It’s your last day on earth. How do you spend yours? I want to spend mine in a room full of puppies.
He was flying along in his home built little blue airplane. It took him years to build it but it never dawned on him that he couldn’t do it. He went to as many airports as he could and looked over the work of others. He even made friends with some Mennonites that shared his interests. All of his free time was absorbed with airplanes. If he wasn’t working on his airplane then he was talking to others about theirs. He set a goal and didn’t give up.
It was a clear blue day when my Mother and I drove to Murfreesboro to attend a church wedding. The ceremony was beautiful. We were sitting in the reception hall patiently waiting for the cutting of the cake while the photographer took just a few more shots of the bride and groom. Someone walked into the room and spoke quietly to my Mother. I don’t even remember who it was. She told me to stay there while she went outside to talk to them. After a while I became suspicious. I wandered out to the sidewalk where my Uncle Jerry and Pastor Barney Treece were standing with Momma as she leaned against a car. I thought it strange that they would come to this wedding. They didn’t even know the bride.
I walked up to them and asked “What’s wrong?” I received blank stares.
“Your Father has been in an airplane crash.”
“Is he OK?”
I desperately looked to the sky. I just knew I’d see him flying over. He had to be up there. There is no logic for this.
I looked at my Uncle.
“I’ll ride with y’all to the funeral home.”
Funeral home? No. That can’t be. He’s only 39 years old.
We were ushered into a little office beyond the sanctuary. The funeral director sent my Uncle to view the body. Someone had to decide if there would be an open casket.
There would be no open casket. I would never see him again.
People were talking. I could hear voices but all was muffled. We were taken to the hospital where little white cups with pills in them were passed into our hands. They would make us feel better.
People poured into our home. Even the Mennonites came. The women weren’t allowed inside our home due to their religion so they reverently waited in their cars with their children.
There were men that Daddy taught me to talk to on his base station. I had never met them but only knew them by their handles.
The family drove down.
We were packed in our house like sardines. Some were sent to Mrs. Ruth’s house to sleep. There are no hotels in Mineral Springs Arkansas.
His casket was laid in the sanctuary of the funeral home. An American flag was draped across it. I stood there at a loss. I could not say goodbye.
Uncle Jerry came and stood beside me. He told me what the colors of the flag stood for. White signifies purity and innocence; red, hardiness and valor; and blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
He said I had to go sit down now. I needed to leave my Father so that the funeral could progress. My feet were planted in stone. They would not move.
We sat in folding chairs at the graveside. I don’t know what was spoken. Devastation does not focus. Guns were fired. A 21 gun salute. A uniformed man in the distance began playing Taps.
After writing my own eulogy yesterday it was brought to my attention that I still need an epitaph. As a peruser of cemeteries I think it would be great to have a formal looking tombstone with something ridiculous inscribed so that the viewer can’t help but snort. Cemeteries are just way too somber. I can just see someone a hundred years from now trying to wipe off my stone to read what it says. I know what I’m putting on my husbands. Well, there are two things.
- You may not have liked him but you remember him.
- Don’t you monkey with my widder (widow) when I’m gone.
I’ve been considering many different epitaphs for my headstone but I have narrowed the choice down to the following :
“Here lies the bones of a life well spent. She did it all, so away she went.”
“Skip around the graveyard or I’ll haunt you. I mean it. Don’t mess with me.”
“I’m standing behind you.”
“Séance tonight at 10:00pm. Call me. ;)”
“Under your feet lies lifeless bones. You are too late, I’m afraid I’ve gone.”
“Thanks for coming. I’d serve refreshments but, you know, I’m dead.”
“Daises are my favorite in case you just wanted to bring me something.”
What do you want on your headstone? You better figure it out. Otherwise you’ll have family members like me making that decision. I’m currently trying to figure out how to make a casket spray with jars of peanut butter for my Aunt Vivian when she kicks the bucket. She is so going to haunt me. Anybody got an ice truck? We definitely need an ice truck following the hearse.
Eulogies are so hard. I’ve decided to write my own to spare my family the trouble. Sure, anybody can have a preacher throw some scriptures around while folks mournfully show their respects. I just don’t think this kind of funeral is going to work for me. I’m going to haunt any minister that tries to preach folks into heaven at my funeral. I’ll have none of that nonsense! The purpose of this day is to remember me and the impact I had on your life not your own wellbeing. So stop being selfish and take this somber time to reflect on the times we had together.
