How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE

Dust to Dust

115 Comments


This is a blow-by-blow of my journey into pre-arrangement for the time when ah…my departure from the tiny footprint I have imprinted on this planet arrives. I will post in several segments each Friday. This is to give those who haven’t thought about it an idea of what might transpire: expect the unexpected.

Monday, December 9

I want to throw up. I can’t put this off any longer. The days on the calendar flip on and off and race forward. I must be ready when the time comes. I’ve decided not to dwell on my strangled thoughts, but will leap in with open arms as I imagine a bungee jumper does her first time.

I feel in a trance, suspended somewhere I don’t recognize. Who am I? I called The Funeral Home earlier this morning but had to leave a message. A man by the name of Rick returned my call at 1:45 pm, and after several tries, we settled on an appointment for 10:00 a.m. the following Friday. What? That’s the 13thFriday the 13th.

I’m not paranoid—all right, I suppose I am—a little. My stomach lurches and my head weaves.

Friday, December 13

The 13th arrives but I must cancel my appointment. The day before, my granddaughter fell in the school yard and cracked the top of her head. She’s home in bed now and I can’t leave her. After the school bus left earlier with the younger one, I rushed to reschedule my appointment a minute after nine. Now that I’ve made the first move, I can procrastinate no more. This undertaking (no pun intended) isn’t going to get any easier with time. I want to cross this off my list while I am able.

The internet is down, the cable is dark and the phone is a blankness of silence. What is the universe up to today? Conspiracy or salvation? Every few minutes I try the phone but reach a vacuum, yawning emptiness.

Five minutes before my scheduled time slot, the line cleared and I rang through to arrange another meeting for the following Tuesday. There, I feel better already. No Friday, the 13th. Lucky me—I think.

morgueFile free photos

morgueFile free photos

Tuesday, December 17

It’s time again. My eyes won’t focus, my stomach jitter-bugs and I feel light-headed and forty degrees of nauseated. I do hope I stay in control and not lose it.

Rick is pleasant and somehow I notice, good looking. I’m still here aren’t I? If I hadn’t poked fate or borrowed trouble, I’d never have noticed, would I? We wouldn’t be meeting, would we? Of course, a black suit, shoes shellacked to a blinding shine and mischievous blue eyes will do that for a man. “Can I get you a coffee?” he asks.

I shake my head because my tongue is in knots, but I want to scream to the likes of, “HELL NO! You have coffee in a place like this? Isn’t it disrespectful guzzling black gold among those who can no longer enjoy a cup with us?” Then, my mind settles a bit and is dry as cotton gauge and full of holes. I’m afraid I’ll become lost in there soon.

“Are you all right?” His voice is soft and too close.

”I’m fine. Let’s get to it.”

“You sure I can’t get you a coffee?”

I cave in and nod. At least a mug of coffee will give me something to do with my hands. The mug warms them and the drink is outstanding. I like mine black these days which means I taste the deepest flavour good or bad and damn, this is good. Why wouldn’t it be? Good people pay a lot of money to a place like this. The least they can do is serve the best coffee my money can buy.

Each time a new subject comes up, Rick leaves the meeting room and I am alone too many times. Not well organized, I think. If I can nitpick, I must be doing okay. I pat myself on the back, but I won’t lie, I am ticked the process isn’t more methodical and less a waste of my time.

The meeting reaches its end. I remember little. Rick gives me a dollar figure. The cost is four times more than I expected or planned for. “I need to process all this.”

He nods. “Take your time.”

I’m woozy and floating again. Does helium come in through the air vents to calm grieving families?

* * *

This is copied from my journal. Tune in again next Friday if you’re wish to read another segment.

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Author: Let's CUT the Crap!

I'm getting a little LONG in the tooth and have things to say about---ouch---AGEing. I believe it's certainly a state of mind but sometimes it's nice to hear that you're NORMAL. I enjoy reading by the truckload. I'm a grandma but I don't feel OLD although I'm not so young anymore. My plan is to stick it out as long as I can on this lovely planet and only will leave it kicking and screaming!

115 thoughts on “Dust to Dust

  1. Very powerful and thought provoking writing. I will definitely be back next Friday.

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  2. Wow, what an experience this must be. I can’t imagine going through it, but I suppose it makes sense in a pragmatic sort of way. You have my respect. But hopefully those services won’t be needed for a long, long, long time.

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    • Thanks for coming, Carrie. Yes, I decided to put on my Big Girl Pants and jump.

