In Case of Death

I'm 46 years old and I'm dying. Several doctors have concurred. Despite feeling pretty good and looking fine, sometime between this moment and the next fifty years I'll die. Given that grim reality, and the even grimmer one of subjecting those left behind to a funeral service like the ones I have attended lately, has inspired me to impart some guidance as to how to handle my departure.

My wish is to be cremated. An urn is much easier to lift than a coffin. Having nearly suffered a hernia carrying others to their final resting place, I refuse for anyone's last memory to be that I was heavy. Also you can skip the final viewing, which in my opinion offers no real comfort, especially when a mortician has made me look better dead than I recently did alive.

Please no funeral home or church service and don't bury me in a cemetery. Having never spent much time there before and not anticipating spending any in the future, I have no desire for my remains interred in one. In addition, avoiding any road rage incidents as a result of my procession running every red light in the city is a priority.

The service should be at the tennis courts in Schenectady's Central Park. It's outside and there is plenty of seating. Tennis has always been one of my passions and the venue seems fitting for my farewell tribute. Have it on a nice day. Every time someone dies it seems the burial service is on the coldest, nastiest day of the year; all the mourners think about is getting back in their cars. Being just ashes, I won't spoil so wait for good weather.

Those paying their respect will be ushered to their seats by a DJ spinning old rocker songs from the likes of Mellencamp, Joel, Stewart and Taylor. Simple tunes that move the feet, open the heart and touch the soul. No religious representative will speak, only people who knew me well and my posthumous recording. I plan to take advantage of this opportunity. Where else can you get a captive group to listen to your ramblings? My message will include comforting references to God, and persons passed, both friends, family and famous. Survivors embrace the idea of the dead cavorting in the hereafter with familiar companions and my intention is to give them all the consolation I can conjure. At the end of the service, bagpipers will lead the crowd in a hearty rendition of "Oh Danny Boy". I'm not Irish, but I love the song and that's goodenough. My designee will then instruct the participants to "let the healing begin," signaling they can tap the keg, open the wine and everyone can dance.

As for my ashes, I request my three sons, their families and any friends who wish to join them in their dispersal to do so. Divide them into eight equal parts. In the early spring I imagine sunshine on their faces as they ride the ski lift to the mountaintop at Sugarbush and release me to the wind. In the summer they can scatter me in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the U.S. Open, an event I've attended for over twenty straight years. In the fall catch the ferry to Martha's Vineyard and leave part of me along the way to the South Shore. And in the winter journey to St. Croix in search of a perfect half-mile crescent called "Ha'Penny Beach. There they can swim naked and dip me in the turquoise blue Caribbean. When that's been done my boys can each take a part of me and leave a little in their own special place. What's left goes home, because no matter where I traveled, that was always where my heart was.

Having made these requests, my final directive is to do with me whatever, even if it means abandoning my instructions. You see in the end, funerals are for the living, not the dead. And besides I can always do it my way next time, because... I will be back.


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