Vexations and Conundrums – December 2022

Death, Continued

My cellphone rings and I hear a very low, urgent whispering. “You won’t believe where I am. Forest Lawn Cemetery! I’ll call you when we finish this appointment.”

My friend Athena calls me later to fill me in on her cemetery visit. “We are making plans for our (her and her husband’s) burial. I found out what the plots the family left us are worth. They are worth a great deal of money!”

“You should see the options for purchase at the funeral home,” she marveled. “The price list is pages long and the real eye catcher was the space voyage for the ashes which costs five figures.” (These are U.S. dollars.)

Athena is facing a dilemma. She is very into her Greek heritage. Her husband is a WASP. She is guiding the death planning and wants everything to be done in Greek tradition. She explains to me that she would really like to sell those cemetery plots. The money is substantial for such small pieces of dirt. Then again, they may be needed for burial. Her husband hasn’t even agreed he will be buried.

“I want to be cremated. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” I respond. “I don’t want to enrich the death industry. I think it’s a racket. Besides, you will tie up a piece of land forever. Eventually humanity will run out of land.” At the same time, I think that at least some land won’t be developed and will have trees remaining on it, which is great for the planet. What a dilemma.

“You have a point. Did you know that King Tut, after all that mummifying business, was mostly ashes when they opened his tomb?” I can tell she is conflicted. “Our Greek traditions are very strict. I’ll have to talk to the priest about this.”

I point out that part of this decision really should be her husband’s call. He is older and might predecease her. And they may have different death plans.

Days pass. She calls me again. “Well, we went to the Methodist church. The female minister was wonderful. She seemed more flexible than the Greeks. She could talk current practices and contrasted them with biblical guidelines. She gave us paperwork with questions we need to address.”

This grabbed my interest. “What were some of the questions?”

“Well, scripture choices, interesting information about the deceased person’s life, music to play. Like that.”

“Can you play any music?” I wondered aloud.

“I asked the same thing, mentioning Jimmy Buffett.” The minister said, “No Jimmy Buffett. That would be for the after-service. The music must be Christian hymns.”

I must admit that for all the thought my husband and I have given to managing our deaths, we still haven’t visited the funeral home. And when I mention Athena’s findings, he just shakes his head and mutters about how things have become ridiculous.

I sit here typing this on Halloween, a holiday all about death and the afterlife, still floundering in my decisions. We are not getting younger, and this week both of us had an odd limp when we walked, probably arthritis kicking up. It occurred to me that we could skip costumes tonight. We could just hold our hands out, limping along, looking like we were extras in the “Thriller” video, extras who still had no plans for our funeral service.

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Katina Pontikes
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