August 18, 2011

The Dead Zone

This is kind of a longish post. Some of it I find funny. Some of it... not. My kids thing I'm whack.

What's new?

First, the non-funny. My old boss who retired in December, the one who'd had cancer three times, died in the wee hours of leukemia. Someone asked me what caused it, but he'd had three cancers, radiation, chemo, smoked heavily for 50 years, drank urns of coffee, and was in the military. What do you mean what caused it? I think it was... a conglomeration of life.

It is sad. We are sad. I'm sad for his grandchildren as he was a WONDERFUL grandfather... and father figure to them. He called me 10 days ago when he was diagnosed, was told two days ago he had two weeks, and now he's gone.

So there is that.

Now for the real part of this post... which is about me and my thoughts on death and my funeral.

I've been planning my funeral again lately. This makes everyone nuts but me. It's not uncommon for there be a lull in the conversation and for me to chirp out of nowhere, 'I was thinking about my funeral...'

It's a bunch of stuff. My father in law's long lingering death last summer, dealing with Joe and his stuff the last THIRTEEN weeks. It just bubbles to the top and I can't help it! I can't!

The following conversation happened last week between my eldest boy and me, I was driving, he was just staring out the window, it was quiet:

Me: I decided... I want Quattlebaum's to take care of my body when I die.

Ringo: *blink*

Me: I like them. I've gotten to know the family some, I know someone who works there and they are family operated. I like the thought of a family taking care of a family.

Ringo: Mom.

Me: So, Quattlebaum's. And... I decided I don't want a funeral at a funeral home or a church...

Ringo: MOM.

Me: I want it outside. In a park. I want white folding chairs. I want someone to run it, but I want it to be casual. People can just stand up and say things. Outside. Maybe a picnic afterwards.

Ringo: MOM!

Me: I think I want to be cremated. Just the urn. The Quattlebaum's will take care of that. But then outside... dang. You need to wait until January. If you do it in like summer or spring or fall... it's too dang hot. So if I die in those months... you need to keep me until like... December through March. Those are nice months...

Ringo: MOM! NO! You are so weird. Stop it. Stop planning your funeral.

Me: Ringo. How in the HELL are YOU supposed to know what I want if I don't lay it out?!

Ringo: NO. Stop it. You're so weird...

Me: Fine. I'm not weird. You're just 16 and when you're 45 you'll plan your own funeral. You'll see...

Ringo: *looking out window hoping I'll shut up*

I did.

My funeral or what I want has been evolving. I used to have a dress picked out after the horror show of my gf, Joan, dying and not having anything in her closet but a pairs of black stretchy pants and big cotton tops. I think that started it... that was six years ago. That's when I started planning my funeral.

It runs in the family. Hell, when my grandma died, she had yellow sticky notes all over her house directing us what songs she wanted played, who was supposed to do the eulogy and she had her funeral clothes laid out in one of the back bedrooms. Shoot... I think I heard once a year she'd call the cousin who was a preacher, just to make sure he was still going to do her funeral.

He did.

So I think I come by this genetically. Leave no stone unturned. Leave no funeral unplanned. At least not mine. I'm not planning my death... just what happens after.

My last attempted bastion of control since I live in utter chaos. I live in chaos, I want to die with control. Or the funeral anyway.

And that brings me to today. It started with my talking to my boss's wife, checking on her. She told me that the services were going to be 'later'. I told her I'd help plan them if she needed, I'd help bring food etc. I'm sure she's fine, but I'll still offer.

But I got off the phone and I said to my Tech Lead, 'I hope to God for the sake of those grandbabies that they have a service. They deserve to have nice things said about their grandfather. They deserve to hear them..."

TL: I agree.

Me: Seriously. It's about the living. Our children need to hear these things.

TL: Yup.

Me: Ok, when I die, you have to make sure there are people that have nice and funny things to say about me.

TL: *blink*

Me: Yes. My kids need to hear nice things. Funny is good. So... you may have to make things up, but like... get 3x5 cards together and write some stuff and plant people to say nice funny things.


