Death goals

“What do you want to do,” I asked Deb, “when you die?”

It’s a funny way to phrase it, I admit. It’s not like she’s going to have a packed itinerary. No sightseeing tours, no dinner with friends. Bowling is out the question.

I meant what does she want us to do with her when she dies — eventually; don’t worry.

It’s a legitimate question. Deb turns… a certain age this year, and I’m a couple of years ahead of her. We’re healthy, but we might as well start planning while we can, even though right now we couldn’t pay for a funeral to save our life.

“I don’t want to be buried,” Deb answered. “Cremation.”

“But what about your ashes? What do you want us to do with them?”

“It depends on the kids. They might want a place where they can visit us.”

Deb’s a municipal councillor now, and she likes to walk the local trail. I suggested spreading her ashes along the path during a particularly icy day, which would simultaneously honour her memory and make a civic contribution. Tribute and traction.

“Do you want a service? Visitation?”

“No visitation,” she said. “All those people standing around… Have a party. Or a potluck. Rent a hall or something.”

“I want a parade,” I said.


Easy for her to say. I’ll be dead. For all I know, she could bury me lying on my stomach so that, at least in the afterlife, I’ll finally stop snoring. She could sneak my ashes into a construction site, mix them into the cement, and next thing I know I’m a Domino’s Restaurant. (Rest in pizza.) She could bury me in the back yard along with the pets (a cat, two hamsters and counting), which actually isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

I won’t have a say in the matter. Nor should I really. Funerals and burials aren’t for the dead. They’re for the living, a way for them to manage their grief, say goodbye, get free casseroles. That’s why it gets under my skin (decomposition joke) when someone says, “Alfred would have loved this,” or, “It’s what Alfred would have wanted.” What Alfred really would have wanted, probably, was to still be alive.

Deb and I were walking while we were having this conversation, one of those crazy long walks she likes. (Her funeral procession will be a 10K hike; “Debbie would have loved this.”)

“What about you?” she asked. “Do you want to be cremated?”

“I think so, yeah,” I said. “But what would you do with me after that? I don’t want to be on a shelf. I don’t want to be clutter.” We have enough clutter. And the thing with clutter is you stop noticing it after a while, and then one day you wind up in a yard sale for 50 cents.

“I can bury you in the park and build a statue of you,” Deb suggested.

“Cool. Can you enhance the statue? Know what I mean? ‘Enhance’?”

“Maybe I’ll make it really tall so the kids can swing on you.” Always thinking about her community that wife of mine. (Re-elect Debbie Bishop 2021.)

The conversation continued at home, circling back to consulting our children on the matter, or in this case, child.

“It’s up to you,” Abby said. “You’re the one in the ground. Or how about we throw your body in the sea.”

“Let’s go on a cruise and try it out,” said Deb. “But do it on the way back so at least we get our money’s worth.”

The discussion eventually led to a contemplation with Abby on the very nature of death, whether there’s an afterlife or whether all that awaits us is the black void of final, unfathomable nothingness.

“I want to come back as an eagle!” she said.

We may laugh in the shadows but there’s no getting over the fact that it’s death, the last thing anyone wants to deal with, except perhaps insurance. “I don’t want to think about this anymore,” Abby said. “You’re not going to die for like another 20 years.” I’m grateful she’s at least allotted me my threescore and ten.

We ended up no further ahead. No solid plans made, no novelty urns ordered, no singalongs selected. (“Feeling Yourself Disintegrate” by The Flaming Lips?) We’ll have to get real about it at some point. But I do know one thing right now: no selfies with the corpse. It’s what I will have would have wanted.

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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27 Responses to Death goals

  1. February is really getting to everyone.
    Have you seen the ads to have your ashes incorporated into glass pendants? I believe older guys are sensitive to that un-enhanced term, so we’ll call them medallions.
    Here’s a disposal idea that draws on a lifetime of TV-viewing – – Christopher Lloyd as Reverend Jim in “Taxi” and the (chronically) late Graham Chapman, of “Monty Python.”
    A friend, posing as a door-to-door vacuum salesman, stops by the White House, and offers a free demonstration. Then, after my ashes have been strewn around the Oval Office, he opens his case, and remembers he’s selling encyclopedias.
    After that, I don’t give a toss, it’s the gag that’s important.
    Everyone knows this one, I guess? People visiting Beethoven’s resting place at midnight are spooked by strange, unearthly music drifting up from the grave. A famous musician is brought to the grave, listens for a few seconds, and says “It’s his own music, played backwards. He’s decomposing.”

