Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Eternal rest

posted Fri, 29 Oct 2004

Harpo’s mother died yesterday morning. It was a good death as far as these things go. If you never have watched someone you love die, you might think this is an odd thing to say, but really, to die in your own bed after being bedridden for only a week without much pain with your family around you is a really good way to go.

I am reading a novel in which the protagonist is dying of cancer. He is crashing funerals and wakes to talk to the family members to learn which treatments to avoid and which painkillers work. One of his friends is also dying of cancer and is in the hospital. The friend has tied a cardboard sign around his neck: “DNR” (for “do not resuscitate.”) At night, he keeps a flashlight focused on the sign just to make sure.

[A wake story: For the longest time, I thought "Finnegan's Wake" was a book about water skiing.]

My dad said that one of the few bad things about raising kids on military bases was that my siblings and I didn’t learn that death was a part of life. All we saw were young, healthy people. There are no old, sick people on military bases. When you grow up in a small town like my parents did, though, you see the whole life cycle. Funerals are a normal thing.

Apparently, Mom of Harpo had known this was coming for quite a while, although it was a great surprise to Harpo and his brother. She had spent the past year getting her affairs in order, including getting bids on her funeral! I love that part. Who would have thought to put a funeral out to bid? I’m going to remember that.

Everything is already paid for, even the death certificates. She had already deeded her car to Harpo and had put bank accounts in his name and his brother’s name.

Harpo has also inherited a television (neither of us has a TV) and a DVD player, so he will at last be able to see “Spinal Tap.” When I say, “It goes to eleven,” he knows what it means because I have explained it to him, but he doesn’t really know how funny it is.

I asked Marsha, Harpo’s wonderful sister in law, what they had done with the leftover morphine. “They took it this morning,” she told me. “That was the first thing they asked for.” Rats! That is a really nice drug. I have heard.

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