I wonder if other people plan their deaths, their funerals. Weddings, of course; almost every woman I know, including the stolidly anti-marriage, have at least once planned their wedding -- it's hard to avoid, given our culture. But deaths? We don't like to think about death, and yet it's fascinating as well. I know as a teenager I liked to invent horrifying, yet noble, deaths for myself. I would run into a burning building and save thirteen children, yet be trapped myself at the end, and go up in flames, and everyone who knew me would wish they'd been nicer to me. Typical teen fantasy, I imagine. I was not a very popular teen, though I was blessed with a few good friends. These days, I'm hoping to live past a hundred; I imagine it depends on whose genetics I get. All of my grandparents have died, some in their sixties. Two had a version of Alzheimer's, and another had multiple strokes. Not good odds, since I'm twenty-six already -- that leaves me only a little more than half my life. On the other hand, my great-grandmother lived to be past a hundred, in full possession of her faculties. She was the only one in the family to be even close to as short as I am (I'm 5'0"), so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that I've gotten her longevity genes.
When I do die, I'll definitely be cremated. I'm an organ donor, and I've signed away the rest of the body as well, so the doctors will take whatever they can use, and whatever bits of skin and tissue left will be neatly burned. (Am I upsetting anyone? I know people get distressed by this sort of thing, but I never have, especially not when it applies to me. I tend to be very pragmatic about it.) I hope you're all organ donors. I definitely don't want a funeral. They tend to be morbid affairs (they could hardly help it) and I've been to too many, watched too many people sink in on themselves with grief. Rain may be appropriate for funerals, but I wouldn't want someone I loved to have to cope with following a coffin through the rain on top of missing me. Let the undertakers cope with the details, and when the ashes are safely in their urn, let them return them to my friends, who will hopefully scatter them in a garden or on the sea, rather than keeping them sitting maudlin on their mantelpiece. Or if they must keep them on the mantelpiece, let them tell bad jokes about them, and think fondly, rather than sadly, of me.
And when all the details are taken care of, let there be a wake, with wine and songs and even dancing. Let them make speeches, and cry on each other's shoulders. May no one be alone in their grief unless they wish to be. Let there be laughter along with remembrance. The Greyhaven folks knew how to do it right for Paul. I hope my friends are as kind to themselves.
Do other people think of these things? Is it maudlin, or morbid? I don't think so -- it doesn't depress me. Rather the opposite, in fact; I end up feeling very fond of the people in my life, very protective of them. Perhaps I'll call up my sisters tonight, and make sure they're doing okay. I'll remember my mother's birthday tomorrow. I'll purchase some Christmas presents, and carefully wrap and label them. I'll walk in the rain and think how lucky I am to be loved. After all, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow...
1:15. First, a quote: "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." - H.G. Wells.
Then a recommendation. I just finished an article in Wayne C. Booth's book, The Vocation of a Teacher. I cannot recommend this book too highly (and I say this on the strength of the table of contents and the single essay). He is careful. He is thoughtful. He is eminently readable and entertaining. He says important things, and if you teach at all, especially at the college level, I think you should read this book. I read this article on reserve, and now I'm going to walk over to Amazon.com and see if I can buy the darn book.