So, here lies Deanna in a simple pine box. Yeah, we all know she was too cheap to spring for the 20 gauge, solid bronze, plush lined model. A casket is kind of like a wedding dress. Folks are only going to see it once. What’s the point in springing for the fancy one? It’s not like the critters below ground care what kind of seal their squirming through. Besides, this way is much more fun. Deanna has requested that all mourners please sign a farewell onto her lovely pine box with the sharpie on a chain that has been attached. (She was afraid some of you would try to steal the sharpie. Tsk, tsk..) Think of it like signing a cast but this one is for eternity. Maybe if Saint Peter sees the well wishes of a few upstanding citizens he might go easier on her.
Deanna was a great woman born of exceptional stock. Ok fine, her bloodlines were closer to a mixed breed mutt but she had exceptional aspirations. She birthed herself on a fine Saturday morning while her shocked mother was still trying to explain to some German ambulance drivers the urgency of the situation. She hit the ground running and her first job was to calm down the Ninnies who had no idea what a great organizer she was.
Much of her youth was wasted as she spent time explaining her superior knowledge of all things to those who insisted on “raising” her. This wonderful trait would later be determined as “bossy” behavior by the less knowledgeable minions.
Deanna used her organizing super power to gather family close during the holidays much to their dismay. They simply did not know how much they needed to spend time together and might have blindly wandered through life with mediocre holiday dinners had she not interfered.
Deanna did not attend college as she was born fabulous and adding to that would just be extravagance. She enjoyed assembling people that earned quadruple her salary and convincing them to follow her outline for work procedures. It has been noted that someone may have been smacked with a ruler for misaligning her files.
In her later years Deanna published the antics of her family and friends on a public blog for the world’s viewing pleasure. If you were the subject of one of her posts you may thank her for exposing your idiocy now.
The rest of her life was spent spreading her love while riding a unicorn through life’s adventures. With cape flapping in the breeze she traipsed along leaving happiness in her wake. (Some of these adventures may or may not have been pharmaceutically induced. Only her shrink knows for sure.)
At this time I would like to ask the Jazz Troup to strike up a rousing round of “When the Saints Go Marching In” as we all march across the grounds and lift Deanna’s spirit to the heavens where our mighty maker lies in wait of his newest problem child foal.
What would happen if you really did live each day like it were your last? Is that really possible? What would you do differently?
First of all I would have tiramisu for breakfast and prosciutto with exotic cheeses for lunch. My health would go out the window as I plunged into decadent pastries. In reality I don’t think it’s possible to live each day as your last when it comes to eating. I think we are natural pleasure seekers and would kill ourselves in diet alone.
Is there anywhere this theory could be used? I’m pretty happy with my life as it is so I’m not sure what I would do differently. I don’t have children so I have no problem finding “me” time. I suppose some people might take more financial risks in an effort to live life to its fullest but I don’t think that’s for me. I am not financially rich but I have everything that I want. Some of my favorite things don’t cost a dime. People look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that I don’t want to win the lottery. Seriously, do you know how much work is involved in taking care of millions of dollars? I don’t need the worry.
I think maybe Nicolas Boileau had it right. “He who lives content with little possesses everything.”
I think maybe if today were to be my last that I wouldn’t change a thing.
Do you remember when you first learned to fear? Not the “you’re going to get a spanking” kind but the “holy shit are you serious” kind. I remember my first fear quite vividly. I learned it in church. It was vacation bible school to be exact. We were living in Killeen Texas and I was going along doing my normal kid stuff when my Mother decided that my Brother and I should attend vacation bible school. I was a little worried about attending as I was the kid screaming bloody murder at being left at kindergarten to be eaten by wolves and I also did not know if my Mother would truly attend to the needs of my “Baby Alive” as she had promised. I could just see my poor baby suffering alone in my room. She was very real to me and I was pretty sure that my Mother was not capable of keeping her safe and happy in my absence. Ok, so she had given birth twice and kept my Brother and I from irreversible harm but I saw the look in her eye when I asked her to babysit for me. There was no true concern for the welfare of my baby.
