I have spent much of my life imprisoned by my plans. In my drinking days, I stayed furious because the troops, i.e. husband and kids, didn’t toe the line. Back then, the plans were generally in my head and nobody could read them except me. I wrote them in invisible ink and they were often illegible. Nonetheless, I expected the world to comply with them and stayed frustrated because they weren’t attending the mandatory meetings. In my brain.
I wasn’t that pleased when I got sober and someone at a meeting said, “A good way to make God laugh is to make plans.” Really? Really?? Ha. Back then, the God of MY understanding wanted me to make plans, to implement them, and to accept graciously the universe’s praise. I worked hard to keep my sobriety in check, sponsoring, making coffee, and doing all the things that I believed were necessary to keep God on my side, passing out the blessings, letting the world know who was Her #1 child. Turns out God’s got about a 437 trillion #1 children and is always on their side, drunk or sober. Always. All ways.
Today, I make plans but I don’t plan the outcome of my plans. I used to plan the party, decorate, and rigidly orchestrate reactions. Most days, plans are a little looser, and I can accept that someone else might have an idea or change the plans. If you know me personally, you know that’s not 100% accurate. Truthfully, I often take a few deep, cleansing breaths to avoid heavy, disparaging sighs when there’s a wrinkle in the plan. Although I rarely wear the frozen smile of doom when people aren’t as thrilled as I am with the plans, I occasionally mentally chant, “I am not responsible for their reaction, I am NOT responsible for their reaction, I AM NOT responsible for THEIR reaction.”
Last month, I got this dumb sinus-allergy-felt like asthma-bronchitisy yuck thing. There was a 30 pound badger of phlegm parked on my chest. I rarely am sick feeling for more than a couple of days, but this lasted over a week. I’d feel better during the day and spend the night coughing. Slept sitting up and kept Bob awake. In the small hours of the morning, I’d think about my mortality. I got a little morbid, writing my will and assembling life insurance policies in a binder. At one point, I sent an inquiry out on pre-paid funeral plans.
I started feeling better, sleeping through the night, and got a call from Shary Perry who pimps for a local funeral home. I’d almost forgotten the 3 a.m. funeral plan quest. I listened to Shary’s soft voice and waited for her to gently tone, “The family thanks you for coming to this service.” Instead, when prompted, I made a consultation appointment.
On Monday I told Max why I was leaving early. “Why?! You can’t die!?” “Not planning to or at least not this week, but when I do…” and I proceeded to tell him who he can and can’t hire after I die. So much for my grand “not making plans for other people” idea. Max and I laughed and I told him why I felt like I need to make these plans.
I don’t want GE to have to make the plans. Don’t get me wrong. I trust her to do anything that she’s called to do. My daughter has this granite cover on her emotions. She does the work but a veneer of calm masks her pain. I’ve seen that mask through my alcoholic parenting, divorces, deaths. When her brother Jack died, I watched her erode internally while she sucked it up and persevered. I know that she’ll have a standing army of family and friends there to help her, but I am not sure that she’ll be open to help. She turns into Solitary Woman when she’s upset.
I am all about DIY; Walmart has free shipping with site to store coffin orders. But since I will not be around to DIY the burial or funeral, I needed help. Pre-need funeral planning seems like the best option. I met Shary the Funeral Consultant who is a sweet woman on a mission to sell funerals. She couldn’t restrain herself from telling me about the client who came in and 3 months later died or the couple who pre-purchased their funeral and both succumbed in a car accident 4 weeks after they paid for it.
She has a trunkload of such stories: cancer diagnosis, heart attacks, accidental death. All happening less than a year after they pre-planned their funeral. How convenient, Shary. When I listened to her tales, I wondered if (1) she’s warning me that my expiration date could be coming up soon or (2) she’s telling me to leave, leave now, run while I still have a chance.
I steadfastly refused her offers of Serene, Luxuriant, and Heaven’s Best packages, settling on Standard. I am creeped out by embalming. Cremation’s not much better. If we had a green cemetary in south Texas, I’d want to be wrapped in a muslim cloth and buried. We don’t and my meager soul cringes at the cost for hauling my dead self to the nearest Ethician cemetary in Georgetown or Houston. So, cremation it is.
At least in the state of Texas, you have to be cremated in a rigid container. Shary showed me the architecturally simple oak casket for $2,900, the simple but attractive oak casket for $944, and the plain but sturdy pine casket for $450. I opted for the cardboard box for $50. She looked a little disapproving but had to concede that it was going up in flames anyway. “And since you are opting out of our special plan that permits a viewing before the service, I’m sure the faux mahogany casket will be fine.” she said brightly.
The funeral pre-plan took almost 2 hours. There was no derailing the Shary train once she started telling me about the virtues of her company’s plans. She said something about the lifetime guarantee for a particular coffin and I broke out in a loud laugh. Whose lifetime, Shary! She looked startled for a moment, blinked twice, and started where she left off. Energizer Bunny of Funeral Planning.