A couple of recent events led my husband and I to having “the talk.” No, not that talk. The other one.
Though we decided almost immediately after the births of our children where they would go in the unlikely event we both died at the exact same time, we had not expressed our wishes to one another regarding what we wanted done with our remains (though that makes us sound like road kill) if one of us bids this world adieu before the other — a much more likely scenario.
There are lots of choices these days.
A recently deceased 83-year-old New Orleans socialite had a very interesting memorial service. The “bon vivant and philanthropist” was known for wearing wild hats from some of the world’s most famous fashion houses and always having an ornate cigarette holder in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other.
According to media reports, the little woman, who was only around 5’ tall, had a big personality and blamed her aggressive, in-your-face personality on her “Napoleon complex,” though she often reminded people she was taller than him. But perhaps this complex can also explain another one of her favorite “signature” pieces — a jeweled pin that spelled out “BITCH.”
When her friends walked into the New Orleans’ Saenger Theater for her service last week, they found her fully embalmed and colorfully dressed body propped up on a wrought iron bench, sporting all of her trademarks — the hat, the pin, cigarette holder and champagne glass and a feather boa. Mourners traded stories and sipped on bubbly, and it seemed to be more of a party than a funeral.
Her daughter was quoted saying how much her mother would have just loved it because she craved attention.
Sounds like the perfect farewell for her, but I’m not so sure how well this would work for my own service though. If I were to perish any time soon, I could just picture myself perched up on the stage of our own Saenger on a bench sporting my raggedy Target clothes. Somehow without a boa and a cigarette holder, campy turns to creepy really fast.
I’ll have to put some more thought into this.
My husband and I have settled on one thing — we both want to be cremated. It’s funny. When I was a little kid, I remember finding out what it meant to be cremated and being terrified by it. But now, the thought of being buried “in that cold, cold ground” — even if it is in the Cadillac of coffins — scares me even more. Plus, I’m sure I would hate what I was wearing for eternity. You know embalming fluid adds 10 lbs. Actually I think it’s two gallons, 16 ounces.
Frank at first said he wanted to go all Hunter S. Thompson and have his ashes made into fireworks and shot up into the night sky. There are several companies who will do this for you. You can have rockets, comets or any number of post-mortem pyrotechnics.
One such description reads, “two minutes of the finest explosions available at over 100 feet, incorporating gold tails to green peonies, crackling dragon eggs and red and blue chrysanthemum bursts. A fitting tribute to truly celebrate a life.”
“Look at those crackling dragon eggs,” his friends would weep. “What a helluva guy!”
I wasn’t so sure about this one.
“I don’t know, Frank. It seems a little too Fourth of July,” I said. “Am I supposed to ask people to bring potato salad and baked beans to your wake? I could order some ribs from Moe’s.”
He relented and came up with a plan that really sounded perfect. He would like to have his ashes dumped in a hole on his family’s land and a tree planted on top in his honor.
“I love it, but what kind of tree?” I asked. He is the green thumb of our family and I knew he would have a definite opinion on this.
“A live oak,” he said.
I looked up at the beautiful oak tree hanging over our patio and then down at the mountain of blooms that had just accumulated on it since he raked them up the weekend before.
“But I thought you hated raking up those blooms and acorns and leaves?” I asked.
“Well, I’m going to be dead, so I’m not going to have to deal with it,” he said.
“Well, I want to be buried by you then. You can pick out a tree for me. But if I die first, don’t put me in the ground by myself,” I said. “Just hold on to me and we can be buried together.”
Feeling satisfied with our plan and that this matter was settled, I went back to reading my magazine, gazing occasionally up at own oak tree.
But then an unthinkable “what if’ hit me.
“But if I die first,” I yelled at Frank. “And if you get married to some hooker, don’t you dare think she’s going to have her slutty hooker ashes buried with ours.”
“OK, but you’re not going to be around, so you probably won’t care,” he said.
Oh yes I would.
“And I probably wouldn’t marry a hooker. I’m sure you’d really love her,” he teased.
Even though I knew how ridiculous this conversation was, I was seriously getting angry.
“I don’t care if she is a saint, I would hate her. In fact, if she is a saint, I would hate her even more, and I don’t want her stupid ashes anywhere near ours or our trees. Promise me, Frank.”
He did. But I know my husband, always the diplomat. He’ll have half of himself buried with me and the other half with that trollop, and there will be multiple trees planted and mountains of oak blooms and acorns that my poor children will have to rake up because of her. Selfish hooker.
In all seriousness, it doesn’t really matter if you are resting for eternity in the Cadillac coffin in the finest real estate Pine Crest has to offer or if your ashes are buried next to those of your husband’s hooker. What you do while alive, is way more important than what you do while your dead. If you loved and were loved, the memories your friends and family have and will cherish are the absolute best “monuments” there are, and the only ones that really matter.
And besides, if Frank plants that hooker’s tree near mine, I will definitely make sure it gets some kind of fungus. Something really nasty that makes her bark fall off.
Can someone get me a chainsaw over here?