Me: Yeah, that's YOUR job at my funeral.

TL: Fine.

A global notice was sent out to everyone in the company that my boss had passed. It was sent out by our HR person who is largely incompetent on a good day.

She sent it out... and MISSPELLED his name! I was aghast.

I work in a cube farm. I yelled from my cube, "CINDY MISSPELLED HIS NAME!"

Everyone started opening their email, I had been first, and you could hear the cluck clucking and sense the shaking of heads, at how once again she'd screwed up.

To me... it was the biggest mistake of all. A good man dies, he's worked for the company for 10 years and you... frickin' MISSPELL his name?! I was pissed. To top it off, she got all sorts of facts about his career wrong.

I sat at my desk stewing and finally I sent a note to my Tech Lead, my gf that I job share my job with, and our assistant. The four of us are kind of tight knit.

This is the email I sent:

Subject: In advance

In the event that I die, I have taken the time to write my own mini-obit to have Cindy send out. This way there are no mistakes.

I regret to inform you of the passing of Boudicca. She worked as a Senior Engineer for Company Y since 2005. Before that, she was a Senior Logistics Support Engineer and a Senior Mission Analysis Engineer for Company X for 12 years. Her greatest accomplishment were her three boys.

"Insert name of Tech Lead Here" will be handing out 3 x 5 cards at her funeral for you to say nice things about her. Some of them are made up. Fake it.


My other co-workers were in the other room and didn't get it before I left. My TL did, however, and this was our conversation:

TL: BOU! You are NOT going to die.

Me: I know. I'm just preparing.

TL: And WHY are you making the assumption YOU are going to die before ME?!

Me: Because I am.

TL: I'm a man. Men die first.

Me: Not this time.

TL: Bou.

Me: It is.

TL: Fine.

Me: The 3 x 5 cards.... that's your job. Only nice funny things.

TL: Fine. How many do I have to make?

Me: I don't know. Wing it..

TL: That sounds like an awful lot of nice stuff you want me to make up.... (I could hear he was grinning)

Me: You're up to it.

So tonight we were all at dinner. We were all talking about our days when the following conversation transpired:

Me: Cindy sent out the work obit for my boss and misspelled his name and got facts wrong about his career. So I wrote my work obit and sent it to 'Tech Lead' to save it in the event of my death.

They all stared at me in complete silence.

Husband: You...did what?

Me: Yup. I got it all finished.

Ringo: Mom. You wrote your OWN obit?

Me: Well, just my work one. Wait. You don't think I'm going to let any of you write my REAL obit, do you? Oh no. Absolutely not. I'll have it all written and all you have to do it send it to the newspaper.

At that point, it was dropped again... the topic of the events following my demise.

So that's pretty much what's been going on here in the non blogging world. I'm planning my funeral and everyone is tolerating it... mostly. And can you imagine if my Tech Lead was able to write funny stuff like, "She came home with a five foot chicken?" What a riot that funeral would be!

Hey. If you don't communicate, how are people supposed to know?

You know my saying, "It doesn't matter HOW HARD you think, I STILL cannot hear you"

... and they really won't be able to hear me when I'm dead...

Posted by Boudicca at August 18, 2011 09:42 PM

--"Insert name of Tech Lead Here" will be handing out 3 x 5 cards at her funeral for you to say nice things about her. Some of them are made up. Fake it.--

The 3 x 5 cards tickled me even though this subject skeeves me out just the least little bit. My Mom talked about her funeral and what she wanted and I pulled a Ringo. I would never speak with her about it. When she went, she'd already arranged and paid for everything. Smart woman.

Nobody seems willing to give me a Viking funeral so I want my body donated to science.

Posted by: pam at August 19, 2011 06:52 PM

OH! I want a Viking funeral! Those are illegal though. I looked into it some. I read somewhere that you can have one in Minnesota, but I don't know if that's true.

I also looked into one of those 'green' cemeteries, but I'm not sure of how one handles the logistics of getting my body there since I don't want to be embalmed. The whole embalming thing seems just... so weird. Why would I want to preserve something of which no longer contains me?


