Making Up Your Mind

Monday, January 28, 2008
The other day, Nathan made a comment that if he were to die, he wouldn't want strangers placing flowers and teddy bears on the stoop of his brownstone to commemorate his passing, a la Heath Ledger.

This got me to thinking...what would I want if I was to get hit by a bus tomorrow?

Well, there's the obvious stuff - I want my kids to be taken care of, and I've taken steps to ensure that happens. I want my Smart Man to be able to take care of my personal business without a lot of hassle, and I've also taken steps on this front. My Smart Man knows my wishes regarding the disposition of my body. But how do I want to be remembered?

I can say with certainty that I don't want the flowers and teddy bear experience. Not that so many people will know or care when the bus comes a-calling, but on a normal-person scale, that's not the legacy I want.

So attention, friends and family. When my bus comes looking for me, please don't spend any money on ceremony or services. Instead, please take the money you would of spent on flowers and funeral clothes and donate it to a charity that you feel would speak to me. In case you need a few suggestions, try Room to Read, Kiva, or Heifer International. Because that's a legacy I could get behind.

29 comments:

Nathan said...

And this is how babelfish translates that snippet of German:

And then I said that which hell was I thinking, trying, to decode that old code and it has all am said, when it should be. You are good, my friend. And I said, am you too good-natured. But particularly my good friend, Jeri does not tell anybody that I told you this. It will worry about me.

John the Scientist said...

My FIL has given my wife his wishes, since he does not trust the obvious Chinese choice (the oldest, who is also a boy) not to go stick his ashes in the temple of that crazy Buddhist cult he belongs to.

We will carry out his wishes, and I've gone and drawn up a separate will so my BIL's crazy (literally) wife doesn't take it into her head to consult the monks.

He asked to be scattered into the sea, since he's spent so much of his life wandering them and started his life by the ocean. We didn't tell him, but we will scatter some in NY where he's been the past 20 years, some in Taiwan where he lived in exile, some in Hainan where he fought and bled, and some in the land of his ancestors, Tsingdao.

I only wish that we could find the 2 children he left behind in 49 before he dies. That wouild be the gift I'd most like to give him. If they are still alive, or indeed even survived the Communist purges. Private investigators are thin on the gorund in China.

Janiece Murphy said...

John, thank goodness my family doesn't have any bat-shit members. We have other problems, instead, but people's wishes are typically respected in terms of their arrangements and medical choices.

Which makes me very, very happy.

Tom said...

Mom and Dad wanted their ashes to be together. They're both under the apple tree in my sister's front yard.

As for me, I don't care. I won't be around to check up, anyway. I will be remembered until I'm not, and that's good enough.

Janiece Murphy said...

Tom, I think that's cool. Together under the apple tree, just like the song.

I'm such a sentimental sap.

Jeri said...

My family has a tradition of scattering ashes - well, at least three generations worth. Dad's are scattered at the top of Rimrock Falls, in eastern Washington, where he used to ride his ATV. Mom would like to join him there when it's her time.

At the most practical level, Tom is right - it doesn't matter what happens, I won't be there to care.

But still, I'm somewhat claustrophobic and worm phobic and the thought of my body being buried is repulsive. I prefer the ashes option too, it just seems cleaner and freer and more symbolic.

I'm pretty sure my family will honor my wishes, thank goodness.

Janiece Murphy said...

Jeri, you're right, of course. I just don't want my family and friends spending money on something that I wouldn't want and that doesn't add value to the world. Whenever someone I know dies, I'm always much happier if the announcement includes a "in lieu of flowers, send donations to..." clause. It seems like a much better legacy and remembrance than soon-to-be-dead flowers.

Nathan said...

Oh, I'm supposed to be coherent in this thread? Nobody told me. My first response to it is...somewhere else. Not sure where.

Once again, though I'm far from an observant Jew, I'll go with that tradition.

No flowers (They symbolize resurrection).
No embalming (unless the state demands it).\
Plain wooden box and shroud. (Worm Friendly).
Plant me within 24 hours if possible.

Lastly, even if my mourners (and I hope there's at least a few) don't follow any of the other rules about mourning, I want them to stick to the one that says after a year, you have to get over it already. People die!

John the Scientist said...

Janiece - bat-shit does not even begin to cover it. She was apparently compliant on her schizo meds when she sent herself back into the bin of loons by spending over 6 hours doing the repetitive chanting thing, which often has psychological after-effects even in "normals". (Scare quotes because I don't think anyone who spends 6 hours repeating "ami tofu" or whatever the hell they're mumbling in Sanskrit is normal by my definition of the word).

The evil part of me wants to make a video recording of the FIL threatening to haunt them if they don't carry out his wishes.

I'm a bad, baaad, man.

Michelle K said...

Oh. I thought I was supposed to do this *elsewhere*

In that case, I want what should be for all intents and purposes, an Irish Wake. Lots of drinking and eating and laughing and talking.

Especially laughing.

John the Scientist said...

Oh, I'd be laughing at that haunting video.

I'm a bad, bad, baaaaaad man.

And not one to put up with superstitious fools gladly.

Janiece Murphy said...

Bad Scientist. Bad! No biscuit!

