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When We Die

By Staff | Oct 20, 2021

I thought about death (again) the other day. I saw a Halloween cartoon that had a depiction of the “Grim Reaper.”

The scene in the cartoon is a happy looking, old lady on the porch who is handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. Standing tall above the other little children is a black-hooded, skull-faced grim reaper figure.

The grim reaper says to the lady, “I’m not wearing a costume. I’m here to take your sou__. Holy crap! Full size Snickers! Nevermind Margaret, we’re good.”

While I laughed and thought the cartoon was witty and hilarious, it prompted some thoughts about death. There have been several people pass away lately who I’ve known. It’s sad to “say goodbye” to people.

I have thought about how people are different in the ways they want to be remembered. Some years back, a Sanpete man died in the sad circumstance of overnight exposure to the cold. He was nearly 80 years old. He apparently became disoriented in the hills after leaving his stuck vehicle.

It seems that we have tragic deaths on a fairly regular basis in our area and, of course, in our state, country and world otherwise. These types of heartbreaking deaths just seem to be a part of “life” in our society. We try to be careful and hope that we can personally avoid catastrophes in our own lives. But there is no guarantee.

I still remember and smile when I think of the last request of this man who passed away in the hills. He evidently had made it clear to his family that he didn’t want formal funeral services. In lieu of a funeral, he wanted a “Skeet Shoot” held for family and friends.

When I read his obituary, it appeared that his family honored his request. There were no public services and it was said that there would indeed be a “Skeet Shoot” held in his honor in the coming weeks.

I often hear people say they want “this or that” to happen when they die. I’ve heard everything from “just bury me in a pine box” to “I want the whole town to have a big, fun dance and party in celebration of my passing.”

Both my father and my brother verbally expressed the “pine box” request. The families didn’t comply with either one of their requests. (Pine boxes aren’t especially cheap, by the way – unless, perhaps you make them yourself in a quick hurry.)

I remember my aunt saying that she didn’t want an “open casket” viewing. Nevertheless, the viewing was done with an “open casket.”

So here’s the deal. If you really, really want something in the way of a “last request” fulfilled – you had better let your family know that you’re dead serious (pun intended). Just saying things in a cavalier manner won’t cut it when the family gathers for decision making in those sorrow filled hours following a death.

My mother-in-law made some decisions which made it easier for her husband and children. She picked out her own casket and flowers a few years before her passing. Not only that – she paid for most of it and specified a thing or two about her funeral.

Everyone of us is different. Many of us will be satisfied to leave decisions to our families. Generally a traditional funeral will be held in those circumstances. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But there will be some who will request “Skeet Shoots” and parties of one kind or another. These will be non-traditional celebrations of the life of the deceased. And really – there’s nothing wrong with that either.

As for me, I’m still pondering some of these “last request” issues. Unless the “Prize Patrol” comes to my door with a check, I don’t think I can afford the kind of party that I’d really like to give the population of Sanpete when take my last breath.

I would like to hire Paul McCartney, Celine Dion, and Journey for entertainment at my “passing party.” And, I’d like to provide an “all you can eat seafood buffet” for everyone in the county. I’m afraid though, that would take more than the benefits paid on a standard “pre-need funeral insurance” policy. (Which, by the way, I don’t have anyway.)

I’m trying to keep in mind what Robert Kirby said in one of his columns years ago where one of the deadly tsunamis was his topic. He said that how you live is more important that how you die. And I would modify that just a tad to also say that how you live is more important than the kind of memorial event that is held when you die.

For us, my advice is: Live well and don’t worry too much over how you’ll be remembered or how people will be celebrating your life when you’re gone. If you don’t have any specific last requests – don’t worry. Your family will take care of things. And you’ll be remembered and revered for a long time by those who knew and loved you. — Merrill


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