I think one of the most awful things I've gone through was when my mother in law died unexpectedly and nobody knew what to do. We knew she wanted to be cremated, but then Pop freaked and it didn't happen. He had issues with cremation. Selfish b@stard. I secretly wanted him cremated since he hated the thought so much, and went against my mother in law's wishes. I kept quiet though. Even that seemed a bit too b!tchy to me.

Anyway, I figure if I talk about it enough, everyone will completely get it and when the time comes, everyone will just do what needs to be done without having to think about it.

They aren't sharing my views... heh!

Posted by: Bou at August 19, 2011 08:31 PM

I've always made it known...jokingly...that I want a pink marble Sphinx as my tombstone. Amazingly, I was out antiquing about 10 years ago and found a set of TWO marble Sphinx(es?). They were EXACTLY what I had always imagined. Each was about the size of a real life lion. Sadly, they were wayyy out of my price range. But now I know my concept, at least, is not too far fetched! Lol!

Posted by: DogsDontPurr at August 19, 2011 08:38 PM

DDP- EBAY!!! I wonder if you can supply your own headstone...

Posted by: Bou at August 19, 2011 08:44 PM

LOL! I think you were supposed to be part of MY family where this behaviour is SO perfectly normal that by the time my Grandfather passed at 94 we found draft SEVENTY FIVE of his funeral!! Apparently key speakers kept dying and had to be replaced!! Mt Mum always said she thinks he was a bit sad he didn't get to see it all - but at leat he could go knowing it was planned with military precision.

In my own case I remember a friend being aghast when my then 4 year old neice said conversationally as a song played on the radio "this is Shaz's favorite song, one day I'm going to play it at her funeral"!! :-) Like you I don't think it's a bit morbid - just organised! LOL

Posted by: Shaz at August 19, 2011 09:27 PM

Well I'm laughing... now here are my questions...

Does the chicken have any place at this funeral? I can see it out in the park staring at the urn. Are the Elderly Brothers going to play Rocky Raccoon? Shall we have a bonfire? These are all pertinent questions you know. I think there are a bunch of us who will stand up without 3x5 cards and have excellent things to say about you. (always providing we're here and haven't preceded you)

I have to think about my own funeral now. I should write these things down since no one listens to anything I say. Hmmm... yes, these are good things to have lined up when needed. Our problem is we're out here on the East coast and the entire rest of the family is in the Midwest. Home town in MO and kids in IL. So then what? Which city? How do we do this? It's a conundrum I tell you. As you can see the thought has crossed my mind, I just haven't figured things out yet. heh.

Last of all, my condolences on the loss of your boss. If he had to go, I'm glad it was fast, but damn.

Posted by: Teresa at August 19, 2011 10:09 PM

Oh, they'll hear you loud and clear even when you're dead...
I just told my husband two days ago what the main song is to be when I kick it. I don't know if he was more shocked that I was thinking about the party to come or that I want both Adam and the Ants and Billie Holiday on the post-mortem playlist. I think you should have everyone send you 3x5s right now. Why wait until you're dead to hear how nice and funny (and wonderfully weird) you are? You won't be able to hear all the stories very well once Quattlebaum is done sifting you into an urn.

Posted by: Leigh at August 19, 2011 10:13 PM

Oh, Bou...I want a Viking funeral, too! (Grandparents came from Sweden) And I know they're illegal, but I've already got it all planned...I'll be cremated and then Ziggy can put my ashes in one of those little paper boat french fries come in? And then he can set it on fire and push it out into the river.

Voila! Viking funeral on the cheap. heh

Posted by: Pammy at August 19, 2011 10:21 PM

Buy a binder and dividers - one for wardrobe, one for music, selected readings, one for venue, one for party afterwards, music, etc. You can continue to edit it as you think of new additions and updates. That way, everyone will know exactly what you wanted. It's not morbid, it is just being prepared!

