My great aunt Jo, my grandmother's baby sister, died suddenly last week at the age of 63 and today we all had to say goodbye. It was, by far, one of the hardest funerals I've ever had to deal with.
Anyone who has ever been to an Irish funeral knows how trying they can be. The alcohol afterward tends to numb things a bit, of course, but grieving with a family as large and as close as mine is never an easy task no matter how much booze you throw into the mix. Aunt Jo and her husband Don belonged to the Methodist faith and it was Aunt Jo's wish to have the services held in their own little church. I don't think this little church in the middle of nowhere in the Adirondacks had the slightest idea what they were getting themselves into. So many people. Each of them crying harder than I've ever seen adults cry. I always thought that nothing could break my heart more than seeing a grown man cry real tears, but after today I think I've changed my mind. Watching all of those little kids cry over their grandmother's body was awful.
I know that during the service I should have kept the subject of my thoughts strictly on Aunt Jo and my memories of her, but instead I had too many questions. Why do people have open caskets at wakes and funerals? I know the obvious answer is to have your final goodbyes with the deceased, but who wants to see that really? Aunt Jo looked horrific, and I don't mean to sound disrespectful in saying it. I don't consider myself to be the kind of person who is afraid of death. I'm not afraid (or dare I say "grossed out") to walk up to the casket and hold the hand of the person who is in it or even kiss them goodbye. I just don't understand anyone's NEED to see their dead relative or friend after they're gone!
I would never want that. I DON'T ever want that. In fact, I'm writing it down now and letting it be known that if someone does this with my body after I'm dead I'm coming back to haunt the person who made the final decision. Bad, bad, bad.
Every death I encounter whether in my family, or with friends, or even with people I hear about in the news or whatever, reminds me of what I DON'T want when I'm gone.
So, here's my list. Follow it if you will. Someone please bookmark this so my poor husband will have a guide to follow. I've given explicit instructions over the years and I know he just nods his head, but when the time comes I don't know that he'll remember.
I cannot express how important this is to me. I've recently obtained the paperwork necessary to make this official, but for now I'm stating it here. DO NOT RESUSCITATE! Under any circumstances. Got it?
2) Donate my organs.
While I sincerely doubt that anyone could benefit from this putrid body of mine, you never know. If someone can use my eyes, heart, lungs (although I doubt that one), or any other organs to save or better their life, take 'em. And I don't care if you want to get all soft and tell the recipient all about who I am and what my life story is. I'll be dead and I'm sure I won't give a shit.
3) Do not, I repeat, DO NOT donate my body to science.
I used to be all about this whole idea until I did a bit of research for myself and learned of all the messed up things going on in the world with body part trade and whatnot. I'd rather not participate in that anymore, thank you very much.
4) Take what's left of me after all of my generous giving (heh) and plant me in an eco-cemetery.
The government decided long ago that I have absolutely NO say in what happens to my body after I die so my true wishes will not be granted unless I go with an eco-cemetery. I would like to be buried in a pine box with no lining (I'm dead, remember? Who needs satin lining? For real.) under a big tree. I don't really care where. Anyone who knows me would know what kinds of places I'd enjoy. I do not want to be embalmed. Period. There's something incredibly wonderful about being allowed to rot in the ground and someday become a flower or a tree. Does that make me sound like a dirt hippy? Yes. But still, this really matters to me, so please keep all your snickering to a bare minimum and hear me out. The rules of an eco-cemetery are simple: no embalming, biodegradable casket or simple shroud only, and only a NATURAL grave marker. This means trees, plants, stones, etc. Sounds nice, right? Psssst: I love rock piles like this:
5) If my wishes from #4 cannot be granted, please cremate me and sprinkle a little of me in Lake Placid, a little at the Grafton Peace Pagoda, a little in the Atlantic ocean and a little at Shaver's Pond.
Oh, and it would be nice if Alex could put a little bit of me somewhere near the ice caves in Washington, preferrably in the woods on the way to the ice caves. That's it. I'm not thrilled at all about the idea of cremation. Not at all. But if it means choosing between cremation and the iron casket with the poofy slippery lining looking like formaldehyde-soaked shit, I'm taking the fire, baby.
Anyway, I didn't intend for this entry to be so wordy, but this afternoon made me feel raw and full of emotion. I loved Aunt Jo dearly and I'm glad she's not suffering anymore. God knows she suffered horribly for a while before she died. But I also know that a public viewing was NOT on her list of last requests and someone else made that decision after she was gone. I guess I just feel like I should get my wishes out as much as possible and hope like hell that someone is listening.
You are listening, right?