Getting My Affairs In Order

Lawyers and financial planners are always telling middle-aged people to put their affairs in order in the event of their untimely death, so that loved ones left behind won’t have to be burdened with making those kinds of decisions while going through the grieving process.

I haven’t done it yet (don’t have a family attorney), but I can see the benefits of doing so.  My grandfather recently passed and apparently everything was in order enough that my grandmother (and Mom and aunt) were able to finalize all the funeral preparations and other legal procedures within three or four weeks.

But, while I haven’t set down to write out a will, or put my memorial wishes in place, I have got a few details already sorted out in my head.  These things came along in a very organic way.

For instance, several years ago, my friend Jake and I were talking about acronyms and death.  I’m not sure why those two topics were discussed so closely together, but Jake wondered what sort of acronym could be made to put on a person’s epitaph.  We thought about it a while and I came up with:


Jake thought it would be very cool to put just his name and that on his gravestone.  No other identifying markings.

I liked it, too, but have always known that I’d prefer to be cremated.  As much as I love taking pictures of cemeteries, I also think burying my body in the ground is a waste of valuable real estate.  We humans are already running out of space, so by the end of my life expectancy we’ll probably have even less.

But I’ve recently seen a very cool way to give back to the Earth.  It’s called Bios Urn, and your ashes will be combined with a seed and other necessary ingredients to be planted and eventually grown into a tree.  I like that idea a lot, but since then I’ve heard that you could have your ashes used in fireworks, which would be VERY cool, too!  So I’ll have to think a bit longer about which one I’d rather do.  Maybe I can do both . . . SWEET!

The one thing I hadn’t yet planned out is what to let my “final” words be.  At my grandfather’s memorial, the little card given out to mourners had a very nice poem on it telling people not to mourn for him, because now he’d gone on to God (he was a religious man).  I know other people have eulogies said, and some people even do a video of their final words, usually given to kids or loved ones, but none of those really call to me.

But I have finally heard the song I want played at my ceremony.  It’s a song by the band Train (who you all know by now I LOVE!) off of one of their most recent albums.  It’s called “Sing Together,” and even though I’m not a “singer,” these words perfectly express how I feel about everyone I’ve ever met (in person, or otherwise).

Each one of you has had a hand in helping to shape who I am, and I truly appreciate you and all you’ve been to me.  So, please sit back, click this link to hear the beautiful song, follow along with the lyrics below, and imagine that I’m singing them to you . . .

If I go before I say
To everyone in my ballet
Let me take this chance
To thank you for the dance

If I run out of songs to sing
To take your mind off everything
Just smile
Sit awhile with the

Sun on your face
And remember the place
We met
Take a breath & soon I bet
You’ll see
Without you I would never be me
You are the leaves of my family tree

Sing together
If you knew me from the very start
Or we met last week at the grocery mart, just
Sing together
It’s the least that I can do
My final gift to you

When I pass the pearly gate
I will find some real estate
Where we can settle down
And watch the world go ’round

And send down all the love we got
And let them know we got a spot
For them to be
And it’s so free

The sun on your face
And remember the place
We met
Take a breath & soon I bet
You’ll see
Without you I would never be me
You are the leaves of my family tree

Sing together
If you knew me from the very start
Or not at all, you’re still a part, just
Sing together
It’s the least that I can do
My final gift to you

Part of Everything

I’m going to start today’s blog off with one of my favorite clips from the movie Powder:

Powder Clip 1

It is so easy for us to feel disconnected from everyone and everything.  That whole “us/them,” or “them/me” mentality is what causes people to start wars, or hurt someone (intentionally or not).  Or why we think that we’re the only person who has a certain fear, or a particular foible.

I think that’s why group therapy can often work so well, and probably why there are so many 12-step programs out there.  With them you get a chance to to tell people your story and just seeing nodding heads can make you feel better about yourself and less alone.  Or hearing yourself in someone else’s story can help bridge that mental gap we have where we think that we’re such a horrible person, because “nobody else” feels the way we do.

I wonder if that disconnection is why some people commit suicide.  Maybe they feel that separation so strongly that even hearing another person’s similar story might not be enough to help them see that they’re not alone in their thoughts.

But wouldn’t it be cool if we could all fully realize just how connected we truly are?  To our friends/family.  To plants and animals.  To the entire universe, and even God (if that’s how you believe).  I think it even says in the Bible how we’re all connected to God.  I don’t know if it’s through Jesus, or because we’re part of Him, but I think there’s something in there about that.

