July 10, 2006

The Right Side of the Dirt

There are problems with long weekends like the recent one over the Fourth - they make the regular, two-day versions seem a little skimpy, and not skimpy in a good bikini kind of way. Yet, I still managed to cram a lot into those days. I played with Mia, went swimming (twice), finished a book, started another book, bought a few books (it's a sickness), walked through an old cemetery taking pictures, upped my life insurance and cooked a couple of meals. Not bad, eh? But for some strange reason, the weekend seemed to revolve around the concept of death.

Do you think they grasp both the literal and metaphorical brilliance in this?

For the record, no one keeled over dead in our living room or anything. I'm not talking about actual death and mayhem occurring in front of my eyes. It was more conceptual in nature. And was a topic of several different conversations beginning on Saturday morning. I'd just received a death-related update from my mother regarding my great uncle. He (the 90 year-old who drives a hot red sports car) and his wife (who doesn't even know who she is anymore) are moving into an assisted living facility. The facility sounds great but the situation itself is awful. Crazy family members are trying to abscond with their possessions before they even move and lawyers have already been called.

Me: We should start saving up now.
Her: For what?
Me: A hit man.
Her: Why? Who pissed you off? I know the White Trash Neighbors haven't moved yet but that's no reason to take them out.
Me: I beg to differ but that's not what I'm talking about. We need to hire one for us. When we get all old and feebed out, just before we completely lose our shit, I want someone to cap my ass.
Her: I'd shoot you.
Me: Thanks. But what if you were just as far gone? And honestly? You trip over the coffee table almost every day. I really don't think you should be walking around with a gun.
Her: True.
Me: Think of it like insurance. Highly illegal, death-for-hire insurance. From a guy named Bruno or Lefty.

Later on Saturday, I took a couple of hours to venture out with my camera. I ended up walking through a local cemetery. Morbid, huh? After an hour walking on the dead (and doing my best to put that final scene from Carrie out of my mind...you know, the one where Carrie reaches up through the ground...), I returned home. After a cursory hi, I received a very well thought-out plan to up our life insurance from Beth, complete with the exact totals of cash that would be available to support various activities in the event of my untimely demise. I, of course, signed all the paperwork. So, if you don't hear from me for a while and Beth is suddenly talking about a new convertible and the cute UPS guy on her site, start asking questions, okay?

It got me thinking, though, and I realize now that I'm pretty freaked out by death or, more specifically, the lack of health (think about it - the two are not the same). I honestly don't have any great insights to share with you, no words of wisdom or breath-taking life-affirming nuggets of Tuesdays With Morrie-like brilliance. Just this: we're on the right side of the dirt. Enjoy it!

Posted by Chris at July 10, 2006 07:29 AM

You know, I just read a book not to long ago, and it must not have been too great because the name and author escape me. But I remember the premise. It was about these folks you can hire, and if you get sick or incapacitated beyond a certain threshold that you set in advance, they kill you (Ah Ha! It was called "Kill Me") in some sneaky way so that your family can still get all the $$ and you never see it coming.


Glad you had a nice enough weekend, even with all of the death-stuff. Enjoy your day under the sky and above the grass.

Posted by: Alissa at July 10, 2006 07:56 AM

OMG, I get the creeps walking in cemetaries after seeing Carrie too...just thinking about that scene gives me a full body shudder.

And I understand about the book illness thing. I went to B&N to get my brother a book for his birthday and ended up with a few more for the ever growing "to read" pile for myself. So many books, so little time....

Posted by: Lisa at July 10, 2006 08:22 AM

Cemetaries are beautiful for photographs. That wall is really neat. Some of the birthdates are amazing - 1899? 1905? Wonder why the wall is like that? From all the rain? Maybe it made it unstable. Hmm...Either way, HAPPY MONDAY ^_^

Posted by: Michelle at July 10, 2006 08:25 AM

The older I get, the more "okay" I am with whatever happens to me, as long as I've kept up with my exams, and done everything I could to keep myself healthy. I've done my part...

