On the way home from work yesterday, I heard two stories on MPR that made me think about death. The first was about baseball-themed caskets and urns (read about it here), and the second was about a soldier who had been blogging for five years. He wrote a final blog post to be published if he died. He did, and his final post was published here last week. The story mentioned the end of the very long post, in which he sends love to his wife. After shedding some tears, I thought, "I don't even know if my husband wants a casket or urn. What if he died tomorrow? I certainly wouldn't expect blog entry from him, but it would be nice to know what he wanted."
So last night before bed, we talked about it. Do you want a funeral? To be cremated? You don't want (heaven forbid) a baseball casket, do you? Do you want me to take you off of life support if you're suffering and won't make it? How much life insurance will I get? (I'm kidding about that last one; have to keep it mildly light-hearted.)
My husband, so sweet, kind, understanding, did not hesitate to engage in this conversation with me. We are only 26 (me) and 32 (him), so have no reason to assume we will die any time soon. However, if something were to happen, I know I want to be as informed as possible about any wishes he may have. Just as important is how I want him to handle my death. There are no certainties but death, and you really never know when your time will come.
To my questions, he says, "Well, not to be morbid or anything, but, I'll be dead." Duh, honey. He went on to explain that he would want me to do whatever would provide me the closure I needed. (Completely selfless even in death...is he perfect or what?) So we talked. About what our families traditionally have done, what we might want to do, what would be best both monetarily and environmentally.
Although we are both believers, neither of us are fully aligned with the doctrines of a specific faith. Me baptized and confirmed Lutheran, him Catholic, we choose to worship personally, in our own time, in our own ways. Our Sunday mornings are spent in bed or at the bowling alley (they have an amazing breakfast special). Some religions frown on anything but the traditional act of burial; we do not agree. I have always thought cremation and then burial of my remains in a cemetary plot would be best (it's how my father and both of his parents are interred). I know cemetaries are for the living, and I do find solace in visiting those plots in Southern Minnesota. But where would my husband and I buy a plot? My home town? His? Our current town? I don't want to live forever in Minneapolis, so if he did die tomorrow, I wouldn't want him here. So, maybe no gravestone; no unnecessary expense. Patrick (I hope jokingly) said I should sprinkle him on homeplate at the new Twins stadium. Me: "You want me to get arrested for you? I'll be a mourning widow and you want me to spend it in jail?" Him: "You can just use the life insurance to pay the fine."
Today, I looked up green burial. It seems like the most common sense option. Good for the pocketbook and the environment. Later, I'll ask my husband about this option. Maybe we'll even have living wills drawn up (wouldn't want to be in a coma with my mom clinging to my life and my husband ready to let go). It wasn't depressing to talk about these things, if you can believe it. Most practically, we do plan on being alive for a really long time. But I am a planner. Of course, in an ideal world, we would die together; a car accident or explosion (the gas detector hasn't gone off again recently, in case you're wondering) or some other simple death. We would prefer neither of us should suffer the grief. I suppose kids might change this view, we wouldn't want to orphan them, after all. But for now, we only have each other. I told him we could go like this, wrapped in each other's arms, to Paradise together. In good time, I'm sure we will.
"I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” --Winston Churchill