I’ve been thinking about Death a lot lately. By “a lot” I mean more than usual, which means more than not thinking about it at all. I’ve always been lackadaisical when it comes to worrying about death. My thought is that, once I’m dead, I won’t have anything to worry about. Right? Anyway…
Around three years ago, I attended a funeral for a gaming friend of mine. It was the first time I went to a funeral for someone who wasn’t family, and it was a little bit surreal. Last month my neighbor, who had been fighting cancer for over a year, passed away. The funeral was on a day that I had to travel, but I managed to make it to the viewing by myself. And last Sunday, a friend of mine was murdered in his own home. He wasn’t a close friend, but it would be an insult to say he was just an acquaintance. His funeral is this afternoon. Work has been busy this week, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to get out in time for it, but I want to go. I think it’s odd that I would want to go to a funeral, when I hate them…
The point of this post, though, isn’t about going to funerals. It’s about growing up, and accepting death.
Two weeks ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with a dull, squeezing pain in my chest. I’ve had bad heartburn before, and the first time ever I thought I was dying. This didn’t feel like that. I’ve also had a reaction to an antibiotic that caused intermittent chest pains as a more serious side effect. A side effect that could cause a heart attack. It felt more like that. Rather than wake Strutter up to call 911, I decided I’d wait until the morning to see. I did, however, take my pulse and temperature, both of which were normal.
In the morning, the pains kept coming. Once every three to five minutes, it felt like my chest was squeezing it on itself, like muscle flexing as hard as it could… and there’s only one muscle that I know about in the middle of my chest. So I called 911, right? No. I took a shower, got dressed, and went to work.
About three hours into my workday, I started to get a little bit light-headed, and then started feeling short of breath during the occurrences. Lightheadedness and shortness of breath, combined with chest pains, are a definite sign of a heart attack, so I did what any sane person would do. I drove myself to an urgent care facility, signed in, and waited a little over an hour to see a nurse practitioner. Everything checked out fine, and it turned out to be heartburn. It’s a little embarrassing to say that, but probably not as embarrassing as it would be if it was a real heart attack and I didn’t go get checked out at all.
Spending eighty-nine minutes in a waiting room full of people with colds while you’re experiencing what could possibly be a life-ending event gives one a lot of time to reflect on life, and that’s exactly what I did. And here’s a brief breakdown of what I thought about:
I decided that my life has actually been a pretty good one, and I would have very few regrets. My first, and biggest, regret is that I’m not a great son. I’d venture to say that I’m actually a pretty crappy one. I don’t buy my parents presents for Christmas, birthdays, or Mother’s/Father’s Day. I don’t visit or call as often as my mother would like me to. I tend to call only when I need medical advice, homeowner advice, or money. The other regrets are petty, really, and small enough for me to accept with a shrug if I’m dying.
I also thought about the aftermath if I happened to die. I don’t have a will, so no one would really have proof of anything I wanted. I hope that my life insurance would be more than enough to cover the expenses of death. (Apparently, it costs a lot to die. How is that even possible?) I also hope that the extra money would be enough to make house payments long enough for Strutter to find a new place, and hope that my parents, who are listed as my beneficiaries, would help her out with that. (I don’t have mortgage insurance. In my opinion, all insurance is a scam. In most cases, you pay far more than you get back.)
I also thought about what I’d want for a memorial service, and decided that I don’t want one. To me, this has always been an odd practice. To want a memorial service, in my eyes, is vanity. I don’t want to be remembered. I want to be forgotten. I do understand that some people need to see the body, need to have that service, for closure. So the service is more for them than for the deceased. (Because, really, what does the deceased care at that point? No matter what you believe happens after this life, I think everyone can agree that a dead person probably doesn’t have much reason to keep tabs on the living world.)
So, since people will probably need some sort of service, I decided that I want to be cremated. (A cemetery is a waste of land.) I don’t care what happens to my ashes, as long as no one pays a lot for an urn, and no one pays to put that urn in the ground. You can throw them out the car window on the ride home, honestly. I want my service to be held on a Friday afternoon, so that my friends and family will have a reason to leave work early and get a headstart on the weekend. (You’re welcome.) I don’t want people walking around murmuring to one another between somber hugs. In fact, no sad people allowed. Play some upbeat music. Put out some balloons if you have to. And once the service is done, get on with your life and enjoy your weekends. From wherever I am, I won’t be watching. I’ll be on some great new adventure.