She wasn’t like Judy Preston, who lay dead on the floor next to the kitchen table for two months before they found her body. No, as Mary’s lashes fluttered, her last view was the half-eaten chocolate layer cake on the tray, the last smell, lilies that made the room seem like a jungle, the last sound, silence as the line went flat. Mary expelled her last breath into the air that her husband and children inhaled. They took in her final essence.
Of course sadness prevailed but that’s because of the emptiness left behind. It was Mary’s belief, that since we emerged from pre-zygot darkness, it is to nothingness we’ll return. Everyone has a different idea about this, but fretting about what happens when we die and hand wringing about what, really no one can predict, just didn’t fit into Mary’s scheme.
Here’s what’s interesting about this eulogy. Mary isn’t dead…at least not while this is being composed, because she wrote it. As morbid as it might seem, the death scene described in the first paragraph, is only one possible outcome. The truth is she may actually have been crushed after the bungy cord snapped during her jump off the Queen’s Bridge in New Zealand, or drown trying to set the swimming record from Bois Blanc Island, Michigan to Chicago, or poisoned by eating expired canned goods. But, right now, she just doesn’t want to go there. Just as they say to envision what you want your life to be, in this writing Mary envisioned the most bucolic death of all the death choices available.
A friend of Mary’s recently recounted a conversation she had with her difficult mother.
After listening to her mom rant about being denied a new drivers license, there was a long pause while her mother took in a deep breath. The daughter asked, “Got any plans today?” She could almost smell her mother’s cigarette smoke.
“Writin’ my obit” her mother said. Then exhaled.
Mary’s friend laughed and said her mother probably didn’t trust her to write a fitting tribute.
This little anecdote is included here for a reason. It’s not that Mary didn’t (or should she say, doesn’t) trust anyone to put pen to paper properly, it’s just that she fancies herself a creative writer and so wants her final nod to the world to incorporate metaphor, dialogue and an interesting choice of words. She wants her eulogy to be in Mary-speak.
Bargain hunting her way through life, Mary’s pockets were always brimming with two-for-one deals, Groupons and freebies. Life hadn’t short-changed her, so she won’t be happy with any old eulogy. The obituaries that say “She went home to be with her Lord and Savior” or “He passed away into the arms of the Lord” strike Mary as pitifully hopeful. And then the listing of schools, jobs, family members – all the way through grandchildren but not as distant as great nieces or nephews, who incidentally she adored – all so unnecessary. And please leave out the darned cat since her seeming acts of love were actually major ulterior motives.
Instead, here’s a list of the things that were actually important to her. How Mary’s husband, Kevin, popped up from the table to clear and wash the dishes every single night she fixed his dinner. How he could find hidden itchy spots on her back as if with radar and keep scratching until she decided it was enough. How she laughed wildly while hamming it up with her daughter, Cailin, taking photos of each other in front of the out-of-proportion, and often, out-of-kilter flying angel statues at Blenheim Castle. How she delighted when her son, Brian, sometimes refused to spoon-feed her lessons on the computer. How, like the parent she tried to be, he urged her to figure it out herself.
No, it wasn’t the Michigan State University masters degree for which she wants to be remembered. That was just hot air in the balloon that lifted her to move to Chicago and take up jogging in Lincoln Park, team up with advertising royalty at J. Walter Thompson, and eventually have the chance to get to know Cap’n Crunch and the Wonder Mop.
Mary doesn’t want folks pondering grave digging and body plunking. Morose isn’t in her lexicon. She’d rather that every time you think of her you feel joy because that’s when your soul will most closely align with hers, wherever she is.
Even though ill-advised, she’d like to end this with a cliché set in the comforting image of the first-paragraph hospital room. Here you go, more envisioning: Mary’s final death rattle sounded a little like laughter – probably her version of laughing all the way to the crypt.