I would like to get familiar with my final resting place, primarily to make sure everything is in good working order, but mostly to dispel any fears I may have or the feeling that I’m going uncontrollably out and away somewhere against my choosing. I don’t want to go just anywhere. I want to go somewhere: where I belong, where I feel safe and comfortable, where I’ve decided to go. I want that place to have a name, something other than the standard etchings.
I’ll be dead and I won’t care, I’m told. That isn’t the point. My loved ones will be there and they will care. If I’m not comfortable there now, how can they be expected to be comfortable there then? I’ve got to order a comfortable bench and some tulip bulbs. Tulips are my favorite flower, and it seems a bit much to trouble others with bringing flowers when I could just grow my own year after year.
The only thing worse than having no say over such things is the idea of forcing that say onto someone else, especially someone I love. It is once again time to update what is already in writing — something a few choice relatives of mine did not do, which their family paid for dearly on many levels, not the least of which was with a great deal of cash.
My father-in-law’s estate was a mess in the most literal sense of the word. Leaving this world without a will was the least of his not so fond farewells to the son who had done everything he could for him. That man — and I use the term loosely — was a spoiled child, grew up to be a spoiled husband, became a spoiled widow who turned to his elementary-aged children for spoils they couldn’t possibly have provided, and died, having allowed his entire life to spoil around him.
That a rented dumpster, the Environmental Protection Agency, the fire department, law enforcement, and the bomb squad were required to safely dispose of the contents of his life speaks volumes of the way he conducted himself without regard for another human being. That his children knew nothing about that which would later be wired to explode in the middle of a landfill — causing secondary explosions that sent seagull feathers in every direction — speaks to the insipid secrecy and indulgence with which he lived.
His carelessness with all things cost a lot of people a lot of money, left an entire neighborhood unknowingly in a great deal of danger, and put the final nail in the coffin of any hope for a loving, selfless relationship with his children. It’s true that funerals are for the living, and never was this made more poignant than when years of people sincerely and genuinely greeted my husband at his father’s graveside, giving only obligatory attention to its contents.
My mother, may she rest in peace, did often assert that she’d prepared for her death. She refused to go into detail, and I would later realize this was her way of avoiding telling anyone just how little she’d done. She did assign an executor, but this person was not given a to-do list so much as a blank sheet of paper upon which to write tasks. For all intent and purposes, my mother died intestate (without a will), leaving her executor to simultaneously grieve and work. I can’t think of a less loving infliction.
She wasn’t a rich woman and had only a few meager possessions. The bulk of her estate was sentimental: thousands of photographs and dozens of reels of 8mm film. Ours was not a family fight over money. It was a fight against time. We had less than two weeks to clear and clean her house to avoid being on the hook for another month’s rent and utilities.
Her life insurance settlement was a partial regurgitation of the premiums she’d paid (may those rotgut bastards rot in hell), so there wasn’t a plethora of funds with which to work. This made the work all the more taxing and tedious, as death is one of the few times in life when a difficult thing really could be made easier by throwing money at it.
I rest in peace now before I rest in peace elsewhere, because I know I’ve not left behind chaos in place of “I love you.” It’s been my experience that urging others to do the same falls on deaf ears, so I would only encourage those without final plans to at least have the decency to apologize in advance.