Monday, September 29, 2008

Planning for One's Demise ...(a Little Bit ) Ahead of Time: Gladly Did I Live and Gladly Die

Basically I try to stay on top of things, just enough so that if they find me dead in the morning, they'll be more inspired than aggrieved. I mean, there's the poster of the Dalai Lama, and a very nice selection of books. Surely they will recall that I was funny and laughed a lot and went to church, sometimes slightly irreverently, and had joyfully accepted the fact that I would be gone someday. But did I improve the life of my fellow man? I hope so, at least now and then and here and there.

It could happen to any of us at a moment's notice or less, and if it did, what would matter? Your first inclination is to wonder if your affairs are in order. The truth is, they are often not in order, lawyers being how they are and all, not to mention expensive to consult. Because, what do you want? Well, of course you want your children to live happily ever after, that's a given, and oftentimes your spouse. My ex-spouse was cut short, and unable to make provisions for me or the children, but we've all carried on magnificently I'd say, despite it all. It's going to get harder though, to plan ahead, especially if we go into a depression.

So what do you want them to see after your carcass is carted away by the removal experts, who may have swiped loose change from the dresser, and knocked a picture or two crooked as they carry you down the steps in their black suits, joking under their breaths - undertakers being what they are and all- among the funniest of all people I've ever met, God knows? Do you want your loved ones to see what you were last involved in, the last book you were reading, carefully earmarked, or the letter you were writing? (Best hide the Metamucil each night, just to be sure, for aesthetic purposes) Or maybe the last cake you baked, your last pan of eggs, almost empty but not yet washed, and how good it was, fresh herbs all about? Chances are they'll be preoccupied with other things, and you won't be able to set the mood.

Or would you rather leave only the slightest trace? Some think of it that way. So many better and wiser people have gone before us. "Famous Last Words" and "Famous Epitaphs" are of interest to many people. Clark Gable's "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" has been used. And W.C. Field's proposed "All things considered, I'd rather be in Philadelphia." Being somewhat old-fashioned and romantic at the core, I always favored "Beloved Mother"

But what do you want to leave behind? If you can't leave money, which you might not be able to, or real estate, which you might not be able to, given the economy? How about a little flower or some pretty thing upon your breast, if you felt it coming? A note? No, too complicated. A smile? Can't predict how that'll go.

Or how about this: let's not worry too much-just live to fight another day, show them how it goes. We all live by the grace of God. There's not too far to go. We're all in this universe together throughout eternity, what else is there? Energy's neither created nor destroyed, right? Have faith. Carry on. Love one another, as we've been told. And love God above all else. Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

"Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave, and let me lie.
Gladly did I live and gladly die,
For I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
'Here he lies where he longed to be.
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the Hunter home from the hill'."

-Robert Louis Stevenson

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