We have insurance, and, frankly, more than what we need because our insurance agent lost both his parents in a car accident when he was a young teen, so he scared the crap out of us.

And between you, me, and all the people that read you each day, I'm not buying any more insurance. I'm not leaving my kids any cash. I don't expect to get a dime from my parents (even though they have purchased many things from the inheritances they received from their parents) and I'm not leaving my kids anything either. I'm sure I'll live to the ripe old age of 100 or so (good genes is about the only thing my parents gave me), and care costs when I get there will incredible. The only funeral costs they'll incur will be cretatory costs...no cemetary for me (seen too many scary movies mysefl)!

Posted by: kristen at July 10, 2006 08:33 AM

Good point, Chris. Try not to be too morbid today, 'kay? That might be overkill (pun intended) on a Monday.

Posted by: Fraulein N at July 10, 2006 08:38 AM

you and I are stricken with the same disease sir. $200 at Borders in two days. And I am so far from finished. (okay, there were a couple of movies for Kel in there, but mostly books for me.) :) There needs to be a group.

Posted by: Keri at July 10, 2006 08:53 AM

I worked as a Certified Nurse's Assistant in a dreary nursing home many years ago, and it oddly made me LESS afraid of dying. When circumstances are bleak, moments of humor/compassion/joy stand out like fireworks on a pitch black night.

Posted by: Betti at July 10, 2006 09:21 AM

That hitman thing sounds like a great idea. I've already given my husband the okay to pull the plug, should he ever need to, but I may have to do that as a back up.

I drove past my favorite cemetary today (I know it's weird that I have a favorite, but whatever) and it has changed - it was a really old, tiny cemetary and they propped up some gravestones that had fallen and added a sign about how it's a historical site. I actually think it lost a little of its charm in the process, but I guess it's good that someone is taking the time to care.

Posted by: Jessie at July 10, 2006 09:25 AM

Man, I get ya. I am very freaked out by the "lack of health." Just seems like it would really suck. I haven't talked w/ Kev about mutual euthenasia, but I did tell him if we ever decide we can't be married anymore, one of us will have to go--and not by way of divorce. Divorce is just to expensive, it's better to be a respectable widower.

Posted by: Ginny at July 10, 2006 09:59 AM

Don't know about you but I am allergic to pain, thus a "lack of health" is far more scary than being dead. When you're dead, life is over (kinda prophetic eh?). Life is the hard part.

Posted by: Geezitron at July 10, 2006 10:06 AM

I've never really been afraid of death. But I agree with you that the thought of losing myself completely but not dying just sounds horrible.

And I also understand the book sickness. I'm starting to try to sort my books to figure out what to haul with me overseas, and I'm going nuts.

Posted by: Kerry at July 10, 2006 10:15 AM

a saturday walking around a graveyard...yeah...kinda morbid.. :)

Posted by: steph at July 10, 2006 10:15 AM

Both of my parents died suddenly seven years ago. Luckily, we had talked about death and their wishes (and they were only in their 50s). It made it so much easier. I'm glad you guys did the life insurance thing. It's okay to think about all this and honestly, in my experience, good. I have a will and directives for my funeral and I'm only 36. But that doesn't mean I'm ready to leave this world. Far from it. Losing my parents so early taught me to enjoy every day for what it is.

Posted by: Heather at July 10, 2006 10:46 AM

I've had a few serious health problems in my life including nearly dying from infection, anaphylaxis, a virus and asthma. There were times when I really wished that I would die.

Now that I'm doing pretty well there's no way I'd want to kick the bucket if I had a choice.

The thing is, if you're sick you may well be looking forward to death and just realise it's part of the cycle we all go through. If you die suddenly then you won't know much about it anyway. So don't fear what's going to happen to us all regardless!

I would definitely be more freaked out by lack of health than death.

And cemetaries are awesome. There is so much history there and so many stories to tell! I remember being in a cemetary in France when I was 15, with graves over 1000 years old. You can learn so much by just reading the headstones. It was awesome.

