain