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One of my stupider moments

Recently I wrote about my own death (in case you’re new to my blog, I am not dying at a faster clip than anyone else, as far as I know).

Did you ever notice how people are so squeamish about death? Until the last six or seven decades, I imagine that death was not so hidden. During agricultural times, I think we were used to farm animals dying and to dressing our own dead, to having their remains sit in the parlor downstairs until we marched them in a pine box to the family plot in the community cemetery. Perhaps death wasn’t such a spook then.

Now, we are so unfamiliar with death that we don’t know how to process it when it inevitably comes into our lives. I try to think about it now and then. To at least be unafraid of my own thanatal thoughts when they come up.

Witness the lagoon of quicksand that swallows me when I take this stand with my children.

The other day in the car, Tessa asked if we could visit the grave site of my grandma, GG (for “great grandma”). I explained that GG was buried in another part of the state and that it was too far to go to today. Reed then asked where I would be buried.

I haven’t shied away from difficult subjects before (such as adoption and birth). Matter of factly, and answering only the question that was asked, I said that I didn’t want to be buried. Can you see where this is going?

Tessa said, “Then what will happen to you, Mommy?” I explained that cremation was another way to deal with a body after a spirit no longer needs it. “What’s carmation?” asked Reed.I explained as best I could. And can I just say that I didn’t know that their school had had a fire drill earlier that week?

The back seat freak-fest began. The Wailing. The Gnashing of Primary Teeth. “No! Mommy! I don’t want you to burn!” “Don’t burn up, Mommy!” “Mommy! PROMISE US YOU WON’T BE CARMATIONED!!!”

I had to pull over.

Lest you ever find yourself in a similar situation, take it from me. Don’t try logic. Don’t say, “But then you won’t have to go ANYwhere to visit me — I’ll be wherever you want me to.” Don’t try metaphysics, like “Once my spirit is gone, I won’t need my body anyway.” Don’t lie to them by promising something you have no intention of doing (thankfully I stopped short of that).

And even I knew not to try “I’d rather be quick-fried to a crackly crunch than be digested by worms and maggots.”

Yup, I’m great at knowing what NOT to say. But I can’t tell you what TO say. Please, YOU tell ME. Because it’s bound to come up again.

The best I could come up with was my most cheerful, “So! What shall we have for dinner tonight — pizza or chicken nuggets?”

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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4 Responses

  1. We really are separated from death here. During my short stay (8 months) in a village in West Africa, I saw more death than I see in a decade here – maybe more than I have seen in my lifetime (at least up close). Everyone in the village (and any nearby villages) knew each other so when someone died, it was always a death close to the family.I remember one time where a wailing seemed to erupt and spread like a wave to the end of the village where I was at. I asked what happened and a young girl had just died from an illness. I wonder how Tessa would have taken your news if she had grown up in such a village. Maybe the same way, since they only bury them there. Poor Tessa!

    1. Kami, it was actually Reed who was more upset. He’s more sensitive and deep than mercurial Tessa.

      We’re all over it, for now. But I’m sure there will be another chapter.

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