      As with all (most) forward planning, I’m looking at a 30-50 year plan forward. Well, I can dream, can’t I? But only as long as I have my wits and health.

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  3. Pre-arranging is the best way to show your loved ones how much you really care for them. No one wants to talk or think about it, but it’s a gift you can give after you’re gone. It’s tough, but it’s the right thing to do.

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    • I agree. Thanks so much for joining the conversation. I have learned lots of things in the blogosphere I didn’t know I wanted to know or which quickly became useful information.
      This is my way of sharing a reality someone may learn from, including all the inner trepidation.

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  4. My husband and I have pre-arranged. neither of us have children and likely, at our ages, one of us will be left behind when the other dies. Cremation. My mom has pre-arranged hers as well. This way, down in Florida away from me, it is all taken care of. A memorial service for her, a memorial service for my husband and me. His mom and dad have done this as well with his mother writing their eulogies. I just want folks to wear red and white – the colors of celebration in Japan. It will be a celebration – a bon voyage party. My ashes (cremains) are just that – my soul will well and truly shut of this earth and in heaven with those I love. I’m glad you are doing this. Family is often taken advantage of at times like this. it is a considerate and loving thing to do.

    I am sorry it is causing you such distress. I am looking forward to reading this rest of this journey. I hope by the end, it will be tale of hope. My husband has a friend obsessed with health and exercise. He is afraid of dying. I am more afraid of not living – of not living the time I have with all the passion, joy, feeling I can wring out of this round little body. I want to fill up my appointed hours on this earth with all the truth and love I can muster. It is after all, not how we die but how we live. I hope you don’t take this as a lecture or anything. I just want you to know how brave you are for taking these steps. I can be scary and unsettling, but it is part of us. Make your arrangements and then walk away from them and enjoy the rest of your life – every blessed moment of it.

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  5. A courageous journey. Not easy, but one we are treading as well. Now to forget all about it and continue on with this blessed moment. Hugs and have a happy weekend.

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  6. Good for you. As hard as it may be it is a gift to your family to have this all taken care of for them. Have I done it? No. I do plan to and have been thinking about what I want and don’t want at my last get together with whoever shows up.

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  7. Tess, it is such a coincidence that you are now posting about your journey through this process, as I am also beginning to make plans for when I can no longer make them…I want things to be as simple and straightforward as possible for my kids to handle and that mean that I need to put a lot of thought and care into what my wishes are. I’m starting off with lists of what I know I need to do and what I need to organize–paperwork, for example, needs to be gathered together and stored where they can find it, and passwords to all my online accounts need to be noted and stored for them in a safe place. There is a lot to think about that I really don’t want to think about, but on the other hand I don’t want my children to freak out at me after I’m gone and shout, “Mom–how come you didn’t warn us that this would be so complicated”. (I’m sensitive now and imagine I’ll remain that way after my demise, so I want to avoid the shouting if at all possible.)

    Looking forward to reading your next few posts. I’m such a procrastinator that maybe reading your posts will spur me onward to do the things that I know I need to do. After my husband died I bought us a grave plot in a local cometary but still haven’t found the courage to buy a stone and have it engraved and erected on the plot. Gary’s ashes still reside with me–I’m just not ready to part with them yet–maybe I never will be ready until my ashes are mixed together with his and we are dropped into the ground together…not sure yet but I figure I will know when the time comes. Some ashes spread at our family cottage would be a good thing, too…

    Thanks for sharing this with us. And here’s to a happy and healthy 2014 for us both.

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    • Nice to see you, Sylvia. Thank you for your story and input. This has been a long time coming. I mentioned my Mom passed away three years ago; she pre-arranged for her time. This has ICK all over it but I finally closed my eyes and took the leap.

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  8. Love this. Glad you are doing it. I finished it ages ago, but mine is far simpler.
    xxx

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  9. very interesting! my in-laws purchased cemetery plots years ago. shortly after we moved here they asked if we wanted to buy two of them?? um….what? I’m not even from Bemidji! why would I want to be buried there? but it was nice of them to offer….I guess! nah I think I want to be cremated and my ashes strewn in the Mediterranean. that is should I be lucky enough to die there. thanks for an interesting and unexpected post!

