Past caring


Portrait of the dead Caspar of Uchtenhagen in ...

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This may seem like a morbid subject, but really I don’t mean it to be. I’m curious more than anything, and I guess doubly so given that it has personal relevance to me right now.

Mum went to the funeral parlour this morning to pick out a coffin and make arrangements for when the time comes. We don’t know when that will be, but mum tends to think soon – say the next 6-8 weeks (or sooner), and would be happy for it. I’m not so sure of that and try not to anticipate one way or the other, though it’s hard not to. It’s natural that it plays on your mind, that each ‘good’ day leads you to think it might not be so bad, and each ‘bad’ day (which has become ‘normal’) leads you to wonder how soon. It can be torturous if you’re not careful, which means that some distance is occasionally necessary (unfortunately impossible for mum). Anyway, I digress.

The idea today was to get it all sorted – the coffin, the music, the trimmings and small touches, and so on. I was busy elsewhere and asked my sister to take mum along. One of us needed to be there to know what’s been arranged – mum won’t be around to refer too – and since I’ve been carrying most the load it was time my sister stepped in.

And so they went along and got much of it sorted within an hour or so. I suppose it sounds a bit icky to be arranging your own funeral, but it has to be done – a fact of death I guess. Besides, who better? That’s how you get, a mix of uncertain grief and practicality. And one more thing ticked off.

Mum told me she’d picked out one of the cheapest coffins there. She’s getting cremated anyway, so there seems little point in spending big on something that’s soon to be firewood. And even if it wasn’t, what’s the value in spending many thousands of dollars on a beautifully appointed, lush coffin whose possessor won’t ever get to appreciate it? I don’t mean to sound flip, but I don’t understand. I know there are lots of families out there who are unstinting in providing for their dead loved ones, and some cultures where it is demanded. I don’t understand though. When I’m dead I leave behind a mortal body that has no further meaning or significance. Whoever I am has flown (I once thought it would be groovy to have a sky burial like they do in Tibet). That’s my opinion, and is not intended as being as spiritual as it sounds.  The point is that what happens to my body is immaterial – it has meaning only for those who are left behind. The rituals of death help people deal with loss and I understand the need for it. If it’s me though – and I’m curious to know what you think – if and when the time comes I don’t care if I’m in a coffin or covered in a shroud. Save you money, better to spend on the living than those who have no need of it anymore

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