It’s Advent, when we focus on preparing for the birth of our Lord, for life and light. And yet, just a few weeks after Christmas, we will spend our weeks following that same Jesus through the darkest days of betrayal, suffering, abandonment, death. The story has a happy ending, of course, but life and death, they walk hand in hand, and the Church keeps that reality ever in the forefront of our minds. Do you find that morbid, a constant consideration of death? Some people do. I think, though, that it helps us to keep our eyes and our hearts firmly fixed on this present moment, for tomorrow is not promised to us. It’s a gift when it arrives, but it is in no way assured. When I send my girls out into the world in the morning, I say, “I love you, drive safely, and I hope you have a lovely day,” and then again, “I love you!” I want that to be the last thing we have between us, just in case. No angry words or hurt feelings, just the joy of loving and being loved.
More practically speaking, though, it’s kind of fun to plan your funeral. Are we the only ones who do that? It’s dinner conversation around here. Funny dinner conversation. I suspect this will be a benefit to the children in the long run because:
- they are aware that we are indeed going to die at some undisclosed and probably unexpected time, and that reality won’t take them by surprise;
- they’ll have learned that death is a natural part of life and nothing to fear or worry over; and
- they’ll know just what to do for us when the time comes, because we already laughed and chatted about what they need and what we need.
But that’s just how we are. We don’t shy away from the hard things.
So, when I go, I don’t want a wake. That’s kind of a creepy custom. Just skip right to the funeral Mass. I want to be buried, not cremated, because in some places, the cemetery is the only green space left, and I’d like to contribute to a greener world. Don’t spend a lot of money on my casket, but do have those Gregorian Masses said for me. I’ll make it easy and prepay for them; all you have to do is mail back the card when I die. I haven’t decided yet, though, on my epitaph. Have you? I have a fondness for walking through cemeteries, reading the headstones and inventing stories for the people buried there based on the inscriptions, and I figure it’ll be my last message to the world. I want to make it count. And if there is a particular thing of mine you’d like to have to remember me by, let me know.
I know this isn’t your typical Advent fare, but, hey, it’s what I was thinking of, and I’m not always seasonally appropriate.
So how about you? Have you discussed your probable death with your children? Have you decided upon your epitaph? And how do you feel about wakes, and especially the open casket?