Contemplating my Death

Having recently gotten married, and having comingled our assets and combined our bank accounts as one does, it was time to update our wills. In my case, this was long overdue. My old will was all about assets I no longer have and people who are no longer in my life.

Writing a will is the responsible thing to do. It takes a great deal of pressure off the loved ones you leave behind, and it helps to ensure that your wishes are carried out. No sense in causing a familial World War III when you don’t have to. You’d be amazed at how petty some people can be while picking over your leftovers.

But contemplating one’s own death is no fun. Looking the grim reaper square in the eye and acknowledging his or her inevitable visit is a bit unsettling. I greatly prefer pretending that I’ll live forever. (But then, that scenario doesn’t really sound very pleasant, either, given how often I forget to floss.)

It’s particularly squick-making to have to imagine the whole death process. Do I want to have my life artificially prolonged? No thank you. Does that include withholding nutrition? Images of me wasting away as I circle the drain. Ugh. Yeah. Withhold nutrition unless I ask for it. But that’s a really hard thing to say to future me.

And what to do with the body I’m vacating? Good lord, but there are so many options these days. It’s like shopping for shoes. Except you’re disposing of the shoes. In a really upsetting way. And you’re trying not to freak out your relatives in the process.

There’s a lot to think about while making that choice. I mean, I’ll be beyond caring. But I’ve kind of grown attached to this body. I want it treated with respect. But I also don’t want it to take up space, or get pumped full of completely unnecessary and toxic formaldehyde, or cause undue expense.

I always thought I’d go with cremation, but then I learned what a huge carbon footprint that process places on the planet. So now I’ve decided on aquamation. That’s a new process. Your soft bits get dissolved, and only your bones remain, which are reduced to “ashes”. From an environmental standpoint it’s a much gentler exit from this planet. As this website explains, “Unlike cremation, there are no emissions with  aquamation. It uses about 1/8th the energy. If cremation were a diesel truck, aquamation is a Prius.” If I have to be a vehicle, I suppose I want to be a Prius. (How very Seattle of me.)

But can you imagine the details and descriptions I had to wade through to arrive at that choice? I mean… ugh. Nothing quite like picturing yourself getting disposed of like meat that is past its expiration date.

The next step is writing a personal letter explaining who I’d like to receive which of my tchotchkes. I’m struggling with this. How do you adequately convey how much someone has meant to you with a thing? It just doesn’t quite cut it.

But in the end, that’s all that will be left of me, save the memories. And that makes me want to create as many of those as I possibly can. So now that I’ve mapped out my journey into Death Land (and dragged you along for the ride), it’s time to get on with the business of living.

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What Are You Leaving Behind?

Somewhere in America, God only knows where, there are about 50 boxes of books that belong to me. They were left to me in my sister’s will. I’m sure she meant well. She knew how I love to read. But the last thing I need is her hoard of books. If anything, as much as possible I’m trying to get rid of the books I already have. And how did she expect me to get these books across the country? Uhaul? Books weigh a ton.

Please understand that these are not leather bound, signed first editions. No. They’re yellowing, dog-eared and much loved paperback versions of best sellers. I doubt a used book store would give me more than 50 bucks for the lot.

After the reading of her will, my brother-in-law made absolutely no effort to comply with her wishes, and on one level that annoyed me, but on another it was a huge relief. I didn’t want to deal with those books, and I’m sure he didn’t, either. Later he remarried and sold the house. There’s talk of a storage facility somewhere, but as far as I’m concerned, the less said the better.

The thing that people, and hoarders in particular, don’t seem to understand is that after they’re gone, no one is going to view their possessions as being one tenth as valuable as they do. No one wants to have to deal with your crap.

Your adult children might appreciate one or two examples of the refrigerator art they made for you in kindergarten, but they’re certainly not going to want a shoebox full. Nor will they want every Christmas card you’ve ever received in the past 60 years, or your collection of dolls from around the world.

When you pass away, it’s going to be you that they want back. It’s cruel to add to their grief by making them sift through piles of magazines, rusted tools, tangled fishing line, and your beloved beer can collection.

If you truly do think you have things that are worth something, it is much kinder to sort and sell them now and give your family the money rather than make them bicker over who is going to have to post each individual item on e-bay later.

Have an honest discussion with your heirs. It’s very likely that what you see as a legacy of treasured memories will be viewed by them as a monumental hassle and an enormous burden. Don’t make one of their last memories of you become a source of irritation.

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