Posted by: Mary at August 19, 2011 10:21 PM

I don't see a thing wrong with you writing your own obituary. I still feel bad that I weasled out of writing my Dad's last year. (long story).
Being organized is a good thing. I started thinking about it after a "mid-career planning seminar" 10-plus years ago where we were told it's a good idea to have a will and how to rig your finances so your survivors can get your money without waiting on courts and lawyers. So my sister has all the bank and investment info, passwords and such.

Posted by: George P at August 19, 2011 10:32 PM

I think I have already shared this with you, but I have been planning my own funeral since the first time I was shot at in the Army. I don't want to be laid out in a casket. I don't want a viewing or a wake. I want to be creamated and I want a party. I even have a life insurance policy that I have had for 20 years now to pay for it. I want people to remember me as the guy who made them laugh, the guy who helped them out, or the guy they partied with. I want them to come dressed in blue jeans and a t-shirt, drink some beer and say "you remember the time that crazy SOB did such and such.." I want them celebrating our memories and sharing the good times with each other.

But hey, that's

Posted by: P'cola Titan at August 19, 2011 11:50 PM

My condolences on the loss of your boss. I believe you may have a good idea no matter how many times others put up the 'talk to the hand' invisible wall. Now, I will always think of this post when I see 3x5 cards. Please note, there will be smiling involved.

I saw an article a while ago, a book by Melanie Cullen was mentioned. Must be popular because I've been on the hold list with the library for a long time now. It's called "Get it together: organize your records so your family won't have to".

Posted by: cin at August 20, 2011 12:31 AM

3" X 5" cards? I want a teleprompter.

Posted by: PeggyU at August 20, 2011 02:24 AM

Ok, I have to write the post of our conversation on this... And add what I want done for my funeral!

Posted by: vwbug at August 20, 2011 06:36 AM

Shortly after my husband died in 1997, I paid for my cremation. Told sibs and friends, "It's paid for. I don't care what goes on after. Leave the ashes there or put them somewhere, I don't care. I'll never know. All I do know is that I won't be wasting space on the planet."

Posted by: Jean at August 20, 2011 10:12 AM

My dad recently made me executrix of his will, and gave me copies of his living will, also. He put terminology in it that I'm adding to mine:

"It is further my intention that my right to make my own end-of-life decisions as expressed herein and my right to die with dignity shall remain inviolate, and no public or private right-to-life group or other advocacy or political group or organization nor any judicial, legislative or executive process or action should be allowed to interfere with my exercise of such rights; only myself or my Surrogate shall have any right to make decisions regarding my end-of-life decision making."

Posted by: Mrs. Who at August 20, 2011 10:21 AM

Shaz- I think we've spoken of this before, how I'd fit with your family like peas and carrots! The practicality of it all... it is from where I come. We are a practical people. I'm so laughing at Draft 75... holy crap.

Teresa- First, about my boss, thank you. He really was a good man. He was never a mean boss and he wasn't an impediment to progress. That is how I've come to judge bosses now. Did they get in my way? Were they mean? If no to both, I'm cool. It was fast, and he didn't deserve to suffer. Leukemia, if not acted on quickly, will take you fast. Your body doesn't like things messing with the blood system...

As for the chicken... I think the answer is yes. There will be a place for the chicken. I"m thinking of photo shopping it. And I think I just decided I want Elisson to run it. He doesn't know yet... heh. He's a good public speaker and he's a good spiritual man. I need to go through my iPod and start downloading music and have a file called, "Music for my Funeral". Directions will be in my file that I'm starting at the Mary's suggestion.

My question is where I want my marker. For genealogical purposes, I want a marker. It's a waste of space, but good tracing for future generations.

Leigh- Bwhahahaha! And wonderfully weird! I love that. Oh and I checked, when you're cremated, they pulverize your bones so everything fits in that dang urn. I did research on this about 10 years ago, wondering how a 400 lb man fits in the same sized urn as a 150 lb woman. Interesting...So yeah, I'm not sure there is much sifting involved anymore! :)

I am going to have an electic choice of music. I may have to pass on Rocky Raccoon UNLESS... UNLESS!!! everyone has a kazoo! I may have to do that... everyone gets a kazoo and gets to join in as the Elderly Brothers do Rocky Raccoon... My husband is going to hate this very much...