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  10. I have had 2 husbands. Both died. While I was younger, and with my first husband, we made plans for him, me and his mom. Three graves one after the other. I will be buried next to him, and his mom is next to him on the other side. It a feeling of relief that all that has been taken care of, and I feel satisfied and relaxed about it all, especially that my 2 children will not have to worry about anything concerned with my funeral – it’s all done. Second husband is in a mausoleum in NJ, next to his first wife. He died here (Florida) and his remains were shipped up. I have shortened the stories, but, believe me, there is so much untold. All I can say is that it is very good that you have started this journey, You will have peace of mind when it is finished, and so will your kids. I do understand your feeling of dizziness; I think everyone going through this necessary journey has some breathing and emotional problems during it. I will look for your next chapter next Friday. Thanks for tackling this uncomfortable task and sharing it.

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  11. I keep thinking we should. Husband lost his brother a short time ago and there was nothing in place. Facing our mortality by doing this. Huge step. Good on you. It will be a blessing for your family when they’re needing to grieve, to not have to worry about what you would have wanted. I’m waiting for next week!

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  12. Very brave. Hopefully it will be cathartic in some way for you to share your writing and thoughts about it. Once it’s done, it’s done. It must be a strange thing to do though. Good luck with the process, and I look forward to reading more about it (if that doesn’t sound too macabre!).

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  13. Brave of you to face that.

    I guess you already have a living will? Especially the decision of how much pain medication you want when this can also endanger / shorten your life is pretty important. Personally, I’d rather not suffer too much when the end comes…

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  14. Well done for doing this. Me…you spur me on as I want cremation, cardboard box painted in psychedelic colours, textas for everyone play on the colours. That will do me nicely.

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    • ”m all for the psychedelic colours! Mahogany and walnut cannot compete. Not in my book. 😛

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      • Tess, you did a great service writing on the dying topic in such a sensitive yet humorous way. It has made those that need to think about it do so and those that have been only thinking make the move…I am going to make the move…you are a gem. I am one of the lucky ones, never been afraid of dying but don’t like any pain…ouch…don’t like hurty’s 😦

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      • Even in my journal, when I feel vulnerable, I need to joke, if even for a detail or two. That’s how I deal with uncomfortable things in life. I DO understand others feel the same way and hoped these once private thoughts may be helpful.
        I’ve learned many things here without expecting to and have found a lot of my new-found knowledge exciting and ultimately useful. This is the same reason I share this although I had no idea I would.

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  15. My parents have pre- arranged funerals organised. The cost each is under $5000.00. This does not include flowers on the coffin, refreshments afterwards and a couple of other little things. We arranged it a year ago. I think it is a sensible and also a kind act to perform for the families, so in their time of grief they have one less thing to worry about. Good on you and I like the others wait for your next instalment. X

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  16. I don’t know what to say!

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  17. I’ve not heard of anyone doing this in SA but maybe it’s just not spoken about. I think it’s a wonderful way of lessening the pain and stress on the remaining family, a final gift of love.

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  18. What a fantastic piece of writing! I am going to share this journey with you. You are making what is a grizzly action so readable!

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  19. Oh dear Tess, you are so much braver than I. How I do admire you.

    I certainly look forward to Fridays and reading more about this salutory subject for the simple reason that I can think of no other who could write about it in such an incredibly, entertaining and provocative way.

    You know what sticks out the most to me? ‘Of course, a black suit, shoes shellacked to a blinding shine and mischievous blue eyes will do that for a man.’ Absolutely LOVE that 🙂

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  20. My family has an odd tradition…bodies are cremated and buried under a rock, yes you heard me, a rock on some country property we own. Dogs, people, pet birds…all there. We have a small but ridiculous ‘ceremony’ and are done with it. No fuss, no muss, no bother. Although, I must confess, I sometimes think a party before the actual demise would be nice — so the dearly departed can find out what people will say about them when the time comes! Weird, I know…

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  21. I have pre arranged cremation for father and me. I want my ashes cast off a bridge and I explained to my daughter that she is to have the wind at her back. I don’t want my ashes blowing back on the road to be run over by cars and get killed again. Once is enough.

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    • You made me smile A.G.A.I.N. I agree with you.
      I planned this to make it easier for my daughte (I have only one child). If you keep reading about my journey in this story, you may find out something heartwarming.
      😀

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  22. I wonder why we fear death so. We seem unable to grasp the concept of eternity when it’s up close and personal. Is visiting a funeral home gruesome because it’s so devoid of anything living, including the undertaker? What if we were to make “arrangements’ in our big old family homestead, surrounded by family, greeted by a warm and loving grandmother, who might say, “Everything is going to be okay. Everything is exactly as its supposed to be.” Perhaps our discomfort makes sense. Perhaps we’re arranging something that has no meaning or value to us. Perhaps it’s because we’re doing what we think we’re supposed to be doing rather than what we really want to do, celebrate our passage to the great beyond. Just a thought.