Now you all are going to think I'm a total freak! Oops! I am, however, a historian ;)

Posted by: E :) at July 10, 2006 10:49 AM

I guess walking around in a cemetery and talking about assisted-living facilities will inspire those morbid thoughts. But you're right -- we're definitely on the "right side of the dirt" at the moment! :)

Posted by: Zandria at July 10, 2006 10:49 AM

"we're on the right side of the dirt. Enjoy it!"

I don't know where I read it, or the exact wording, but this struck me as brilliantly apt:

~~What's the point of stepping gingerly into the next life after a final supper of salad leaves and mineral juice saying nothing at all? What you wanna do is slam into that damn grave at full skid, unkempt and exhilarated, glass of wine in one hand, chocolate cake in the other, screaming "WHHOO-OOT! That was a fucking blast!"~~

Good philosophy, don't you think?

I intend to live by it, at any rate.
So. Who’s with me?


Posted by: Alice at July 10, 2006 11:25 AM

I have begun negotiations with my physician about an exit strategy myself. She and I are on the same page about it. But I won't even be fifty until next year - hey, it's 231 shopping days, for your information - but after what I've been through with relatives these past years, I see it's never too early to plan. But for the record I do not wish to have my ass capped. I prefer to ingest a psychedelic olio of fundrugs. You, on the other hand, can expect a visit from Guido the Cosmic Eraser from Hoboken, New Joy Sea. He's not all that pretty. You might want to reconsider and join my travel plan. I'm just saying.

Posted by: bhd at July 10, 2006 11:32 AM

My mom and her friends want to start a company called, "Go with the Floe". When they get too sick or too addled to keep taking care of themselves, they can get on a boat, and someone will drop them off on the ice up in the Arctic, like the Inuit used to do. This plan makes them all very happy.

I, too, worry a lot more about lack of health than actual death. I'll be all signed up with the Floe-ers when the time comes.

There were a lot of old pioneer cemeteries around where I went to college. Sometimes we'd go out on the weekend and read the epitaphs, think about the history of it all. My favorite was the guy who got eaten by a bear: they just buried his boots.

Posted by: Kate the Shrew at July 10, 2006 11:34 AM

Um. Confession time. I love cemeteries. In fact, once I have spare money and a digital camera that works, I plan on visiting some of the ultra creepy Civil War cemeteries in the area. I mean, the first time we visited UNC, E and I spent an obscene amount of time walking around the cemetery on campus. Yes, that's right. A cemetery on campus.

But, um, I hear you with that death thing. The thing that freaks me out isn't so much how I'll die (though I am hoping for something painless!) but who I'll leave behind and what I won't have accomplished. But clearly I don't need to worry about leaving this earth without butchering the English language. Heh.

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at July 10, 2006 12:07 PM

Chris, that pic is a fantastic juxtaposition. Great capture!

Somehow, in conversations with my (new) husband, the topic of our life insurance payouts comes up rather frequently. Generally, it's as a joke... but I fear that it might not be so joke-worthy one day... We've got to stop having those conversations, I guess.

Posted by: ironic1 at July 10, 2006 12:07 PM

Assvice for ya. Get a Will Drawn up if you do not already have one. It makes the vultures (like the ones with your 90 year old uncle) less likely.

Posted by: Bill at July 10, 2006 12:52 PM

I've always supposed that the fear of dying is rooted in leaving something unfinished. When you have children, that is a very rational fear.

I'm not finished...with anything, but if I were to die tomorrow, I think I'd be okay with it. I've had a good life so far.

Posted by: melati at July 10, 2006 01:20 PM

The last time I went to Paris I spent most my time photographing the very famous cemeteries. I've loved cemeteries since I was a kid. Dayton Ohio has some really cool/old ones. I don't mind death but according to my friends my unhealthy lifestyle guarantees that I will last the longest.

On the right side of the dirt....trademark it...

Posted by: chantel at July 10, 2006 01:44 PM

I was talking to Matt last night about hiring a hit man. To kill him after I die, so we can be together in heaven. He says that my doing so will send me to hell, and we wouldn't be together anyways. I say that if I hire the hit man, then ask forgiveness... I should still be allowed into heaven. I then asked him if he would kill himself for me, once I'm dead, and he reasons that will get me into heaven, and him sent to hell. Man, who knew planning our deaths would be so hard!!