I like to think of it more like molecules of energy.  And just like our bodies are made up of vast quantities of molecules and atoms, we’re each a molecule or atom of energy in this vast universe we inhabit.  We’re unique in our individuality to certain degrees, but down at a molecular level, we’re also the same.

It’s one of the things that I think traveling the world helps open my eyes to; the fact that–even though I’m thousands of miles away from my home and the reality I live in each day–I can see people around me enjoying the same things I enjoy.  Laughing at the same things I laugh at.  Smiling at a baby’s antics like I do.  And when I witness that, it makes me feel just a bit more connected to my fellow humans.

I often wonder if we feel that connection again the closer we get to death.  I think it would be neat if that’s the case.  I can see how it might not be such a welcome moment if you did some “horrible” things earlier in your life.  But if you were a mostly “good” person, I would think the sensation of feeling so connected would be a magical one.  And what a great way to pass on to the next journey.

In that vein, I’m going to end today’s blog with another scene from the movie Powder.  WARNING: don’t click on the clip if you don’t want to spoil the movie’s ending.  If you haven’t seen the movie, much of the people’s reactions won’t make sense to you anyway.  And, if you have seen the movie, make sure you have some tissue with you.

In this final scene, you see proof of how Powder–and in fact everyone–is part of everything.

Death – No Fear

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately.  Not so much the act of dying, but more about my own mortality.

I never really thought about my mortality until my nephews were born.  I’m not a daredevil, necessarily, but it never occurred to me to play it “safe” in my daily life.  Once my nephews came along, however, I began to think that I needed to be safer in my choices so that they wouldn’t lose their Auntie Alyx.  I remember how sad Forrest (the oldest) got when I told him I was moving to Prague, and both he and Gabriel look forward to my visits – as do I – so I can only imagine how sad they’d be if I were to die.  Plus, I’d miss out on seeing them grow into adults, and all that encompasses.

Still, I’m not afraid of dying.  I think I’ve always seen death as similar to going into the Bermuda Triangle; a new land to explore, if you will.  We don’t know what to expect when we get there, because all who have gone (or in the case of the Bermuda Triangle, reportedly gone) haven’t come back to tell of their experience.

One of my favorite quotes about death is from Harry Potter.  In response to Harry’s shock that Dumbledore’s friend, Nicolas Flamel, is willing to give up the Philosopher’s Stone after 600 plus years of life, Dumbledore says:

” . . . to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure . . . “

Later in the same chapter, he also said:

” . . . fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself . . . “

True, Dumbledore was talking about Voldemort in the second quote, but I think it still holds true to death.  So many euphemisms have been invented for death – passing on, crossing over, curtains, the endless sleep – seemingly because we are afraid to call it what it really is.

But why are we so afraid of it?  Why are we, as a race, so concerned with living forever?  When someone dies from a disease or a violent act, we try to rid the world of the disease or the act.  When a natural disaster comes by and wipes out homes, or an entire village, we try our best to learn how to fend off those sorts of attacks, too.

Don’t get me wrong, loss of a loved one – or an entire group of people – can be devastating, but loss, like death, is an inevitable fact of life.  We won’t be able to get rid of death simply by getting rid of things that currently bring it about.  More things will come to spur it along.  Nothing’s designed to last forever, even humans, so why are we so determined to try to make it so that we never have to lose someone, or something?  Especially for people who believe in God and Heaven.  If they truly believe their loved ones will go to a better place when they die, why are they so afraid to let them go?

Take people whose loved one is dying from a lengthy, painful disease.  It seems reasonable to assume that the ailing person won’t feel any more pain or suffering once they die, but many times they hang on because they can sense that their hale and healthy loved ones don’t want to let them go.

One of my favorite movies addresses this perfectly:

Personally, I’m fascinated with the idea of death.  Not that I want it to come anytime soon, but when it does, I hope I’ll embrace it with the wonder of going on a new journey.  I truly believe that, despite all the theories we humans have about death, none of us really know what happens when we die.  I don’t know that we actually can until it’s time for us to go.  Chances are that I won’t even be able to grasp what’s happening to me on the intellectual level I’m currently used to, but I hope I’ll have a flash of insight right before my brain stops.

Even though death is a definite, one thing that might make it easier to accept is to truly enjoy the life we’re living right now.  By viewing each day and experience as a fascinating incident, maybe we’ll get enough practice at it that we’ll be able to see death as Dumbledore said . . . the next great adventure.

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