Roni Bennett, the elderblogger who organizes "As Time Goes By," a blog for those of us who are over a certain age, and who writes a good number of its entries recently wrote a probably unintentionally funny entry called "My Bodily Remains," which talked about people's fears about their death.
Roni wasn't concerned about the things we usually think about when we express our fears of death. She was much more practical. She worried about who would see her body after death. "...what if I'm caught dead on a day when I haven't shaved my underarms for a couple of weeks? Or I'm in a favorite shabby shirt I never wear out of the house? Or what if I drop dead before I've had a chance to shower and I'm dirty? How embarrassing."
She goes on to describe a host of possibilities about her eventual death and how it could be embarrassing to her. You should go and read it.
This sparked a lot of wonderful reader comments...
- Geez...and up 'til now I just worried about the clean underwear thing...
- My father, who took care of everything, even managed to have my brother get him to the toilet just before he died so that there would not be a mess in the bed!! Think of that ladies and gentlemen. When we die our system "lets go." (I'll bet that guy was a virgo!)
- I am more concerned about suddenly being taken to the hospital after a day of hard work and not having showered yet. Now that would be embarassing as lots of people see, and smell, your body then. And even if you are in extreme pain and don't care at the time, the picture will come back later to haunt you.
- I'd be more concerned about unexpected hospital admission - do I have a proper nightie, will they lose my teeth, what about these boobs hanging down to my knees. Daft stuff like that.
- I used to tell my daughter to make sure to put my eyebrows on before anyone saw me, if I should die in my sleep
I have my own concerns about my death. My father died while sitting at the dining room table, naked except for one sock, eating watermelon. They didn't find him for 3 days. I think about that any time I sit down to eat alone--be sure to be wearing something appropriate. (Expecially if I'm eating watermelon!)
I also imagine what would happen if I died in the recliner, and the trouble paramedics would have trying to heft my rigamortis-ed body out of the chair.
There was a time when I wanted to donate my body to science (I was probably thinner then!), but then I started seeing movies and reading books about medical students and the cadavers they dissect and decided that I really didn't want to be laid out for literally all the world to see. I didn't want to think of students recoiling in disgust and making jokes as they cut through my fat-laden body. So, sorry, science, but you lose.
We don't often speak of death and our fears and our wishes. My mother is great. She knows she wants to be cremated and buried with her husband. She has already paid for the service and has left instructions for what she wants to happen when she dies. (I'm convinced she's going to die watching TV, either a gin and tonic or an ice cream cone in her hand, depending on whether it's before or after dinner.)
But when we had the last really serious scare about Walt's mother, I finally broached the subject of what was going to happen when she died. Nobody had talked about that or discussed it with her. It upset Walt's sister too much to think about it and she admitted that when "the call" came she didn't have a clue what she would tell the nursing home people about where to take her body. I came up with a suggestion which they finally asked her about a few weeks later. She approved it, so now at least we know what will happen when her time comes.
No question about what I want. Cremation, and burial as close to the kids as we can find a plot. Memorial service and I want Steve to be there to sing "Save me a Seat," though now that he's become big-time theatre and has moved to New York, everybody might have to play a recording instead. But those nachos better be up a wall somewhere.
Perhaps some day for several hours
You'll fill some
church with lots of flowers
And display some saintly shot of me somewhere in the hall
Stick a tray of nachos up against the wall....
Then on a day when you feel lost or hurt
Go to the kitchen and get some dessert
Then sit at the table and eat
Just remember to save me a seat
Please remember to save me a seat
How about you? Do you have thoughts about your death? Fears? Wishes for after?