February 24, 2010

Scribbling about dying 

I love to get my money’s worth. Maybe it’s having parents that lived through the depression and the second world war.  I grew up with stories; When my Mom ate an apple during the depression all the neighborhood kids would gather around and beg for the core! She also said that on Christmas morning, it was huge treat to get an orange in the toe of your stocking. I couldn’t never imagine that getting an orange to eat would be a Christmas treat.  My Mom tried to shovel an orange into us every day because they were so healthy.


My getting value for dollars could also have come from me being an artist with a family to support.  Now that’s a big problem. First of all it’s hard enough to support yourself as an artist, then tack on some kids and it’s pretty well impossible.


In any event, I am not tight, or cheap but I am very choosey about what I spend.  I love to spend my money on stuff that I love; books, art supplies, marvelous works of art. I remember well, twenty-five years ago, buying an incredible hand made coat for $ 500.  My ninety year old friend, Rachel, had seen it modeled in a Women’s Institute fashion show. The next time I visited, she told me that she had seen a coat that I would love.  The Nova Scotia government had commissioned an artist to make a special coat for Princess Margaret.  The artist made two coats; a short one in blues and a long one in pinks.  The government chose the short one and lucky for me I was exactly Princess Margaret’s size and I bought the pink one.  And then there was the time, I wanted to buy a enormous house in Great Village, because it came with hand painted Limoges door knobs, a bathroom covered in Delft tiles and a great story.  I didn’t however want the ten car garage, or the twenty by forty foot dinning room or the maids quarters, and I didn’t have the $ 125,000 for a great story.  So I do love to spend money on amazing things.  I am less than happy to replace tea towels, socks or to spend money to eat fast food or stay in generic motels.


Three years ago, I  married a new husband.  Although he knew what it was like not to have a lot of money, he loves new tea towels, socks that match and don’t have holes, fast food joints and motels. I admit not minding when new tea towels just show up in the kitchen.  Anyways,  when we decided to marry, my prince charming, left all the wedding arrangements to me.  I bought a fantastic handmade long sleeved white nightie (lace with a white satin lining), on sale for $25 instead of $ 125 and then we invited all of our friends to a pot luck supper and surprised them with the wedding.  It was fun, easy and cheap and we loved every minute of the wedding.  When we went back packing for our honeymoon, I took along my wedding dress nightie!


Recently I received a renewal for my term life insurance, and got back some health tests that are somewhat problematic.  Also my 60th

birthday is coming up in June. I’m at that time in my life; the thinking about dying time.  I’m beginning to really begrudge the $80 a month, I spend on term life insurance.  It seemed a necessity when I was raising young children.  Now it seems like a wasteful luxury.  However, if I cancel it, I’m sure with my health history that I will pop off immediately and loose all those years and years of paying.  If I don’t stop, it will probably mean that I’ll live to at least 70 when the policy ends and I will have lost fifty years of payments!


The other conundrum is how to handle the actual dying rituals.  I don’t like the thought of expensive, black suited strangers painting me up and stuffing me into new clothes.  I don’t want to be snuck into an “attractive” funeral parlour or a church, so that it’s easy for everyone to just show up, say goodbye and carry on with their lives.  Of course, I want my departing to be doable, legal and not a huge hassle for my friends and family but I also want it to be inexpensive, meaningful and to reflex the way I’ve lived my life. 


Several questions need answers. I have a great friend who’s also my doctor, so I can get a death certificate.  Is that all I need to establish my change of status?  How quickly does the body “set up”, “go stiff” and if it’s ridged, how do you stuff the body into clean clothes?

 My wonderful friends; Laurie, Serena and Janice are signed up for this committee.   I am quite relieved that recently I decided it was worthwhile to spend money on new underwear.  Luckily all the gray drooping underclothes are in the garbage and my mother would be pleased that I’m now okay in that department.  If I don’t die in the next ten years though, I may be back to drooping gray undies.  And I’m not a small woman. When I tried to get back into the boat after swimming in the jungle with dolphins , I was like  a beached whale.  When I tried to get up onto a horse in the Pantenal, the poor cowboy under me pushing from below was a sight to see.  And these were times when I was alive and trying to help move myself.  How will it work when I’m a meat puppet?  And how long does it take for bodies to start smelling?.  I don’t want the pickling and the makeup. Just add a little blue oil paint to my face, put a paint brush in my hand and pop me in a handmade box. 


My son recently built an amazing ice fishing hut.  Kelsey, you’re signed up for box building and if your truck is long enough would you please also do any necessary deliveries? Chris, if you are here, you can do the seasonal bouquets!  The rest of you can sign up for digging or cooking and I‘d love to have little speeches from all of you at the party.  My darling Jim will MC and purchase the booze on my behalf.   If I die at home, is there a way, I can just stay at home for the party? A day to organize and box build, dig and cook and then a house full of people, a few kind words, a quick trip across the marsh to pop the box in the ground and then everyone returns to the house for good food and drink, lots of laughter and crying; time to celebrate a life lived, and  time to mourn a loved one lost.