The Conversation No One Wants
Death. Unless it’s on the big screen or in a 500-page novel, no one wants to really talk about it. As a writer, I kill people all the time - on paper. I think of what’s going to happen to the character leading up to their demise and what happens to those afterward who are left behind. It’s fun, because it’s fiction. I control the when, where, and how, and when I’m done putting my words on paper I can set death aside and pick life back up and live on.
I don’t mind talking about it, either. The girls and I discuss my story ideas all the time and how some character got it in the end. Other friends ask how it’s going and share some of their ideas on bumping people off. Sometimes they scare me with how well thought-out their plans are and I start double locking my doors.
Yet, as I said, that’s fiction. When it comes to death in the real world there are conversations no one wants to have while everyone is still alive. It’s not just that it’s uncomfortable, it’s a reminder. We don’t want to think about how one day our family and friends won’t be around to share our lives. We like to go about each day as if everyone will always be there to answer their phone or make their Facebook updates, even though the reality of death is well known to all. It’s impolite conversation. It’s morbid and sick.
To be honest, I don’t want to talk about it, either. When I think of my parents not being here to wake me with a phone call at six in the morning because they forget I sleep late or one of the girls no longer filling our home or any of the kids going before me, it pretty much freaks me out. When I think of my own death, I almost panic at the things I haven’t accomplished, yet. No one wants to die and talking about it just reminds us that we will.
Still, it’s a conversation that needs to happen.
With the funeral of Teri’s mom last week, our future demise became a topic of discussion for the long ten hour drive back home. Betty had done a great job preparing for this day. Her daughters weren’t left with too many decisions, just the chaos of family coming in and what to do with them. Everything else was pretty much mapped out.
I want to be that prepared. I see it as the final act I can do for my kids; assuming the girls haven’t bumped me off first, that is. There will be enough going on for them to have to worry about the details of my send off. Where I’m to be buried, how I want it to be accomplished, and what outfit I will spend eternity in, all of these will be decided long beforehand. Personally, I want to go in a full whiskey barrel with a cigar in my hand.
I’ll also have it all paid for and the service planned out. I’m a man who loves lists and notes and I will leave them for the boys to follow closely. They will have account numbers, passwords and all the information I’ve hidden from them for years. Of course, there will be a box marked “Just Burn” of stuff they wouldn’t want to see due to receiving permanent emotional scars, but don’t we all have one of those? I don’t want them to think or worry.
I want things to go smoothly for them, so they can sit back, burn a cigar and drink a glass of Maker’s Mark in my honor.
Furthermore, although I don’t have much, what I do possess will be divvied up the way I think best. There will be no questions as to who gets what. Years ago, I’ve seen siblings come to blows over these matters and I’ve worked too hard my entire life building a close-knit family to have it all fall apart over who wants my stapler. Besides, the greatest thing I could leave them isn’t the paintings on the wall or my collection of Star Trek books. The greatest inheritance isn’t anything physical. It’s the sense of a strong family, the ability to spot a bull shitter, and the courage to reach for their dreams. I don’t want them to hold onto the past; I want them to strive for a better future - or I’ll come back and haunt them.
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