Against my better judgement we were shipped off to church where our souls could be saved. This concept was foreign to me and I had yet to sort it out. I was sitting in the pew worrying about my doll when the person in the pulpit captured my attention away. Wait! What did you just say? She said I could die! She also said some other stuff about heaven and hell but my brain couldn’t get passed the fact that I was not immortal. SHE SAID I COULD DIE!! I worried about this for quite a while. Later I was in the backseat of a car driven by our neighbor Sandy while my Mother sat in the front seat chatting with her about nonsense while I’m staring out the window at a world that would not keep me. This world would let me go and would not even care if I was here. I had never experienced death so the idea of a dead body or a burial had yet to cross my mind. I could just see myself exploding into a shower of glittery dust particles and no longer existing. No sound, no breath, no anything. Just complete nothingness.
The seed of fear was planted.
I find myself mourning the loss of someone who was not very good to me or my family. I’ve been asking myself all day why would I care that she left this earth? Is it only because she was in our lives for so long? I’ve tried to think of a good quality she might have had. A little speck of something she may have left on this earth that I should care. Maybe it is only pity I feel for her. That is what she always desired; pity. She told too many lies to count and neglected everyone and everything around her in order to be successful in her only goal in life. Her goal was to be a victim even if she had to lie to do it.
Harsh words, I know. Is it wrong to speak ill of the dead even when it’s the truth? I am sorry that she never chose to live. I am sorry that she refused to take care of herself or her family. I am sorry that she got angry every time someone called her on her lies or laziness. I am sorry for her immediate family. I am sorry that she refused to do the things that the Doctors told her to do. I am sorry that she loved being a victim. I am sorry that she wasted the life that was given to her. I am sorry that she never even tried.
Maybe I’m just hurt that she wouldn’t put forth effort. With a little bit of effort, things could have been very different.
I don’t usually get attached to material things. For the most part I could have an estate sale tomorrow and it would not faze me but there is this little pot. Sometimes this little pot makes me angry and sometimes it makes me smile. This little pot is a reminder of the person who gave it to me years ago. She has long since passed away as has her husband. I really miss them sometimes.
To understand this little chipped pot you must know where it came from. It was a gift to my friend from her cousin Ola. Cousin Ola was the epitome of success and was greatly revered because she had married a railroad tycoon and lived in the big city of Little Rock. Well, it is a big city if you’re from rural Arkansas.
My friend used this pot for many years to hold her ball of yarn while she crocheted. Financial success was very important to my friend so she placed great value in this pot. Not for its monetary value as it has little but for the reminder that her dear cousin captured success. When Cousin Ola came to visit everyone jumped through hoops to make the house and themselves in presentable order worthy of such a special visitor.
I’m not sure why my friend was so obsessed with financial status. In her stories about her Cousin it became clear that this was instilled in her as a child. It may have something to do with living through the depression. This is the one thing about my friend that I did not like and I would often do my best to steer her away from conversations of wealth.
For years I went to visit Mr. and Mrs. Friend every Sunday afternoon at 3:00pm. I loved our visits. Mrs. Friend had Alzheimer’s and could not remember what she ate for lunch but she could tell me about the homemade dress she wore to graduation and subsequently tore while climbing a fence on that very same day. She told me of her Father taking the diamond out of his ring to give it to her and filling the empty prongs of his gold ring with gum. We spoke of her youth when she played basketball and how Mr. Friend courted her all the way through school. We never had a dull Sunday afternoon. My Friends were in their 80’s and had so very many stories to tell. My favorite story from Mr. Friend was the Halloween that he and his buddies disassembled a local merchant’s wagon and reassembled it on top of his store. Oh how I loved their stories.
I wish that was all they had to tell. The wonderful stories that is. The problem with being a friend is that you have to listen to the unpleasant stories as well. You would think the most unpleasant stories would be the ones about the times they each had survived cancer. But no…this was a different kind of cancer. A soul eating cancer. This was the stories about their immediate family and how they had allowed money to come between them. They would wield the family inheritance around like a sword. I’ll never know what really happened in these stories of greed because I only heard one side of the story. I hope to never know the truth. I’m afraid it is uglier than I can bear. I do not wish to believe that either side could ever think that money was so important.
