Are you having trouble thinking and talking about death? I have an idea, go pick out a casket! You don’t have to pay for it, and any funeral director will be happy to show you the selection of options. Some funeral homes will have the full casket and some will have just corners and the inside material. Keep in mind the inside material is important—that is what everyone will see and you will feel. Oops, dead people do not feel. Anyway, if this is freaking you out you can call your local funeral home and just go into the office and look at pictures of caskets. You might want to do it online, but I do not recommend that because you need to see the place where all your family and friends will come to visit you. And besides, if you do it online, then die the next day, you will rest for a couple of days in a building you have never seen – now that is scary – unless you really don’t care!
Another thing to remember, your funeral director can help you speak the language of death. Things like embalming, vaults, burial, cremation, cemetery, prayer cards, etc., you get the idea. Why not? Let’s have the conversation. I want to understand how I can be buried the way I’ve lived – ”large” – and contented, and you should too. Everyone should understand what is involved with making these end-of-life decisions. Once again, that is why we should think and talk about death. Do not, I repeat, do not leave these decisions to someone else! That is being a coward! Man up! (or, woman up!) Be strong! Death is a whole lot less scary when we confront it head-on. And, understanding our space/time limitations usually releases all kinds of creativity – a big thank you to Martin Heidegger and Kubler-Ross (“freedom towards death”).
Now, you are wondering if I practice what I preach – right? Of course I do. A few years back, in full health, I visited a funeral home to speak with the owner. I did know him, which made it easier to discuss the purpose of my visit. At first he did not have a clue. Then he thought I was joking. I got very serious, “Tom, I am here to plan my funeral or at least the sanitary disposal of my body – so please help me”! I want to start with the casket. Tom agreed, and he took my in the office to look at pictures. Not enough. If you know me I am a “hands on” person I want it to appeal to my senses: see, feel, smell, etc. So, we went into the selection room.
At that time he had a lot of full caskets–no partial caskets. I started to walk around. Then, there it was! And, all of the sudden, the angels sang, the skies opened, and I experienced overwhelming peace. In front of me was the green and gold steel casket that I had seen in the pictures. Green is the color of Ohio University, Athens, Ohio (I played basketball there–not that you care!), but such perfection and beauty. I had never seen a casket so beautiful. I moved closer to it and started to touch the silk lining – wow, it was awesome! Tom was behind me observing. He knew what I was doing. I was picturing myself in that casket. That’s right – what an experience! Very liberating! In a moment I heard his voice say in a whisper, “you would look good in there”. I started to laugh, he laughed. But in the end, we both understood.
Death is something that does not tolerate avoidance. It will surprise you, engulf you, and terminate you. To ignore it produces insecurity and anxiety. To accept it is freedom towards life. Think about it and talk about it – we all will be better for it.
What are your thoughts on death? Is it something that should be planned for and discussed openly? Or, are somethings better left unsaid?
Updated: March 20, 2013