Last night I was awakened by a dream of death. As I am wont to do, I lay there and let the dream’s effect wash over me as long as it wished, then, while still reclined, wrote the words that remained in my consciousness on the pad I keep nearby for the purpose.
We won’t have a say in what transpires after we die unless it’s said before that event. Most of us, I suspect, have thought on how we’d like a lot of that to go. Buried or cremated, open casket and/or scattered over the sea near a favorite beach. Things like that–not so much the obvious concern re a will.
Yet our adversity to morbidity forbids us dwelling on such things in conversation. Especially if the topics seem small. Very little of that kind of thing rises to the level of inclusion in a will, which wouldn’t be consulted until too late anyway, most likely. So write down any requests you have before you die, while all is well, and tuck the notes not far away where they may easily be found–even will be found, whether sought after or not–and speak with those you hold dearest (remember, the one most dear might not survive you either) mostly of the storage place, not necessarily the requests.
But allow for some flexibility in your instructions, lest they lead to angst amongst your survivors, or simply be ignored by those with corporal authority. If you choose ashes, allow some options for the ones that love you: a portion to keep if they wish, a choice perhaps of where the rest (or all) should go and how. An invitation, even, to spread some where the living have their fondest memories, perhaps. Share your thinking on the why as well as the how of your desires, for a specific request might not be so easily fulfilled as would be its spirit.. Nature has her way with flesh as soon as life deserts it, and the location at which that happens may not be convenient to the first choice plans you make.
To help avoid a bitter taste for those that depend upon you in life, anticipate their position after your death. Financial dependencies are not so easily broken as the thread of life. If your estate is large, the problem is more one of hurt feelings amongst survivors than anything else, and interests me very little. If it is not, spend as much as you can afford while living to assure as much help to them as is reasonable. Life insurance was never intended for you, and scratching up money for a funeral is neither convenient nor a stress worth adding to a troubled time, so try to provide for at least that.
Know that the thread of life never snaps when expected, even though its stretching can often be observed beforehand. Don’t count on forever, or even lingering. In fact, lingering may be one of those issues most needing your input. Do you want to be connected to a machine well past the point where the Doctors have given up hope on you? Many do. But some don’t. How much time/hope do you want invested?
Difficult questions in an area ripe for resentment if your input is either too highly invested in your wish to live, or too readily accepting of abandoning the living for the next big thing, assuming there is one. But then, some care more about that next breath than about the lasting resentment of even their most beloved ones. And who can say–none of these questions are easy. Modern medicine has made recognizing the instant of death much more difficult to identify, and that has cruelly played with the lives of many loved ones. But it’s also prolonged many lives through happy years that would not have been.
Personally, I doubt that the spirit remains with the rotting flesh for long. I’m not even sure there will be a “spirit” after death. I hope so, and think there is probably even an affinity, at first, for the vital essence that was you to linger nearby, but it certainly is not sure and probably doesn’t last very long. When my beloved dog, Odds-on, gave up the ghost in my embrace many years ago in a place far removed from his favorite haunts, I spoke to him as if he were still alive; told him to “stay in the bus,” the van in which he’d died; and immediately drove straight home to bury him near Osgood Swamp.
In times of stress, we tend to act out what we believe in our guts. On the other hand, in daily life we act mostly on our distresses and habits. For instance, despite years of having planned to do so, I still haven’t even written a will. So this lecture, like so many of my lectures, is really directed mostly at myself. Not even sure why I’m posting it. Perhaps because I’m just aware that I’m overdue on the blog thing and know that a long time between communications tends to grow longer and that’s how I eventually always lose touch with old friends. Few reading this on the Web would fit that description, but, hey, these go out first to my e-mail list, so think of yourselves as if you were, too.
I’ve begun to notice with these missives that, for whatever reasons, I almost never hear from readers who encounter these on the web. Makes me wonder if anyone does read them there. If anyone does, please respond, even if you’ve little to say, or want to go in a different direction. It would be interesting to know whether this big net catches even one fish. Just click on comment.
My apologies if I’ve bored you. Now, maybe, I’ll go write a morbid little note for permanent inclusion in my wallet.
I’d like to end with a blessing/salutation/mantra/prayer Barbara, my wife, taught me some months ago and which has become an important part of our relationship:
“I honor in you the place in which the entire universe dwells: that place which is of love and light, of truth and peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are one.
Hope all is well with you and yours.