The other day I ran into an old friend who told me his dad had died recently. ‘It’s getting expensive to die,’ he told me. ‘If I hadn’t planned ahead it would have dinged me.’
‘I’m glad you did plan,’ I said.
‘You know how much it would’ve cost me?’
‘Haven’t a clue…’
‘Thirty thousand dollars.’
‘Oops. That’s a chunk right there. I’m glad you planned.’
We talked a while longer, I expressed my sympathy and reminded him that he had always been a good son to his dad, which he had been. We then parted, agreeing to meet up again soon.
The thought of how much it cost to die stayed with me. Thirty thousand is a lot of money.
A lot of money to give to people to put you underground and cover you up with dirt. We’re talking plain old dirt. Not dirt from Tibet, Nepal, Tahiti or some other distant exotic land, no, it would be just plain old Los Angeles dirt.
Then, for another three grand they plop a stone or chunk of concrete on top with your name engraved in it, date of birth and death and maybe something that sought to capture a distinctive feature of the deceased.
It may well work for lots of folks, but it doesn’t appeal to me.
There must be better options.
Burning, of course, is popular in some countries, and has been done forever. But the idea of polluting the air with all that smoke doesn’t make sense.
Then I remembered that when I got my driver’s license renewed this last time, there was the option to donate organs.
At least I would be of use to someone who needed replacement tissue. I liked that. But what about donating my whole body? Donating it to a medical school for instance?
I began to think of the details. For instance, my body being placed on a slab or steel table for Anatomy students to dissect, cut, remove, section off, whatever. I have to remind myself that I won’t be feeling anything.
Still, I could imagine an instructor using me to teach a class as he/she pointed out my various parts. And afterwards, the students returning to practice and go over the details so they would really get it down and do well on their tests.
Then I thought that some of those students would be young ladies, Sherry or Helen or Alice, and as they dissected my various parts they would inevitably have a moment when they would think of whom the body might have belonged to. And I can imagine them even giving me a name, if my real name wasn’t affixed to the body, which I doubt it would, just so it would be easier for them to remember details. Like they might find that one cadaver had a good set of lungs to work on, or good blood vessels, or other organs.
And Alice might say to Sherry, ‘for liver and pancreas anatomy, Jack over there in the corner makes it really easy.’
I wouldn’t mind being called Jack or anything else. So long as I was getting a little attention. Compared to being underground and being visited once a year on Father’s Day, it’s no contest, I’ll take donating my body any day.
Then there’s the possibility, remote but still there, that one of the lady students might develop a little affection for me, just for helping her get on with her studies and, after a good work session, pat me on the forehead and say, ‘Thanks, Jack – you’ve been a great help.’
Who knows what the possibilities of that are, but at least it’s a possibility, and it would beat the idea of being stuck underground with just the company of worms going through me.
Then there’s even another option to consider.
It would take some arranging but it may be possible, that once all the soft tissues are used up, my skeleton would be returned to one of my descendants.
What for, you might ask? Well, to assemble so that all the parts would hang together, then folded up and stuck in a closet, but come Halloween, I’d be taken out and stood up in a corner of the party room, maybe a hat put on me, or some other decorative garment. And my descendants and their descendants, would get a chance to come up and say hello. ‘So, you’re grandpa (or great grandpa) right?’ Of course I would just stare back, but it would sure beat being underground, damp and cold, stuffed in the rotting box.
And I would be saving my descendants a whole lot of money in the process.
Inevitably, as they moved around and changed homes, the suitcase carrying my skeleton will be forgotten in a dusty corner of the garage, I know that, but someone else might adopt me then, and I might get lucky and make it to the next Halloween.
All I’ve said relates to my body. As far as my mind is concerned, I’d much prefer that on Father’s Day, or whenever my descendants would wish to remember me, that they would pick up one of the books I wrote, or one of the short stories or blogs, and read a few pages. Then we would be dialoguing, we would be connecting, and I’d be entering their minds, not to stay, but to visit with their thoughts. Better that, than to make a trip to the cemetery and lay some flowers on me, flowers I’ll never see.
We all have our preferences, but for me, between light or dark, I’ll take light anytime.
Oscar valdes oscarvaldes.net oscarvaldes@widehumr
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