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    • I think we are too tied to living to want to let go and accept it will not last forever.
      My Mom passed away three years ago and it has taken me this long to realize she had the right idea. Mom had pre-arranged, thus saving us one item off the to-do list at our time of loss.
      While we are fully entrenched in our lives, it is difficult to take time out to think of the end. This has been a journal entry of how the process affected ME. 😉
      Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation. Hope to talk again.

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  23. I wish to read another segment. You are a very brave person.

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  24. Always good to be organised, Tess.

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  25. You couple fun with a difficult topic and make it work. Will check in next Friday.

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  26. OK, Tess. I’m going to do this on your wings. Show me the way. I definitely can’t do it without you to lead the way. See you in a week.

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    • You are a sweetheart, Jacqui.
      I can only tell about my process, internal and external. I know we don’t like to talk about this particular process. This is not a comfortable subject because we DO avoid it but I hope keep the conversation going. Some of the reasons may not be obvious and what a surprise that will be. . .

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  27. Planning your funeral Tess? I guess we’ve got to do it somehow, but hey, I would NOT like to have to do that!!! I think I’ll have a ‘tip me in a hole in a cardbox box’ one to avoid it!

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  28. I went through this when I was ill. I didn’t have kids to consider (well, not the human kind) but “stuff”. I could have cared less what happened to the stuff, but wanted to be sure my mortal remains would be handled the way I wanted–which is to be pitched off a boat into the lake of my childhood. Sure takes care of funeral costs. 🙂

    (p.s. your photo looks like you’re ready to do a line of coke. )

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  29. I am going though this together now with my mother who is in her 80s. And it is tough on me, I can only imagine what it I on her. It is a great think you are doing, making your decision making journey public. Once again, this is a topic that is not discussed too often and your experiences will surely be a comfort to others.

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    • I believe it is a hard process because it isn’t talked about. We all know door number three will open for us sometime in the future. If we discussed it the same way some brides plan for their weddings, it wouldn’t be so scary. 🙂
      Thank you for your input. This has been a good conversation.

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  30. Brave–and enlightening. Thanks for sharing this!

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  31. This is a difficult topic and yet one that shouldn’t be ignored. You are brave. I’ll be back on Friday.

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  32. I will be back again to read further. Thought provoking, Tess.

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  33. I’ll be here whenever I can, young lady.
    Wonderful work so far.

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  34. Well judging by the amount of comments here dear Tess, we are intrigued and await Friday! I’m with you on the topic. We seem to live as though we are invincible although we all meet the same inevitable end. I applaud your courage in being proactive about this situation and not leaving it to others. It will grow lots of dust on it before you are done on this planet! xo 🙂

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  35. Tess: This blog is priceless. I admire you for your gumption and willingness to plan ahead. Tom and I have our plans in place. Sometimes Tom will talk about doing something different but then a couple of months or so, he comes back to the original plan.

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  36. Way to cut the crap and deal with stuff. I felt so much better after getting my will together knowing I wasn’t leaving a big mess behind for my kids to deal with.
    I loved your phrase – “was it conspiracy or salvation?” I’ve felt like that many times.

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  37. Pingback: Dust to Dust – Part 2 | How the Cookie Crumbles

  38. Well, the truth is, we are all going to die. No way getting around that little detail. So, best to deal with your arrangements head on. Smart girl.

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    • I know my daughter isn’t the type to ‘manage’ and my mother’s funeral is fresh (3 years ago) and I remember how dysfunctional we were taking care of all the ‘little’ details. Mom had done some prearrangement. She had thought of all the small details that take up so much time.

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  39. Well done, Tess. I am enjoying reading about your adventure here.

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  40. Tess, oh my dear friend, you scared the blazes out of me. I saw Part 2 first, coming in to give you some silly tidings – left on your about page comments, and then came back to read this….

    Your writing of this is a wonderful description of what this can be like. I am so grateful I was late in paying attention and can jump to Part 2. Clearly, you’ve struck a strong bell here with all the comments.

    I did this for my Mom and it was half-awful and truly funny in parts. You can find it here if and when you want:

    http://chasingrabbitholes.com/2013/04/21/prompts-for-the-promptless-gallows-humor/

    So glad this is planning ahead rather than an immediate need. Whew.

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  41. How did I miss this earlier? I must have really been in a funk, sorry. Well now I am going to read all three parts in order.

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  42. Pingback: The Rabbit had it right – I am late for a very important date | Chasing Rabbit Holes

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