Decisions at the End (#302)

Content Warning: this post deals with burial arrangements. Given that over a million people have recently died due to COVID, alone, and with their families often unable to follow the deceased’s religious or personal wishes regarding their remains, you may want to skip this lighthearted post. If so, I understand. I am sorry for your loss and I hope that your memories of your loved one become more comfort than sorrow.

My Chinese-American husband never worried about death. His only end-of-life plan was purchasing life insurance.

When we had Baby D, I got life insurance, too, and insisted that Andy increase his coverage. Because I am always braced for catastrophe and death, I asked him, “What do you want me to do if you die?”

Andy snorted and said, “What do I care? I’m dead.”

“No, seriously. Do you want to be buried? Cremated?”

“Whatever you want.”

“How about a memorial ceremony with your favorite foods and beer and bourbon?”

“If that’s what you want. Because I don’t care. I’m dead.”

“Okay.” There was a long pause and then I nudged him. “Aren’t you gonna ask me what I want?”

“I am sure you wrote an entire booklet on it and it’s in the “Family Documents” file in your filing cabinet.”

“Maybe,” I allowed. “I mean, at first I just wanted my ashes spread over the Lakes Region and White Mountains in New Hampshire, but then I saw that you could make your remains part of a coral reef. But I hate the idea of not being able to breathe. And then I saw that you can put your ashes in a pot and grow a tree and then plant it and I thought that would be cool in case you or Baby D ever wanted to talk to me. You could go and visit my tree. But you are terrible about watering pets and worse about watering plants. What if my tree dies before you can plant it and then Baby D is left wailing, “You killed Mom AGAIN!”

“Uh.”

“So spread my ashes over New Hampshire and then you guys can go hiking if you wanna talk to me. But put your ear pods in first so no one calls the cops on you.”

Every so often, I’d ask Andy if he’d changed his mind or had any end of life requests.

His answer was always the same: “What do I care? I’m dead.”

****

When Andy’s father finally passed away after a long illness, dementia, and being bedridden for years, Andy flew home. He helped his mother with funeral arrangements. They got rid of Jay’s clothes, hospital bed, and other medical paraphernalia. Andy spent many hours at funeral homes and at Costco, looking for the perfect casket. They spent hours at cemeteries, looking for the perfect burial plot.

After 3 weeks, the funeral was held. Jay didn’t have friends. Only his wife, his children, and his wife’s sisters attended. (Andy and his siblings opted to leave their families at home rather than spend a fortune flying everyone to Hawaii and disrupt school/ work.)

Andy didn’t say much when he returned. He wrestled with Baby D and the animals until bedtime.

Once everyone was asleep and Andy had a beer, I asked, “How bad was it?”

Andy let loose, but not in the way I expected: “Oh my God, honey! Do you know how much caskets cost?! Even the ones from Costco are thousands of dollars! It’s ridiculous! And do you know how hard it is to find a burial plot on Oahu? Except you need two plots because my mom wants to be buried next to him!”

“Really? She actually said that?” (Jay was not an easy person to love.)

“Yes! And do you know how expensive it is to buy a burial plot? Except you don’t buy it, you’re really just renting it! Death is big business and it’s a total scam! Who cares whether the casket is padded?! Argh!”

I handed him another beer.

After a few more sips, Andy said, “You know what, honey? When I’m dead, I don’t want you spending any money. No pink, silk-lined caskets. You put me in a pine box and cremate me and that’s it. No. Wait. You put me in a cardboard refrigerator box.”

“Got it. Anything else? Memorial service? Wake with beer and bourbon? And where should I put your ashes?”

Andy shrugged and said,

“Wherever you want. Because what do I care? I’m dead.”

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

12 thoughts on “Decisions at the End (#302)”

  1. I learned this lesson too. Currently my brother and his wife who are 90-ish are making their arrangements. Painstakingly minutia details. As their beloved sis I keep saying you know you are dead and won’t be around to enjoy this. They finally settled on cremation too but my sis-in-law is afraid they will put her in the stove naked. She wants a sheet over her. We all just looked at her and scratched our head. Funerals have very little to do with the dead.

  2. Ditto what Kate said about funerals. I like the idea of letting someone else handle the arrangements for me because, like you husband says, what do I care, I’m dead.

  3. Burials, cremations, and funerals are for the families and friends. I made all the decisions for my husband’s burial and funeral.

    Our first trip to China in 1983 were all about grave sites. At first Eugene thought his father would be mad that we were taking a trip to China. After all, his father was a serious Nationalist, an officer. The family escaped to Taiwan at the last minute. The Communists stole China from them. But his dad surprised him. He wanted him to visit his parents’ graves and his grandfather’s grave and take pictures. It wasn’t easy to find them, and nobody had a car in those days. But a family friend borrowed a little pickup, and we all piled in and drove all over the countryside. Eugene’s grandmother’s grave had been dug up by the government. No one ever found out what happened to her bones.

  4. I agree with Andy — I totally don’t care what happens to my body after I die. But for some reason I do fantacize about who will come to my memorial service and what they will all say about my life.

    1. I think you, of all people, should have a memorial slideshow! (It’ll last hours, though, and no one will be able to agree on the best photos.)

      I don’t worry about my own memorial service. I worry a lot about dying and leaving my child motherless, though not as much as I worry that something will happen to Baby D.

  5. I see Andy’s point. I mostly don’t care, though I lean toward burial over cremation. I like the idea of having a nice little patch of grass I don’t have to worry about taking care of myself.

    Tara wants to leave her body to science. I find the whole idea of doctors in training going over every inch of me with a fine-toothed comb absolutely appalling. So, apparently I do care.

    1. Tara has a good idea. I feel like it would be fun for med students to look at my old appendectomy scar and be like, “OOoooo, look at this big incision! This is from the dark ages, before laparoscopic!”

  6. I’m with Andy on this one. I’m dead, so I don’t care what happens to my body, haha. Whoever has to deal with it can do whatever they think best!

    My husband’s grandma has her burial plot ready, even the stone already has her name on it. When she passes away, her name only needs to be painted black (it is currently red to indicate she’s still not inside xD).

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