Through life we experience a multitude of rituals, weddings and all the nuances within, christenings, parades, sporting events, the list goes on and on.  One ritual that surfaced for me is that associated with funerals.  It is a funny thing in may ways with a variety of possibilities, most of which reside within the realm of what I consider the macabre.  Someone dies and we send them to the undertaker who ‘prepares’ the body based on things like the number of ‘viewing’ days, we place it in a box made of any of a variety of materials and then we put the body on display for those friends and family to mourn.  We then have some sort of ‘service’ performed in order to ensure the deceased, or should  say the spirit of the deceased, is properly launched to wherever they go and then we place them into the ground or should I say typically into a concrete box in the ground.  Lastly, we mark the grave with a marker of sorts, a stone monument offering some bit of information on who lies below.

When speaking to my son about my pending death a few weeks ago I asked the question of what he wants me to do, what he would like to see when it comes to the ritual of my death and the final disposition of my body.  His answer was it was up to me, anything you want done dad, is how he responded.  When I presented him with the various ideas I’ve entertained over the years he remained steadfast in his view it was up to me.  I explained to him that how or where my physical being ended up meant nothing to me, that I would be dead , that the ritual of my disposal is something contrived for the living.  He pondered a bit and concluded he thought he would like me buried, put into the ground somewhere that allowed him to know ‘where I was’, where he could find me.  With that we finished the conversation, at least relative to that topic, moving to lighter things, things about the present and future, be that what it may hold.

More recently, with my son’s wishes in mind, I have begun discussing the idea with other family members, mostly my oldest sister.  I posed the question of what she would like, what she thought should be part of the ritual.  I am not fully certain of where she stands on this, the degree of her acceptance of my probabilities.  In any event, when presented the question she did as my son by saying it was up to me.  After several tries, I decided to propose the ritual to satisfy me, that which I would enjoy and said my preference would be a party, a drunken celebration of life with a toast using my favorite liquor, a bourbon, Black Label Wild Turkey.  It seems she didn’t find the humor in my proposal, later saying it somewhat disrespectful of the living seeking to mourn.  For me, it made sense, no different from my college mates and I going to the wrong wedding, for me it was an extension of my life and that which I represented in life.  In the end she conceded to think about it, to begin to consider possibilities, one of which being each, or most, attendees coming forth to say something about the deceased, to describe how I it into their lives, and in their view, the world.  I think I like that idea, I somehow think it healing, more the celebration I see in such a ritual and perhaps it will indeed be the ritual for my death.

Beyond the logistics of the ritual comes the mechanics of the process, the least of which being a casket and all the associated nuances that come with being buried.  For me, the two more prominent components are the casket and the burial plot.  While I’ve toyed with the idea of the latter, I’ve begun to turn my attention more to that of the casket.  Initially I thought of stopping by a local funeral home and checking the available inventory and seeing if something came to my liking.  Quickly dismissed, I began t entertain the idea of constructing my casket, to build that container in which I would be laid to rest.  I have begun my research and bounced the idea off some family members who, in some cases felt it a bit macabre, mostly asked why I would want to do such a thing, to build that which underscores my death.  For me it is less about my death and more about my life, it is about exploiting a skill, something I enjoy doing, that by working with the wood and fiber necessary to construct such a vessel, I would find peace in using my hands while being productive.  I think, in the end, the idea of building my casket would bring with it a certain closure, a certain element of acceptance of the eventualities and the realities that are besetting my life, perhaps a topic for another time.  I think for now I may turn my attention back to the plans I found for the casket.

Happy reading, happy thoughts and happy trails.

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