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When I am Dead and Sister to the Dust
Spoiler alert: what follows is the outline of service for my memorial celebration. Sorry to give up the surprise, but I’m hoping this might spur some of you on to creating your own. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sat with Jimmy and Susie, planning the service of their dearly departed and asked them What color did mom like? Was there any poetry in particular that your dad read? only to be met with a blank stare.
My god, kids, you lived your whole life with your mother and never knew what her favorite flower was?
OK, so the best way to avoid all that grief-addled confusion is to plan your service, right now, today. Are you doing something more important?
I didn’t think so.
I had to do this a long time ago, when I was in hospice training, and I’ve been tweaking it ever since. For example, only recently did I learn about THIS! Gah! I cannot tell you how deliriously happy it makes me to imagine feeding the bugs and soil and trees, literally becoming part of the Adirondack land.
The location for the party has changed over the years, too. I’m living happily on a mountain (hill) in Vermont now and it’s a perfect spot for a party, so for today that’s the plan.
I have a file called When I Die on the desktop of my password-free laptop and a similarly named playlist on Spotify. I’ve told my kids too many times about my plans, but now you know, too. The names have been changed to x’s to protect the innocent and keep anyone from trying to get out of it ahead of time. I really hope this will inspire you to get yours rolling, too. Be sure to check on what you’re allowed to do when someone dies in your state. If you live in Vermont you can basically do everything yourself: transport a body, bury on your own land … you don’t need to engage a funeral director at all.
The Final Show, Melissa Ann O’Brien
VERY IMPORTANT. BLAST AT THE START: TANYA TUCKER DELTA DAWN. LOUD!!
Location xxx Peru, VT
Music (playlist on Spotify is called When I Die)
All Things Must Pass Beatles
Atlantic City The Band
Terra Nova JT
Brokedown Palace Grateful Dead
Down to the River to Pray (xxx please do this one if possible)
I Saw the Light
I Shall Be Released
Where Rainbows Never Die (Steeldrivers)
xxx please read Herman Hesse Stages
xxx please tell the story of our friendship and sing If I Needed You (Townes Van Zandt)
xxx please read In the Beautiful Rain by Tony Hoagland
Sam, Nate and Coco please convey that your mom loved every part of being alive. Also tell them that your favorite thing about me was that I was funny, even if it’s not true.
Please have a party, lots of booze and food. Face painting! Color! Joy! Like a Dead show!
Shroud me in the old green quilt that was made by Great Great Aunt Eliza. Patagonia sweatpants and a thermal shirt, you know how cold I always get!
Green burial location: Spirit Sanctuary, Essex NY
Please read these most beautifully spectacular closing words to my life here on earth. Toss the dirt on top of me and get on with your lives, asap. xoxomo
When I Am Dead And Sister To The Dust
When I am dead and sister to the dust;
When no more avidly I drink the wine
Of human love; when the pale Proserpine
Has covered me with poppies, and cold rust
Has cut my lyre-strings, and the sun has thrust
Me underground to nourish the world-vine,—
Men shall discover these old songs of mine,
And say: This woman lived—as poets must!
This woman lived and wore life as a sword
To conquer wisdom; this dead woman read
In the sealed Book of Love and underscored
The meanings. Then the sails of faith she spread,
And faring out for regions unexplored,
Went singing down the River of the Dead.