Tag Archives: death

Final Wishes

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops an upside-down body as she changes her final wishes to accomodate a natural burial.One messy little detail about dying is what to do about the body. Not making known your Final Wishes can leave family members baffled, hissing at each other, desperately scrambling to do something meaningful to honor the deceased while settling their own souls. A Will informs loved ones about what you want to have happen with your stuff after you die. But your Final Wishes is a separate document that addresses what you want done with your dead body.

If you don’t share your wishes, anything could happen to your remains. The first apartment I ever moved into came with an urn on the mantle. No one knew whose ashes were inside or what to do with it. The urn stayed put throughout my short tenancy. For all I know, the ashes are still sitting among strangers in that dingy little apartment, half a century later.

My father, ten years ago, had prepaid for his cremation but didn’t specify what his daughters should do with the ashes. We three sisters considered burying Dad’s remains outside his favorite restaurant, but then convinced his old flying buddy to drop the ashes from his airplane over the Long Island Sound.

My daughter wasn’t even dead yet when family members discussed burying her body in a nearby cemetery. Days after she died, her last wishes were found in a shoebox under her bed, in the apartment she shared with friends. “In the Event of my Death,” Marika had written by hand four months earlier, in a document simple and short, like her life, “…I would like my remains to be cremated and scattered in Australia, as that is where I would be if I were alive (If possible).” A year after she died I set off, alone and terrified, to make it “possible.” Fulfilling that wish was the last thing I could do for her.

“You girls will have to figure it out for yourselves,” my mother always said, unable to discuss anything about dying, “Everything you’ll need is somewhere in my files.” When she died, we scavenged through her things to find: Take me to October Mountain and scatter my ashes to the winds, that I may soar the Universe and observe eternity.

I’m changing my own Final Wishes. After a lifetime of beating my body inside-out and upside-down, and regularly poisoning the earth with environmentally unsound products and practices, I want to finally come clean and give back to the land. I’d like a green burial in a natural cemetery. With as little impact on the earth as possible, just shove my corpse into a potato-sack shroud, and bury me quietly. No funeral, no fuss. I’ll even prepay.

 

What do you want done with your body when you no longer need it?

 

 

When It’s Time to Die

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops how she wants to die peacefully, in a garden

Not too long ago, at some unnoticed and now unidentifiable moment, I reached the point beyond which it could be remarked that, “She died before her time.” It got me thinking.

When it’s “my time” I want to be carried outside and laid in the sun, in a bed of day lilies and soft grasses. Wrap me in a blanket of hasta leaves. Amid birdsong and the sweet scents of lilac and honeysuckle, I want to be surrounded by friends sipping wine. We will all say our goodbyes, but I will stubbornly cling to life; there will be no dying peacefully in the garden for me.

The first time I met my friend’s father he proudly showed me his garden. He was already old then, and the vegetables and vines were growing greater than he could handle. He gardened and lived ambitiously. And eight years later, when it was his time to die, this old man kept going on and on, six days without food or water, relatives pouring in from all over the country, multiple moves from hospital to hospice-at-home. During the waiting, from 400 miles west, I sat picking spent buds off the plant my friend had left me. Deadheading, she’d called it. Trying to imagine the flowers and grasses endlessly going on, growing without me, I considered this dying, this idea that someday, now sooner rather than later, I will be dead.

I, like the old man, will take my time leaving. I’ll make pretty plans for my death, create a perfect day to die, and then grab every last moment I can to continue living. Even if I’m stuck in a dreary hospital bed tucked away from the beautiful bustling world.

My friend, sitting vigil, took photos of her father, half in this world and half out, photos of his hands holding her hand. When she finally crept back into town, exhausted, we sat over whiskeys, hardly whispering just a few words. She handed me her iPhone to see the multiple pictures of their entwined hands. They both had gardeners’ hands. Sturdy calloused hands that displayed lifetimes of pulling at thorny weeds and tamping down moist soil around fragile seedlings.

Daily now, I remind myself: We are born. We live. We die. And in that middle part, as I go about the living, all the brutal and beautiful living, I want to consciously consume every second.

How do you want to die? What is dearest to you in your life?