If I should die tomorrow

I stared at the onion rings as I said it.

“Now, don’t read into this,” I began.

We’d just gone flying, me for the first time in a couple weeks. It was, in a word, interesting. Despite my rustiness, I wanted to be emphatic that what I was about to say wasn’t in any way connected to flying or potentially dying while flying.

“If I precede you in death,” I said, lifting the onion ring to my mouth, “I want you to make sure that my obituary says how I died, okay?”

Cheeseburger hanging in midair, T screwed up his face and inquired as to just what the hell I was talking about.

I explained. I’d been reading “Until I say goodbye: My year of living with joy” by Susan Spencer-Wendel. It’s her memoir of living with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is where the nerves in the brain and spinal cord deteriorate resulting in the loss of mobility and eventually death. In the book, Susan talks of searching for her birth father to see if ALS ran in his family. She finds out he passed away but his obit didn’t state the cause.

And I realized how much that annoys me. Whenever I glance at an obituary (more frequently than I would’ve imagined lately), I get irritated at not knowing the cause of death. Inquiring minds want to know, you know?

“Don’t let my obituary be annoying, okay?” Rolling his eyes, T agreed.

It seems slightly strange to be cogitating on death having just told T on his birthday last week that he has to live at least 60 more years. Well me, too, of course. But should something happen, I do have a few requests (outside of my already-blogged-about end-of-life care decisions).

If I should die tomorrow:

  • NO OPEN CASKET. Ick. Ick. Ick.
  • Please donate my healthy bits to others in need. (But not to science, that creeps me out.)
  • Any leftover bits, please cremate and sprinkle over Monterey Bay somewhere. (And if T really loves me, he’ll reserve a dash for Mackinac Island. Yes, I said a dash. Of me. How morbid.)
  • I recognize that funerals are for the living and I should really let my loved ones do what they want. But, if possible, could we have a party instead of a funeral? Or a short funeral and a long party? Something with good eats that mostly celebrates my awesome life and doesn’t focus too much on the untimeliness of its end?
  • Instead of flowers, please make donations to a worthy cause.
  • For pete’s sake, no me-from-the-grave Facebook announcements. Shudder.
  • Someone please guest blog a tasteful notification for my faithful readers.
  • Temporary Shawna shrines are okay, but don’t get weird about memorials, okay?

Hmm. Am I forgetting anything important?


P/S I can’t help but write this post having read “Tell my sons” and “Until I say goodbye” and just starting “The fault in our stars.” It’s a morbid library book month, what can I say?

Other sort of related posts:
– Talking about death and dying: Whether you’re 22 or 82, make end-of-life care decisions now
– Contemplating suicide? Please think about your family and friends first. You’ll be sorely missed.
– A life cut short. Remembering my first love.
– Grief accumulated: Thoughts on secondary trauma, writing and resilience

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