Although I am the youngest in my tiny family of four, at the ripe old age of 47, I think I have pondered the thought of death far more than anyone. My mother, age 88, is by far the healthiest and the youngest of us all! As down as she gets sometimes, I don't think she really considers death very often... at least not her own. My sister, age 68, is on her third round of cancer and I am certain that she does not consider death. And my dear brother in law just doesn't speak of such things. He married into a family of three outspoken, hard headed and strong women...he doesn't get to speak much at all except to referee from time to time. This makes him qualified for Saint-hood in my book.
Sometimes I wonder if it's in my Piscean nature to analyze death. Those who are really into astrology say that a Pisces child is neither of this world or the next...but somewhere in between. I would say this is true.
My Maggie May is the sparkle in the pink of this worry stone.
One of the longest short stories I've ever written was about the subject of death and how many people that have been taken from me. Southern children are not shielded from death the way many of my California friends do with their kids. I remember going to funerals at quite a young age. I lost friends to the mishandling of firearms at ages 8, 15, and 19. I lost friends and relatives to cancers at ages 16, 18, and 28. I lost my father at 11 and my grandmother at 19. Sometimes I feel I know more people on the other side than alive in this world. I live with lots of ghosts.
I am certain my father has visited me just as I am certain my aunt did right after she died. My uncle has been a presence in my life since his absence from this earth. Heck! I'm just as certain even my DOG came back for a visit! With all of that going on... death doesn't scare me. Pain, yes; but death? Nah!
My personal heroine, Maggie May
I do worry about what would happen to my dog and if I ever have enough dough to do a proper will, I want to make arrangements for her.
I want to be cremated. Part of me feels that I just don't want to take up one iota of space in this world of too much after I'm gone. I remember hearing that cancer continues to eat your flesh after you die and the mean bitchy part of me would want to slap that cancer in the face and say, "Fine, you may have killed me but I'm taking you with me!" Cremation is a sharp deviation from the way I was raised...forever at some too damp cemetery in a dang rainstorm.
My mother gets so upset that "no one visits Daddy" or her brother. Or that no one is taking flowers to them. Even as a child I would say to her, "Why? They're not there!" Still, I do confess to visiting my own father's grave site every time I'm in Hattiesburg. I've left flowers and flags and even Krispy Kreme's there. But I think that's more about me having so little time with him and that so many of the places we were together have been torn down. My father built Hillcrest Hall on the University of Southern Miss campus and I sometimes go in to touch the plaque that bears his name. I'm still surprised that I, the baby of my family, have changed my whole family's thoughts on cremation. Before, the thinking seemed to be that only the damned were cremated... Kinda like a pre-burn before Hell? But, I know Mom wants to be cremated and my sister has given it thought.
I have to say that as a beadmaker, I've gotten to incorporate cremains in glass for a handful of customers. It has been some of the most meaningful work I've ever done. I wouldn't mind leaving a few tablespoons of myself to certain loved ones for that purpose.
The Allie Heart - made with the ashes of one of my hiking buddies, Rottrover's Allie.
But it's a weird thing growing up knowing that your entire family will probably die well before you and leave you all alone in this world. So that's another factor in my not wanting a grave. Who would visit? Would I even want someone standing there crying? Not so much!
But some part of me does long for a grave...because of a television show! I wasn't a big fan of Northern Exposure... I've seen maybe five episodes. But there was one scene that stands out for me. There was a teen named Ed whose good friend Ruthanne was turning 90. He was upset trying to find the perfect gift for her. So he took her hiking up an Alaskan mountainside where he presented her with a deed to a six foot by 3 foot rectangle of property. Yes, he had given her a grave! I was appalled and as I waited for the actress' reaction, I was most surprised. Ruthanne smiled at her gift and said to her young friend, "Why Ed, you've give me the most unique opportunity. May I have this dance?" The show closed with the two of them dancing on her grave.
I still have my dog, Maggie's ashes. She saved my life and I just feel I need her with me. Mabel, when her time comes, will most certainly want to be in her beloved creek but I know I will make myself a memento of her in glass. But when my time comes, I want to be scattered, with Mags, near some peaceful body of water. Which is why, when I find myself in such a place, I always dance a little jig...just in case.