I've never really thought very hard about what I wanted to happen to my remains after I died; I always figured I'd be dead and therefore wouldn't really give a rat's patootie about it one way or the other. I don't really think about my death at all; I generally prefer to focus on living instead, particularly after having seen three of our four parents pass away in recent years.
But because life is rarely so kind as to let you stick your fingers in your ears and run around the house screaming "Lalalalala," I got a call from my brother Wednesday night about our mom. Last month my 80-year-old mother , who has Parkinson's with Dementia, was taken from her nursing home to the hospital with suspected pneumonia. At the time, she was unresponsive and experiencing some renal failure. With a DNR and a "no forced feeding" dictate in her living will and her refusal to eat, the doctor gave her a 50/50 chance of survival. Miraculously, however, she responded well to the antibiotics and started eating pureed foods until she was well enough to be transferred back to the nursing home. Unfortunately, however, my brother's call was to tell me that Mom was once again not eating but rather "pocketing" food, which is apparently when patients don't actually swallow but instead sort of store food back in the backs of their cheeks. This food then gets "aspirated," after sitting around for who knows how long collecting bacteria, and often causes pneumonia or bronchitis. Mom's caseworker was talking about the possibility of bringing in hospice for her, so my brother called to discuss that with me, after which we had the necessary chat about things like memorials and funerals and her eventual interment in Tennessee next to my father. If she doesn't bounce back this time and things do indeed go downhill, at least I will know she's happy because she's finally made it back to my father--she hasn't stopped dreaming about him since he died 6 1/2 years ago.
Anyway, the hubs came upstairs to chat with me after overhearing parts of that obviously unpleasant conversation. And because I am me, this is what happened afterwards:
Hubs: I thought your mom wanted to be cremated?
Me: She did at first, but mostly because she was being cheap; also I think she
was afraid of being buried alive.
Me: Yeah--well, that and I think she secretly hoped one of us would keep her
ashes around to moon over on a daily basis. I told her that if she wanted
to be cremated that was fine, but that she shouldn't expect me to keep her
in an urn on my mantel. So she pouted and decided burial would be okay,
as long as I promised to double-check that she was dead first.
Hubs: You know we have plots in that cemetery too, right?
Hubs: What--you don't want to be buried there?
Me: (gives long, slow burn look over my shoulder at him)
Me: Don't get me wrong--I love your family. But do YOU know anyone who
would relish the thought of spending eternity with all their in-laws? Just
on general principles? It would be like the family get-together that NEVER
ENDS. Drama till you die. Except you're already dead.
Hubs: (more sniggering)
Me: I mean, it's not like I want to spend eternity with my parents, either.
I can see it now--Mom will follow me around heaven (I'm totally using my 'Get
Out of Hell Free' card) trying to pick lint off my feathers, telling me my halo
is crooked, and pointing out that my lyre is out of tune again.
Hubs: I don't really think that's how it will be.
Me: Not the point. You know her. She'd totally pull junk like that if she thought she
could get away with it. Then she'd tell me my robe makes my ass look fat.
No--forget it. I don't wanna be buried in some graveyard in the middle of the
boondocks of Tennessee with all my in-laws. That's boring. Even if I'm dead I
wanna go out and have some fun.
Hubs: How can you have fun when you're dead?
Me: Easy. Screw burial. I wanna be cremated. Only instead of sitting in an urn
somewhere collecting dust indistinguishable from my ashes, I wanna be
dumped somewhere interesting...somewhere I'd like. In Europe. Like at
Stonehenge. Or Glastonbury Tor. Then I can cavort with druids or hook up
with King Arthur. Or even Loch Ness. Me and the monster can go fishing.
Hubs: That's a little irreverant, you know.
Me: Hellooooooooo--are you new here??
Hubs: Well, you do have a point there.
Me: It will be my last bequest to the girlie. "Here, go to Europe and sprinkle me
all over something interesting. Poor you...forced to go to Europe by your
mom." It'll be a win-win for us both!
Hubs: Hey, we could sprinkle your ashes on Shakespeare's grave!
Me: No, they'll get too pissy at Westminster. She could sprinkle me on Shakespeare's
birthplace or at the Globe Theater. Heck, the floor's already dirty--no one will
even notice my ashes on the ground. Plus I'll get to be walked on by theater-
Hubs: You won't miss a performance.
Me: You know, this is getting more attractive all the time. And why stop there?
The girlie could sprinkle me all over Europe. It would be like a "Bury Mom
Hubs: We could sprinkle you on Mary, Queen of Scot's tomb.
Me: Yeah! The girlie can sneak a tablespoon of me onto Mary, Queen of Scot's tomb,
a pinch at Stonehenge, a smattering at Glastonbury, a dash in Scotland, some
in Paris, some in Italy, some in Ireland...she can spoon bits of me all over Europe!
Hubs: Some in Prague. Or Austria.
Me: Pffft. I've already been to those places. I need to go hang out in places I haven't
Hubs: Vienna, then.
Me: I've been there too. But yeah, Vienna would be cool. The girlie could even
pre-package me in little Ziploc baggies and hide me in the suitcase for
dispersal ALL OVER EUROPE. She can pick up souvenirs along the way.
I'll leave a list of instructions, just like in a real scavenger hunt. It might be
hard to get the ash baggies past TSA, though. Tell them you're smokers.
But not pot smokers--unless you go to Europe via Amsterdam, in which
case they won't give a crap.
Hubs: Now you sound like my mom and her baggies.
Me: (makes sour face.) My baggies are cooler. My baggies are going out and
DOING stuff. Your mom's baggies just sat around in closets collecting dust.
Me: And tell the girlie to use all my insurance money for the trip. This way no one
will have to pay for a funeral and since you already have your own money,
yeah--the party is on me.
Hubs: That assumes I don't go first.
Me: So you we'll plant in the ground. But the girlie and I will go and party in
Hubs: Hey, what about me??
Me: What, you wanna go dump me everywhere?
Hubs: Well, I was thinking about it...
Me: Fine. Just know that dead mommy's insurance money does NOT cover nerdy
side trips. No "Oh, Mommy would love to be sprinkled in this car museum" or
"Oh, Mommy would love to be sprinkled on the cryptography museum..."
Hubs: (looks sheepish)
Me: No "Oh, hey...Mommy always wanted to go see the Large Hadron Collider!"
Hubs: Hey--the girlie would like that...
Me: True, but this is my death. See the Hadron Collider on your own time.
Hubs: Anyplace else?
Me: Well, I could always stand to see another show in the West End, and I've never
been to the Sydney Opera House...
Hubs: You know, the more I think about this, it really does sound like you...
Me: THIS IS WHAT I'M SAYING. Now remind me to put Ziploc snack-size
bags on the grocery list.
Cool. That's one less thing I have to plan now. I wonder if Ziploc will ever make bags
with opaque patterns. My death may be a pain in the ash, but I still wanna look decent.