Thursday, August 6, 2009

Death... and Birth

My mother died, on Monday, August 3rd. She was 87 years old.

My father, who died when I was 18, would have celebrated his 91st birthday, today.

Perhaps it is in human nature to seek patterns in everything, and to attribute meaning and structure to random chaos, but it feels oddly symmetrical that mom "left" in time for dad's birthday.

Death is a funny thing. We experience it-- inwardly-- as massive upheaval; in some cases it feels like the world is coming to an end. And yet, when we look around, "nothing happened." We walk through the grocery, and nobody knows that our loved one dies. Bills arrive in the mail, regardless. We make dinner and eat, because life continues. Even when a great statesman or public figure passes, we observe "a minute of silence" and then go back to reading the paper, eating our hamburger or kissing our lover.

Although my mom had many "pink elephants" in the middle of her room, she had what seems like a surprising grasp on the relative "insignificance" of death. I realized this, as I was looking through old notes and journals, trying to get a sense of what "arrangements" should be made, after her death... and found notes from a conversation we had, in 2001:

"Promise me," she said (among other things), "that you won't have this big funeral and religious hooplah, with a bunch of people sitting around and moping. Don't waste time with a wake, and please, no flowers! If you want to have a gathering for me, for God's sake have one NOW, and invite me to it while I can be a participant. If you want to send flowers, send them to me NOW, when I am alive and can enjoy them."

Whereas I realize that funerals and "death rituals" are for the living, she did have a point. Celebrate life, while it is actually going ON, not after it's over.

Thinking about my mother's death, and my father's death... made me pause to consider what I expect, of my own death. And I realized that what's "important" to me is primarily that I am not a financial burden to, or imposition on, anyone. If you can, please do something useful with the biological container I left behind-- I suggest contacting the Life Legacy Foundation, and have them pick up the body. Beyond that? Do whatever you want! I'll be DEAD, for goodness' sake!

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