Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thank You for the Rainbows: Remembrance (And Instructions. HA!)

The recent passing of a member of my church family -- the giggling, gossiping, generous and already-sorely-missed Katie, who never once flinched when I told her I was gay and then presented me with a Book of Common Prayer that had a cover made of rainbow-colored yarn and the observation that, "You know, whoever made this probably didn't have this in mind, but take it, it suits you." -- has me up late thinking about death.

Morbid, I know. And yet.

Actually, I've been up a lot lately thinking about death: my regular, generally unfounded forays into panic have, over the past several months, coalesced into a huge, seething ball of death anxiety. I even have a CD by an artist called Pocket Vinyl called Death Anxiety, which actually helps with the death anxiety because the guy who wrote it has his own huge, seething ball of the stuff. I don't know what to do about the death anxiety, but I have many an idea of what I do and do not want to be done with my body after I am indeed dead. Yes, I will be writing it down. Yes, I will be consulting an attorney and making a living will to go along with my unpleasant-to-think-about-but-definitely-necessary Mental Health Advanced Directive -- and finding out if some of these things I want are even possible. But the Internet is forever and it helps me to ping things off other people, so here it is: The Grand List of Dos and Donts for Dead Tif.

1. I DO NOT WANT TO BE EMBALMED. It is not, in fact, the law here. I looked it up. You can place me in a sealed casket or stick me in your walk-in freezer. I don't care. JUST DON'T LET THEM EMBALM ME. I have come to realize that it isn't death that bothers me as much as it is the thought of what modern mortuary science does to your body after you're dead. I mean, I'll be dead, so ostensibly I won't care, but please, please, PLEASE, for the love of all things holy, don't let anyone lay me out on a cold metal slab and replace my blood with chemicals. It's macabre. I can't deal with it. Which brings me to a second and then a third point:

2. I hope that when I die, whenever that is, there is someone who loves me enough to perform for me the burial rites the way they were done before all the impersonal expanses of glinting metal came to dominate our medical culture. Someone who loves me enough to wash me by hand and then wrap me in a shroud. Even if I'm going to be cremated and planted in a biodegradable urn and then become a tree, because I saw you can do that now, and I really, really like the idea. I would prefer to be consigned to the flames with dignity. (Side note: screw white; make that damn shroud so purple it hurts.)

3. If I do end up with the regular casket-and-burial deal, no one gets to come gawk at my corpse. I suppose I could skip this item because I'm not being embalmed so after 24 hours you wouldn't be able to look at me because I'd already be sealed up in a box or keeping your venison company in the deep-freeze, but seriously. Corpse-gawking? That's macabre, too. The only persons who get to see my dead body are the folks who do my laying out.

4. Concerning attire: Everyone is to wear something obviously purple. No half-assing it. No, "But my underwear are purple!" That will not do. You MUST. WEAR. PURPLE. I insist. I will know.

5. Concerning music: do not let anyone pipe in sappy acoustic versions of my favorite songs. There will be a list included with my will -- play those songs. And turn those fuckers up. Enjoy them. Sappy acoustic versions of my jams will cause a disturbance in the universal flow of which I will then be a part, and I will come back to haunt the deejay mercilessly for an undisclosed period of time.

6. If I should happen to expire of some disability-related malady, there is to be no inspiration porn at my service. If I inspired you in some way you're allowed to talk about that, but one teary, "And now she's free to run forever..." and the part of the universal flow that is Tif might have to smack you upside the head.

7. Much as I love my Episcopal church family and enjoy being Christopagan (That's a real term! It's so exciting! It has nothing to do with Columbus!) in their company, I do not want an Episcopal burial service. I don't want much of a Christian service at all, though my favorite hymn is "Come Thou Fount (Of Every Blessing), and you're welcome to belt that out as many times as you please. I've been researching pagan funeral rites, and they are BEAUTIFUL. That's what I want. ("May there be peace in the North...") I'll include a set of instructions with my will and tweak it so that it can be done even if I don't know four pagans for the Four Elements when I die. (All of my pagan friends are contemporaries, so unless I die next week -- which I don't want to do and don't plan on doing, so don't worry your pretty little minds over that -- I might be screwed if I only set up for four.) If the thought of a non-Christian or Pagan service bothers you, I'm sorry you feel that way and I still love you, but don't come to my funeral. Say goodbye some other way of your own choosing.

It might sound like a lot of work, and maybe it is, and maybe it isn't. Having never had to care for the dead in this manner, I do not know. But if you, reading this, are alive when I am not and see me laid to rest, wear purple. Blast my favorite songs. Sing "Come Thou Fount". And if for reasons of my not being pumped full of preservatives there is no time for a chapel service, have a memorial service. Hell, just throw a party in somebody's basement. If you remember me, I'll be there. Energy never dies -- I'll be part of the earth, part of the wind, part of the rain, an Ash tree, maybe, but I'll be there. My being will simply (profoundly!) have been swept into the rhythms of the natural world, to help other life have its chance to live.

And that's pretty cool.

You are missed, Miss Katie. Thank you for the rainbows.