In defense of my Buddhist brethren, I do have to say chanting as a form of meditation has been shown to focus the mind. In moderation. Fanatics can take anything and make it bat-shit, seems like.

Nathan, I would mourn your passing (for no longer than a year). Is cremation forbidden in Judaism?

And Michelle? I am so there for your wake. Lifting my tankard in your honor!

John the Scientist said...

Yeah, that's why I classify it as a Buddhist cult, not mainstream Buddhism. I practice meditation in my martial arts myself.

Nathan said...

Yes, cremation is forbidden. Your supposed to be buried and its considered important that all your pieces get into the same box. (long story).

But that's not why I wouldn't go for cremation. I just prefer the idea of burial.

Michelle K said...

Oh! I knew that about all the bits having to be there!

That's why some people have to save their tonsils, severed limbs etc, so said bits can be buried with them.

And Janice? Don't forget the laughing. That's the most important part. I want people to smile and laugh when they remember me.

Janiece Murphy said...

Michelle, I knew that too. I think I learned it from Law & Order: SVU Who says you can't learn anything useful on crime/dramas?

Tania said...

Since I'm going to be in meetings the rest of the afternoon, I'll violate Hijack Day and answer here.

Cremation, plant a tree somewhere with the ashes as part of the fertilizer. Have a wake/party remembering the good and the bad (I'm no saint), reflect on how we all die sometime so you should live as good a life as you can. Make some bad puns, tell some jokes, make comments about my potential old cat lady-ness.

MWT said...

My father's ashes ended up in a Buddhist temple in the LA area. Not because he was Buddhist - far from it, he seemed to have become a devout atheist - but because that was the secular Buddhist thing to do. Heh. It's funny; our weddings are all secular Christianlike, and our funerals are all secular Buddhistlike, and most of us are neither.

As for me, I'm hoping to get my ashes scattered somewhere meaningful. I'm not big on the concept of being stuck in a box or cupboard for all eternity. My remains ought to be recycled. But my family isn't too terribly interested in what I'd have to say on the matter, so if I got hit with a bus tomorrow, they'd probably put me in a pot in the temple too.

John the Scientist said...

mwt - get and register a living will if you don't want to end up in a brightly painted bus locker with some random number on it.

The occidental wedding and oriental funeral thing seems to be common in Japan and Taiwan. Japanese don't much believe in anything spiritual, but I think more Taiwanese believe in something, although given the mish-mash of stuff in their temples, I'm not sure what it is that they do believe. I often wonder about the odd overtones of a white dress for a happy occasion in the Orient, but most Japanese seem to be able to separate the symbolism of Western rituals from Asian ones. For the recception all the Chinese I know switched to red, though. Talk about mixed signals!

Funny, with my wanderlust nature you'd think I'd want to be scattered, but I want to return to the land of my ancestors to be buried with them.

Michelle K said...

John,

The color thing confuses me as well. One friend got married in white, but she was marrying an American, so I wasn't really sure.

But I can tell you that when I unthinkingly picked up white balloons for her baby shower, you can be damned sure I had my husband run out and buy colored balloons, and made him remove all the white balloons from the house.

Just in case.

John the Scientist said...

Michelle - you did good. Many Asians can sort of suspend disbelief for specified rituals like a Western mairriage, but on those non-ritual occasions like birthdays, a lot of Asians get the creeps about white balloons, flowers, and napkins. My wife does, and she's a Christian.

And no white on Chinese New Year. Period.

Michelle K said...

John,

That makes sense.

Kinda like me not being superstitious, but I'll still knock on wood when I say something that could be "jinxed"

And yes, I actually know why one knocks on wood--to deafen the wood spirits who might try to thwart you, because they can.

Tom said...

Not trying to hijack (notice the small h) this thread, but getting your ashes scattered somewhere seems to mean your ashes would have to be hauled there to be scattered, and getting your "ashes hauled" after you're dead is just EEEWWWWW!

But seriously, Tania's idea of a celebration is what I would go for. If people felt good enough about my life to do that, I would be (ahead of time) very satisfied.

Janiece Murphy said...

I'm pretty skeptical, so I'm not very superstitious, but I understand it in others. Mostly because they usually understand that it is an irrational belief, and they choose to observe it anyway "just in case."

MWT said...

Tom,

My father's ashes are in a very nice clay pot. "Hauling" isn't what I'd call it (it's not that heavy). We basically just carried it.

Non sequitur: as it says in my blog footer, "When you were born, you were crying and everyone else was smiling. Try to live a life so that when you die, everyone else is crying and you're smiling."

The Mechanicky Gal said...

SMOKY EVENING EYES. I'm comin' with my Bad Galk eyeliner even if it IS right before they whisk you away to scientist-land or wherever it is they will take you, you will go with SEXAY EYES.
That is all.

Janiece Murphy said...

Well, of course I'll have Smokey Evening Eyes. On my way to the Body Farm, or the Med School, or whatever.

Anything else would be just wrong.

The Mechanicky Gal said...

And I will not forget to speak the secret words - to make sure you aren't just napping. You know "Shoe sale at Nordstrom, but 1 get 2 free!"

Janiece Murphy said...

Hmm...Cole Hahn...

If that won't wake me up, nothing will.