Posted by: Mary Jo at July 10, 2006 02:38 PM

Just a quick correction - Beth would hook up with the hottie pediatrician. :) But of course, by the time you need to hire someone to shoot you, he won't be very hot any more...unless she likes drool. :)

Posted by: Laura at July 10, 2006 02:53 PM

Weird... I, too, spent some time at a graveyard this weekend. I visited the graves of Bruce and Brandon Lee. They're buried within walking distance of my apartment! It was strange, there were all these people there taking pictures and videotaping the gravesite (which: ????). I had my camera but felt funny about taking pics... I mean Bruce Lee is one of my heroes and this was his grave... I didn't want to take pictures of his tombstone like it was a star on the sidewalk in hollywood.

Anyway, I like the occasional morbid weekend, if only to remind me that I should be enjoying life and not worrying so much. Nothing like perspective...

Posted by: Noelle at July 10, 2006 03:15 PM

I grew up living next door to a cemetary. It was like a beautiful playground to the kids in the neighborhood (don't worry, we always respected it). So to me, cemetaries are a glorious and peaceful place.

Odd, I know.

Happy Monday.


Posted by: Isabel at July 10, 2006 03:18 PM

My grandfather passed away about 2-1/2 years ago and it seems to me that my grandmother has just been waiting all this time to join him. It hurts me to see the pain and the loneliness she endures. I guess all I can hope is that when she does leave us that she does so peacefully. My dad always says that getting older is better than the alternative but sometimes I'm not so sure.

Posted by: Beth in StL at July 10, 2006 05:24 PM

I, without a doubt, agree with you. We're indeed on the right side of the dirt! Although, there are a lot of historic cemeteries in Boston so I tend to find them somewhat interesting…in broad daylight that is. Once the sun goes down, cemeteries are just down right creepy!

Posted by: Colleen at July 10, 2006 07:57 PM

Deep thoughts... By Rude Cactus.

But yes, you are right.

Posted by: Lisa B at July 10, 2006 08:59 PM

Unfortunately, I've had to face the idea of this already, and I've come up with this (said by someone brilliant, but I can't remember who):

"The best way to die is while you're living."

Posted by: Queen of Ass at July 10, 2006 09:00 PM

I love taking pictures in cemeteries. They do tend to get a tad spooky if you stay there when it gets dark. And there are no street lights or any lights for that matter. And you hear the words "get out" in a really freaky voice coming from somewhere.

Posted by: Mary at July 10, 2006 10:17 PM

As the characters say in The Hotel New Hampshire, "Keep passing the open windows."

Have you ever heard of Highgate Victorian Cemetery just outside London? Serious cemetery photo location.

Posted by: Sphincter at July 10, 2006 10:36 PM

Oh...I think about that a little too often myself. Death is the ultimate unknown. It's totally inconceivable--we don't even have the language to understand what it could be/mean. (And, even commenting about it here like this seems so stupid and naive, but anyway....)Freaks me right out. As much as questions like "where does the universe end?" We can only really think in terms of beginnings and ends...So, death escapes us, as does life! WTF! :)

I can't believe you read all that. Tell me your secret, now. How do you have the time!?

Posted by: haley-o at July 11, 2006 12:39 AM

My weekend had much talk of death, but of a different variety. I think I am insane because of my focus on/fear of it. Grrrr.

Posted by: DeAnn at July 11, 2006 03:54 AM

I've just made a pact with myself that I will not outlive my mind. Ooops! Maybe I have already done it!

Posted by: Maribeth at July 11, 2006 11:17 AM

If they have prepaid legal services, why not prepaid hit man services? You may have hit on a whole new industry! Imagine how much fun the marketing pieces would be to write.

Posted by: bad penguin at July 11, 2006 01:20 PM

"we're on the right side of the dirt. enjoy it!"

ne'er could a more apropos and timely statement be made for me... thanks for you know reminding me :)

Posted by: stinkerbell at July 11, 2006 03:14 PM