• Journal #1

    What I Would Like Said About Me When I Die


                I’ve joked around in the past, and said that when I die, I want a jewel-encrusted coffin, and I want to be laid out for days since all of my people will need ample time to wail and sob and scream over my passing. Of course, I always picture myself as a young and beautiful corpse in this jewel-encrusted coffin, but at the same time, I don’t want to die young, so my fantasy doesn’t really work out so well when I picture a dried up old hag in the box.

             The jewel-encrusted part is kind of far-fetched anyway, considering my husband and I have yet to even purchase life insurance. A scary concept because if one of goes, the other will most certainly assume the other’s debts: car payments, student loans, credit cards, and in addition to that, have to foot the entire mortgage. The house will eventually go into foreclosure due to non-payment. Writing this down now, and seeing it in print, has just lit a fire under my butt to call “Joe” our financial guy.

                I think when we do finally meet with Joe to work out all of the life insurance details, we’ll probably begin the discussion about writing our wills. At this point, I think the only thing my husband knows I want when I die is to be cremated, and that’s because that’s the only thing that I know. I don’t know where I want my ashes to be scattered, but I do know I don’t want to end up in an urn on someone’s mantel.

                My older brother was cremated about two and half years ago. I don’t want to go into too many details, but he was found dead in the Florida Keys; he had been dead for some time; and let’s just put it this way—it wouldn’t have made much sense to ship him, or what was left of him, all the way back up here. The morgue in the sunshine state did ship his ashes up, and my parents decided not to have a service, and so, nothing was said about him. As a result, I don’t think any of us left behind had any real closure.

                I don’t agree with the decision my parents made, but it was not my decision to make. At the time of my brother’s death, I was eight and half months pregnant, and the only decision I made at that time was to be strong and focused and to protect my unborn child at all costs. I wanted to be there for my parents, but I knew I also had to be there for the life growing inside of me. Still, it just doesn’t seem right; he was a human being, my brother. Wasn’t he worthy of a few words…..just a few f***ing words!? A small gathering? Something? Something to honor his life that was taken so prematurely? He was only 37 years old.

                Another young life that was taken too early was that of my former student teacher. She was the first one I have had; this was about six years ago. She was only 27, and I don’t know all of the details of her death, but it was sudden and tragic. She was full of life, and had just secured her first teaching position when she passed on. I did attend her funeral, and I wrote letter and brought it with me. I addressed it to her friends and family; I wasn’t sure who I’d give it to, but I recognized her boyfriend and gave it to him. I had written the letter that very morning before the service. I detailed my memories and experiences with her, and as I wrote, I felt the weight of her death, and the enormity of just one small human life.

                A few weeks later, I received a thank you note from her parents and I was shocked by their kind words. They said they were writing to me with “deep gratitude,” and thought my letter “an amazing tribute.” I guess I didn’t realize how much my letter would mean to them. What then began to realize is the power of words to heal. I felt good knowing that something that only took a little under an hour of my time could help diminish their pain.

                So what do I want said about me when I die? I’m not sure, but it doesn’t really matter. The words aren’t for my empty shell —they are for those I leave behind. Whatever words are said, I hope they bring some sense of peace or closure to those experiencing grief as a result of my passing. I want their suffering to be as painless as possible…if there is such a thing.



    Matthew Acquaviva

    Kristin Rodecker