Mortality


There is truth to the saying that ‘there are no atheists in foxholes’.  I have found myself making deals with God on several occasions.  The first was when Patty came to join me in Panama and I watched through a window her dealing with the bureaucratic assholes in Panamanian customs who pretended to not speak English and had no idea why she should be allowed into their country until she just happened to show them my orders assigning me to Albrook AFB.   I asked for intervention then because she was so close but yet so far and I couldn’t do anything about it.  Another time was when Patty was undergoing surgery at Oregon Health Sciences University and had a whole group of specialists operating on her.  They had told me that if it went over two hours it would mean they had trouble and it went at least twice that.  Turns out that it went longer because they were cleaning up problems from a previous surgery at David Grant Medical Center at Travis AFB and she came out OK.  And, of course, the birth of both Traci and Susan were emotional Everests in my life as was the problems that Susan had with her bi-polar affliction as a teen.  But I’ve never been compelled to make a deal having to do with the end of life.  I’ve lost my mother and father and five sisters and a brother as well as Patty’s parents and her brother Freddy and the husbands of my sisters and I never felt the need to implore God to intervene.   Also, I was in a very terrifying car accident as a teenager where I was sure I would die and, other than the ‘Oh shit’ response, didn’t even think about asking for God to save me. 

I’ve been very lucky that the deaths close to me were all associated with aging and disease and were natural and expected or I may have felt differently.  In all of these cases, the people in my family died well and, in Edythe, Millie, and Dolly’s cases, exceptionally well.  I hope to do as well.  I remember Edythe making a deliberate choice to refuse treatment that would have lengthened her life and the pain and suffering that would entail.  And I remember Millie making plans and preparing for her death in ways that would ease the suffering for those she would leave behind.  And Dolly’s good cheer while talking to me on the telephone despite knowing her death was imminent and that she was half a world away from her home and family.  In all cases, death was a natural result of the end of a life and certainly not to be feared. 

 In my own case, most of the joys allotted to me in this life are already memories.   I’ve had more than my share and it certainly would not be tragic for my life to be over.  I can still experience joy and I am still in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in.  Which reminds me of a toast from my Air Force days: 

 ‘Little brown dog, sound as a ring;

Be 10 years old if he lives ‘till spring.

His eyes bulge out and his ass sucks wind

But he’s in pretty good shape for the shape he’s in!’

(There’s a little more to this toast but it’s pretty risqué)

 …well, that’s me.  Although I’m in pretty good shape, there are two important areas where I can see a difference; my brain and my strength.  They’re still OK but somewhat diminished and so the experiences that I have now are not what they once were.   Not that I’m ready to throw in the towel.  No, I’m still enjoying life and Patty and I are having a great time.   We’ll continue to do that as long as we can and I’m pleasantly surprised that my life is still as good as it is. 

 I guess where I’m going with all this is that, one of the things I want Chronospots to do is to relate my views on this subject and maybe to help with the way I want to be remembered.   I remember that the memorial service that Maile Clein’s kids gave for her was just about perfect.   Friends of the family gathered and had food and drinks and a few dozen helium-filled white balloons were released over Puget Sound.  A few people spoke about Maile and her life; things that they felt they wanted to share, but it was not a sad ceremony nor was it suffused with any artificiality.  I’ve been to a few funerals where a priest who never knew the deceased spoke about him.  I felt that was an attempt to hedge bets in case there really was an afterlife and no one wanted his chances for it to be reduced.    One of the worst memorial services that I remember was Millie’s.  Even though she bought an insurance policy that gave Bob several thousand dollars to spend on her cremation and a memorial service, he screwed it up.  He couldn’t pay to get Millie’s ashes and Patty and I did that.  Also, he arranged for a memorial service in a chapel in Springfield with a minister and the Sweet Adelines singing tributes, which I’m sure Millie would have hated since she was a life-long agnostic.  Patty and I had a family get-together at Ona Beach near Newport where we spread both Millie and Bob’s ashes and I’m sure Millie would have approved of that.   And I’m also sure she would have forgiven Bob for screwing up, she always did. 

So, what I want, and what Patty wants, is this:  No heroic or expensive efforts to prolong a life that is essentially over.  That would diminish the life we have lived.  No last-minute attempts to achieve salvation that we never believed in while we had the chance.  No priest saying things that they have no business saying about someone they never knew.  The least expensive cremation service possible and the ashes received in the plastic box provided.  The ashes treated with respect but disposed of with no worries about it being the perfect place or that a future homage to the site is necessary.   And memories of us as having loved one another and having lived life to the fullest and that we wish the same for our kids.   You’ll notice that I never stipulated where the site should be, that’s because it doesn’t matter to us.  If it matters to you, select a site that makes you happy like we did with Millie and Bob.

 Please don’t think of this post as maudlin or morbid, I didn’t mean for it to be.  I just want it to be there for guidance and so there is no doubt about what we want for ourselves. 

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One Comment on “Mortality”


  1. […] Mortality  January 13, […]


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