Joi Ito has a post up about his family tombstone (via BoingBoing), and it made me ponder yet again the arrangements I would like when I die. I’ve never written them out anywhere, though I have told a few people. I figure I will leave a record here of what I want, and hopefully also open a dialogue about the various options.
First of all, I would love to be able to donate organs. I would donate everything if I could. However, since I have had cancer, I am not allowed to even donate blood. (Especially not blood, really, since I had leukemia.)
I would like my body to be useful in some way, but I can’t imagine going so far as to donating it to a body farm. While I appreciate the work done on body farms, I don’t like the idea of leaving my body out for weeks and weeks and letting someone watch how it decomposes. It’s just unsettling to me. When I die, I would prefer that my body be disposed of as soon as possible.
In some cultures, the body remains in the family’s house for a few days before the funeral. In American culture we have mostly replaced this tradition with the viewing at the funeral home, which lasts an hour or two. I wouldn’t mind being left in my death bed for a few days so that mourners could come to my house at their convenience. I think that would be better, more communal, than a standard funeral viewing. It’s more natural and comfortable, too.
I would like any funeral to be a celebration of my life, but I would also like it to fulfill the needs of the mourners. I don’t want to put any unreasonable demands on the people who will be taking care of things once I’m gone. Bring things I’ve written and photographs I’ve taken and let everyone look at them. Let the people have time to just sit and talk. And provide food. Those are really the only demands I can think to make.
There were pictures and reminiscing at Grandpa’s funeral, which I thought was lovely. Afterwards quite a few of us went to the Chop House for dinner, and I think that communal meal really helped. Ultimately, everyone has their own way of mourning, and I would want everyone to feel that they could express themselves however they wished at my funeral.
After the period of mourning is finished and it is time to do something with my body, I would like to be cremated. I do not want a stone monument or a grave. I would like my ashes to be scattered somewhere. If someone very close to me feels that they must hold on to some of my ashes, then I suppose I would allow that, but I honestly find the idea of keeping someone’s remains rather grisly. Maybe if I had grown up accustomed to the idea it wouldn’t be such a big deal.
I think what would be nicest would be to have a bit of my ashes scattered in each place that is truly meaningful to me. Part of me would be in Nicholasville. Part of me would be in Augusta. At this point I can’t think of a place in Japan that is meaningful enough to warrant scattering my ashes there, but should I happen to move to a place in Japan at some point in the future, I would like ashes scattered there as well. (If I end up moving a lot, this idea of scattering ashes in places I’ve lived may prove problematic; I will revise these wishes if that is the case.) This is probably the most inconvenient of my last wishes. Should I have any sort of “fortune”, I will dedicate a portion of it to carrying out this task.
I would also like to leave a lasting mark, something useful, a place where people can go and remember me but not a place solely for that purpose. The free space on the planet is rapidly diminishing, and I don’t like the idea of adding to a graveyard. That is why I want to be cremated and scattered. Instead of a grave, I would like the monument to my life to serve the community. It could be a building at the University of Kentucky, or a scholarship fund, or both. (While I have not decided the specifics yet, at this point I believe I would like them to be related to the Office of International Affairs.) Also acceptable would be a library or a community center/park like Augusta’s Riverwalk. (Maybe a community park with a library!)
This is, of course, presuming that I leave an inheritance large enough to create such a monument. Ultimately, my family’s needs should be taken care of first.
In a nutshell, I would like my life to be celebrated, to be cremated and not buried, and to leave a lasting monument that is useful to people. Have you, gentle readers, thought about what you would like to have happen upon your death?