The day Mrs. Friend passed away I got the call very early in the morning. I threw on some clothes and ran to the nursing home as fast as I could. Mr. Friend was sitting there alone with her body. We sat together for a long time not really knowing what to say. Her last words were the first and middle name of her beloved husband. She called for him and the lady sharing a room with her tried to calm her. Then she was gone. Mr. Friend and I waited hours for the funeral home to show up. They put her on that metal gurney and covered her with a red velvet cloth from the funeral home. I miss my friend.
So, I keep her pot beside my bed on a shelf below the alarm clock. I look at the little pot each night when I go to bed and each morning when I awake. Sometimes the little pot reminds me how unimportant “things” and money are. Sometimes it reminds me of a homemade dress that was torn while jumping a fence.
Ok, so now I finally get it. You’ve all seen the posts: “People will not remember what you did but how you made them feel.”
When death comes all of your accolades are useless. Don’t believe me? Go to a funeral. No one says “Oh how wonderful they were at their job” or “Look how splendidly they provided for their family”. Nope, what you will actually hear is “Remember the time they did ____. I never laughed so hard” or “Remember how thoughtful they were? They always made everyone feel so welcome.” Your legacy is how you make people feel. That is what they will remember you for. When your lifeless body lies in a casket nobody gives a hoot if you earned a million dollars, lived in a 3,000 sf house or drove a Mercedes.
My husband often tells this story:
A man in town died but no one particularly cared for him. He was rather cantankerous. He needed to be buried but there was no one who could think of a kind word to say over his grave. The Preacher stood over his grave and said the only good thing he could think of. “He was a mighty fine whistler.”
Since I can’t whistle I really need to be kind to people. Bring my best Banana Pudding to a gathering. Make that phone call that I’ve been putting off. That’s what they will remember.
Do you ever scream inside your head so loud your stomach hurts and you grit your teeth? No, Ok….me neither….. Carry on. Forget I mentioned it.
My head is just spinning today. My Aunt Shirley took her last breath on this earth yesterday. It’s so hard to watch your families dwindle. I understand the circle of life but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I can only speak from my own perspective as everyone sees things differently but I find no rhyme or reason to the length of some lives. There is an old Native American belief that you will stay on this earth until you have completed what you were sent here to do. There are those that seem to be so very full of life and living it to its grandest that are taken in the middle of all that action. Then there are those who live to their 80’s mean as snakes and stubborn as mules and I wonder if God doesn’t just say “Oh never mind. They are never going to get this right.”
There are those who spend years physically ill and suffering. What purpose could this possibly serve? Why must they be tormented? Is there a lesson being learned here, is it a result of the poor care we took of our own flesh or is it just a weak body resulting from genetics?
And then there is dementia. That ugly world that takes their minds but leaves their bodies to be tended. The biggest problem is that you can’t convince them that they have dementia so everyday living is a constant battle. Try to find a purpose in that one! Is it to torment the living? Dementia patients are not living. They exist in a world that is new every day. Not even remembering that they cussed you out yesterday. You call them on the phone and they have no idea who you are. It’s a very cruel existence.
I know, the answer is not mine to know. Not yet anyway.
My mind remembers my Aunts and Uncles as I saw them as a child. People doing the best they could with what they had to work with. Well, most of them anyway. Now I am joining the ranks of the older generation. It’s unreal to me.
So, how do we endure? Numbing, it’s what all people do to hide from pain. We just use different methods. Drugs, alcohol, food, television, music and yes, even cleaning. We will do anything to make it go away. You can’t wipe it away with a dust rag or eat it into oblivion. When you sober up there it sits, staring you in the face. Mocking you and causing that incessant screaming in your head. So you go to church. You pray about it. You talk about it. You think about it. Yep, you just keep it there hovering over you because you can’t let it go. The old folks used to say “Give it to God”. Maybe they had a very good point. Let it go. Kick that sucker to the curb and move on. You know,♪ “Gonna lay all of my burdens, down by the riverside…”♪Yep, I’m going to leave them there. Right there, down by the riverside. Nope, not going to pick them up again. This is me, leaving them there. I am walking away. Walking away. Not going to turn around and look. Nope, letting that stuff go.