For some time now, I’ve been getting ready to die.
No, I’m not particularly depressed. I’m just an obsessive control freak who wants to have a say-so in everything, even from beyond the grave.
If I believed the date on www.deathclock.com, my personal world will end on March 4, 2025. Given that I’m not a smoker, drinker, or careless driver, my remaining life span doesn’t seem very generous. Surely, at 78, I’ll still have a few brain cells and a faint pulse remaining.
But, in case I’m wrong about that, and I lose my mind earlier, or I get run over by a beer truck on Highway 98, I’ve been making preparations.
In addition to having a living will, I keep my last will and testament updated. My cemetery plot is purchased, and my funeral paid for. A folder marked “Funeral” in my office filing cabinet contains my final wishes, obituary, favorite Bible scriptures, and hymns. My preference for casket attire: red, flannel nightgown. My two favorite songs: “Ave Maria” (even though I’m not Catholic) and Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.”
A spray of yellow roses but no other flowers. Send those flowers instead to a lonely widow in my name or give a donation to a church or charity. Place a needed book in a school library for me. Plant a tree in a park or place a bench there for the weary.
I’ve even written the program and the script for my service in case the presiding preacher has to struggle to think up something nice to say about me. (I’ve always heard you should live your life in such a way that your eulogist has lots of positive things to say.) It may be my schoolteacher mentality that has to create detailed lesson plans, so why not do it for my final presentation.
I’ve made these seemingly morbid preparations because I have experienced first hand the unknowns after losing a loved one. How to honor them best? What music? What scriptures? Flowers? No flowers? Burial or cremation? Quiet, private goodbye? Or a big, lavish celebration of life? The pain of loss is made even more stressful by the myriad of details attending a funeral.
So, my intent is to make it as easy as possible for my family.
I’ve recorded in a “What My Family Should Know” book all necessary personal information: bank accounts, financial records, retirement investments, charge cards, life insurance, real estate owned, where important documents are filed, debts owed to me, contacts to call, and what to do about beloved pets I may leave behind.
In that same book, I’ve noted certain pieces of jewelry, art objects, trinkets, etc. and given them to family and friends BY NAME, so there’ll be no puzzling over “what Mom would have wanted.”
Every week or so, I box up the stupid stuff I’ve collected over the years … the stuff I once thought I just had to have, and I take it to the Harvest House or Goodwill. That way, my children, going through the house — after I’m gone — won’t have to deal with the junk of my life and say in bewilderment, “What on earth was Mom thinking when she bought this thing?”
Instead, I’m narrowing it down to the quality items or those things most meaningful and cherished. On the backs of pictures and paintings, I’ve written a little note in pencil, so my children will know who that person is in the photo or where I acquired the painting and why it was special to me.
This particular quirk is the result of having several old black and white photographs left behind by grandparents and great grandparents with no clue as to who these folks are. They may be relatives or they may be friends of relatives. It would have been nice to know.
But there is something more I can do before shuffling off my mortal coil.
I can do as Tim McGraw sings in his “Live Like You Were Dying.” I can love deeper, speak sweeter, and give forgiveness I’ve been denying while I live like I were dying.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.