My step-granddaughter, Emily, could be a comedian. She said to me once “Pattie, I am dying to ask you about your thoughts on dying.” I swear those were her exact words. After laughing about her comical comment for six or seven years, here at last is my response to her, now the thirty-five year old daughter of my favorite, and only, son-in-law, John Hancock.
Emily, I don’t give a lot of thought to dying because I am too busy living. I do not expect a life after death, so I stay focused on living life to the fullest in the time I have left on earth. Life on this earth is more of a sure thing than any promised afterlife, and I like it here on earth better than the imaginary heaven. I like the smell of cut grass, and don’t see the point or the attraction to streets paved in gold.
Biblical descriptions of heaven have never included any pleasurable things like walks through the woods, cocktail hours, or harmless flirtations, so I lost interest. Two of my favorite things, martinis and interesting men, would all be in hell, so I am torn as to which place I’d rather be. Actually, I prefer the idea of creating my own heaven here on earth. As I approach death, time is more precious, so I try not to waste more than three quarters of each day on virtual jigsaw puzzles, Words with Friends, Solitaire, or Dr. Phil re-runs.
It is almost cliché to say I don’t want to be a burden to my children, but it is the truth. I make every effort to be sensible about giving up activities, as required, to stay safe and not fall and make life more difficult for them. My children are caring for me in a most sensible way, giving me lots of leeway to go places and do things. It is up to me to know when to say, due to safety concerns, no more of this or that activity.
With that in mind, I will soon allow someone else to remove my clothes from the dryer and hang them on hangers to finish drying. For me, that job involves too much dizzy bending, turning, walking with arms full, and danger of falling. The same logic could be used for slicing apples or stir-frying vegetables, so I may soon be considerate enough to turn over food preparation to my caretakers. It will be for their benefit, of course, so they don’t have to treat my bloody fingers from the knife cuts or burns from my falling onto the hot burner or into the skillet. Also, old folks have been known to fall into an open dishwasher and suffer wounds from sharp objects. I can see a case being made that, out of consideration for others, I should just stay in bed or on my den sofa, out of harm’s way and allow caretakers to serve me.
I don’t fear dying. Admittedly, if I knew death was coming this afternoon, I might feel some apprehension, but my death is likely a year or two away, so I adopt my Scarlet attitude of dealing with it tomorrow, or whenever the time comes.
I expect a void after death, a nothingness, but I will have no awareness of anything, including the nothingness. I do hope, with help from Hospice, that suffering and messiness can be kept to a minimum during the dying process. Better yet, when life is no longer enjoyable or worth living, I hope to have acquired, from some pharmaceutical person, the proper drugs to euthanize myself. It is legal to do this for dogs and cats in a humane and loving way, and I wish for the same sensible laws for humans.
Once I’m gone, I’m gone. I have no plans or desire to hang around as a ghost or anybody’s guardian angel. I hope my friends and family will remember me fondly and will say I did a good job making the most of my life. I’ve learned what matters to me — music, politics (a better sport than football,) art, writing, common decency in people, learning new things, bird and sky watching, good laughs, and spending quality time with carefully chosen friends.
As for burial, there won’t be one. My name will be engraved on the back side of my husband’s grave marker in Arlington National Cemetery. You can find his grave, #6370, in Section 54. His side of the marker reads Harold Macurdy, Col. USAF, plus a list of his most impressive medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart. My side will read Pattie Martin, His Wife, as if that is my medal. Typically, his side has the better view, looking toward the city and prominent Washington, D.C. landmarks. My side faces the opposite direction toward acres and acres of graves. My cremains will not be buried in the grave alongside Mac’s remains. It is my choice to have my ashes scattered near the place of my birth in the rural community of Standing Rock Creek, Tennessee. My roots are there, and so is my heart. I want to return there to complete the circle of my life, back to where it started in that old two-story house between the two creeks.
Emily, I’m glad you and your sibling, Anna Rose, now transgendered to Max, have each other. My siblings meant everything to me. Either of you could be a stand-up comedian. I know you both can sing. I have watched a video of you and Anna Rose sitting inside a cave in New Hampshire a few years ago harmonizing a duet of Wayfaring Stranger. That is true “sisterhood,” or should I say “siblinghood?”
Better yet, you could go on stage as a comedic pair. To witness that, I might have to rearrange my thinking about an afterlife and come back as a devilish angel just to watch you and applaud. Think about it, Emily, angel wings applauding. You will recognize the sound when you hear it. You should listen carefully, and “know” it is me. That way, I will live on in your memory. Just remember that whenever you think you hear the sound of applauding angel wings, it will be me cheering you on, because you are clearly an awesome lady who inherited much of your father’s good will and humor.
And there, Emily, per your request, you have my current thoughts on dying.
Xoxopmm, on my 90th Birthday, October 28, 2019