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Two for one.
      I should have linked to it, but I wrote a piece a few years back on aquamation. You’re essentially dissolved and, if you’re so willing, poured down the drain. Or your soup can be used to feed the rhododendrons. I kind of like it.

  2. byebyebeer says:

    I have some old photos of Eastern European relatives posing by corpses. It’s what they did. Somewhere my grandmother has one of me and my brother standing in front of our great grandmother’s casket. Awkward family photos.

  3. You could have yourself turned into a diamond or two. Just what you always wanted, right? To be hanging from your daughter’s earlobes?

  4. walt walker says:

    My wife and I were discussing this very subject today in the waiting room before an outpatient thingy I had. I told her just to bury me naked in a hole in the backyard. She balked. Something about it probably being illegal or something. But it’s my sack of skin and bone, and my backyard. And it’s a lot cheaper, not to mention much less weird, than the alternatives, when you really think about it.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Yes, but property value…

    • pinklightsabre says:

      It’s your SACK? Did you say sack? Tee-hee (Beavis & Butt-head chortling). There is a common malaise about death thoughts in this generation, this pocket of the innernet, and this time for sure. I like Ross’s dramatization of it, good one. And actually, we had a discussion as a family this week: if you were going to die on a holiday, which one? I picked Halloween for seasonal reasons, and for overall cool-quality.

  5. ksbeth says:

    i’d like a wake with no barry manilla or chicago. and i’m good.

  6. Gavin Keenan says:

    I thought that winters were long in Massachusetts, but I see that I have a lot to learn. The Irish have the right idea on wakes; throw a party, eat, drink and lie about how much you liked and will miss the deceased. I share your concerns on the ultimate disposition of ones “cremains.” I would not care to be mixed in the concrete of an ugly, franchise food shop either. Living near the coast, i could not fathom being plunked in the mud as part of some rich persons mooring block; stabilizing the yacht I was never invited on to visit and sip champagne, but now expected to endure the kelp, snails and other denizens of the deep on it’s owners behalf. No way. The wise men say our bodies are our temples, so just sprinkle me on a beach and let the kids make castles out of my left-overs.

  7. It’s a fair enough question, I think. The other day my mum asked me if I’d done a will. I said I’d never met a will in my life, littleown done one. Then she slapped me on the knee and told me to stop trying to be funny. I said I’d prefer not to think about who I leave my house, wife, and kids too. But it did get me thinking, that what if I was to get run over by a tractor, or a tricycle or something tomorrow. So I just wrote my will on a postit and left it on the fridge.

  8. They have tree planters that you insert the ashes of a loved one in. The ashes act as fertilizer for the tree. Isn’t that a lovely thought? Staring at a corpse and moaning in dark room is becoming passé, thank Bog. My mom was cremated. She didn’t want anyone moping about. I don’t either. I want to be cremated and don’t care a whit what they do with my ashes. If my father had been cremated I’d have used the ashes for the cat’s litter box. I would’ve!

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Have you read about the serial killer in Toronto’s gay village? He was a landscaper and was disposing of body parts at the base of his clients’ planters. Gruesome.
      I live in the self-declared Granite Capital of Canada, where not having a tombstone is a sort of blasphemy. The industry has actually had to adapt. Now it’s granite countertops. Ever drop a glass on a stone countertop? Not especially forgiving, let me tell you.

  9. cat9984 says:

    My parents were cremated. I mixed the remains together. We went down to Daytona Beach where they had honeymooned. My family, my brother, and his wife tossed the ashes into the ocean. My mother liked the idea. I didn’t think of it until after my dad died, but he said that he didn’t want to sit on a shelf. I’m not sure how he would have felt sitting in a box in the front hallway for the two years before mom died.

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