Pammy- Good Lord that is FANTASTIC! Viking Funerals are just cremation. You're just kind of doing it in a bit of a reverse order. I love that...

Mary- I am so getting a binder and planning this all out now...

George- I'm absolutely writing my own obit. It's funny, but one of my best gf's is 80. She told me last year that she wrote her own and keeps updating it. I should ask her if there is a Draft number... Anyway, she said, Bou, you need to start writing it now so you have control and you can figure out what you want". I think an Obit is kind of a resume of your life...

PT- Know, my friend, you didn't tell me this. I like the idea of having a life insurance policy that covers it. I like that a lot. My life insurance policy expires when Bones turns 18...

Cin- Thank you. I"m so very sad for his family. I can think of others that deserved to die before he.

I saw in our newspaper a book about how to write your obit, but I dind't see one about getting organized. I'll have to check that out...

Peggy- You're going all high tech! I'll have to ask Elisson if he's in need of a teleprompter or he can do this off the cuff... or with 3x5 cards...

VW- That was a funny conversation!

Jean- I may have to do that. I may look into advance payment. I bet I can lock into a cremation price...

Mrs. Who- From experience... you need multiple copies of that. You'll need it for the hospital and you'll need to take it with you if he ends up in rehab. I have a copy of Joe's. I take it with me to every facility he ends up with so they all know... I don't trust the paperwork to follow him.

Posted by: Bou at August 20, 2011 11:39 AM

I plan to be cremated and have my ashes part of a pyrotechnic show. There are places that actually do this. Nothing like going out with a bang and a lot of sparkle.

Posted by: ms martyr at August 20, 2011 12:20 PM

Holy crap. That's GREAT! Can you imagine, going to a 4th of July show and knowing you're watching grandma's last wishes?

Posted by: Bou at August 20, 2011 12:40 PM

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Posted by: Cheap Purses at August 21, 2011 06:06 AM

Told my sister she is in charge of picking the outfit out. I want jeans and sweatshirt, I want to be comfortable in heaven. I also told her if my mother has any say what so ever in planning my funeral I was going to come back and haunt her ass for the rest of her life.

I have asked my hubby if he has talked with his parents about their end of life wishes, he hasn't and he won't. He is another "if I don't talk about it, it won't happen".

Posted by: Quality Weenie at August 22, 2011 11:28 AM

I'm in two choirs. During a church choir rehearsal the topic came up. I informed my choirmaster, who is half my age and who is a vocal coach and a music director for plays/musicals in downtown Chicago and knows a whole lot of musicians that There Will Be Music At My Funeral. And not pop stuff either, stuff that takes some professionalism and effort to sing. We Episcopalians sing everything from praise music to spirituals to the greatest hits of the 16th century and I want it all. And smoke and bells, too.

Posted by: RonF at August 23, 2011 04:33 PM

I have also informed my wife that she is to place a baseball bat in my coffin. If something goes wrong and my choirmaster isn't in charge and the organist/pianist at any time starts to play "On Eagle's Wings" she is to open the coffin, remove the baseball bat and strike the musician until he/she stops.

My daughter has been instructed to make sure that only high-quality Irish whiskey is to be served at my wake, no cheap stuff.

I have yet to assign my son a role. He's old enough now. I'll have to think of something.

Posted by: RonF at August 23, 2011 04:36 PM

Ron- My son and I were at a funeral about 3 weeks ago. It was for a member of a very musical family. I mean, three generations of musicians... voice, instrument, they have it all. I call them the Non-Mormon Osmonds. So at this funeral the entire family sang at some point, there was an incredible brass ensemble, there were strings... I leaned over to my son after the brass ensemble and said, "if they're still alive when I die, I want them to play at my funeral". He looked at me, and deadpanned, 'Mom. No. Shut up." Heh. He's 16. He's in "Mom's Funeral Overload..."

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