Thursday, August 6, 2009

Reflections (4): On Death



TO BE OPENED ON THE EVENT OF MY DEATH

August 6, 2009

ON DEATH
If you are reading this it is because I have passed on. All I can say at this point is that you should NOT feel sad for me. At all. In fact, you should know that by the time I wrote this I was ready to die. Or, more precisely, I had stopped worrying about death.

That's not to say I don't feel a little trepidation about how, exactly, I died. Not sure you can ever prepare yourself for being crushed by a semi, being drowned at sea, or even succumbing to a horrible disease. None of that stuff sounds very pleasant.

But it is the process of death that I have come to terms with. I am now actually looking forward to embarking on one last great journey, one that every one of us will one day share. On this journey, there is no bicycle to ride, no tent to set up, no defined trail to blaze. Death is as natural as childbirth, as comforting as breathing and, just maybe, as beautiful as a sunset over a clear blue ocean.

Death is the greatest journey of them all.


TO MY FAMILY
There is no denying that things have never been easy for us. There have been moments of rancor and bitterness that, at times, have tested our love for each other.

But that's all in the past. It doesn't matter now. In fact, as I sit here today, none of that stuff ever mattered. Ever.

What truly matters is that you know how deeply I have loved each and every one of you. How my love for you has sustained me through some of the darkest, loneliest moments of my life. How this love seeped into every inch of my heart until there was nothing left but memories of my love for you.

I love you all. I always will.

TO MY FRIENDS
You all know that I've never been the type of guy to express my feelings. But I guess that no longer matters.

I want you all to know that I would not be the person I am today if it wasn't for your strength, love and support. Know that I cared for you and that I cherished every beer, every laugh, and every hug we shared over the years.

If there is one overarching regret about death is that I can no longer be there for you. What comforts me is that I will always be your friend.

INSTRUCTIONS

Ashes
It is my wish that my remains be cremated and that my ashes be spread along the Mount Vernon Bike Trail in Northern Virginia on a clear, crisp fall day. Though I wouldn't object to dropping a little of Jack on a clear, warm summer day at Hoosier Pass in Colorado. Make sure whoever is doing the spreading is riding a bicycle. :)

Disposition of Assets
As denoted in my Last Will and Testament, as amended, any investments and other assets are to be liquidated upon my death and aggregated with any cash and cash equivalents into a common fund. The designated trustee is then charged with disbursing moneys from this common fund to pay for the Service as described below. Any remaining funds are to be used to pay for an all-expenses-paid, two-week vacation for my friends and family anywhere in the world. Have fun guys!

Service
I don't want any corny solemnity, depressing speeches or any of that standardized, gloomy funerary bullshit at any service you guys have for me. I want people to celebrate LIFE that day.

I picture a wide open field filled with wild flowers somewhere in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. Everyone will be sitting on blankets, enjoying a delicious picnic while listening to awesome live music. No one should come in black. Wearing shorts and t-shirts will be encouraged. There will be a games section for the kids, tons of balloons, and an assortment of tasty desserts.

And, for God's sake, make sure you get a liquor license! I want people to drink their fill of wine and spirits, to dance, laugh, make love, and sing long into the night.

I want some of you to love so much on that day that you welcome a new life into this world nine months hence.

GOODBYE
Saying goodbye is never easy. But know that I am leaving this world after having found something precious and beautiful: genuine love. Love for my family. Love for my friends. Love for my fellow man. Love for myself.

When it is all said and done I died having lived my life on my own terms and without regrets. And that's more than most people can say.

Goodbye.

Jack




[Reflections introductory post]

31 comments:

Fonk said...

That was a little bit creepy, reading that (not the material itself). I'm trusing this wasn't posted because you're already dead...

Jennoit said...

That was a bit creepy, but I'll take it that you have simply become comfortable with teh idea of death, not that you have died. SO I'll say, yay for Jack.

Meg said...

Dude, not funny. But I hope you're not serious, either.

Jack said...

I can't believe I have to do this but let me clarify: this is not some sort of weird suicide note. Regular readers should know that I am more in love with life than I can describe. It is a piece that should be read as another Reflection in that series of posts. If anything, it was intended as a celebration of life and a reevaluation of the role of death in everyday life. Just another brick of the wall coming down...

Ginger said...

Jack, that was beautiful. I hope you get just what you want. A lonnnnnnnnnnnng time from now!!

bill h said...

I took it that way Jack. I think that as you get comfortable with life, you become more comfortable about death. Dreading death to some extent is wrapped up with regret about how you choose to live your life and you are flat in the middle of living a life of no regret.

I think your words are pretty straightforward. I've buried both my parents, and a very close friend. Death does not have to be creepy or somber, although it can be very sad for those left behind.

You can know that you're touching lots of lives, but friend, I feel quite CERTAIN, that you are just at the beginning stages of this. I can't wait to see what is next.

SF Kid said...

I took it the way you described in your comment, but I can understand how someone could be concerned. These are the kind of things that when someone DOES take themselves out people look back and say "We shoulda seen that warning".

So, we will have that celebration of your life if, hopefully faaaaar in the future, you get hit by a truck or struck by lightning. In fact, we can all celebrate together RIGHT NOW until that day comes.

Jack said...

@Fonk,

See my response above. Definitely not. Would be fun to figure out how to accept moderated comments beyond the grave. :)

@Jennoit,

Thanks! Yes, see above. I think that says it all.

@Meg,

Sorry if the post scared you. It was definitely not intended to be funny. See my response above. Just happy to be getting rid of unnecessary mental baggage.

Jack said...

@Ginger,

Thanks. I hope so too. Another 150 years would be nice.

@Bll,

"Dreading death to some extent is wrapped up with regret about how you choose to live your life"

Very profound Bill. I think that's the genesis of this new approach to death. Knowing that I am living the kind of life I want, on my own terms, takes away the dread you are describing.

@SF Kid,

I guess I can see that. Plus I didn't make the connection with the psycho blogger who shot up that gym earlier this week.

And that's the beauty of living for NOW. You get to celebrate your life before you are even dead:)

Fonk said...

For the record, I didn't take it as a suicide note (I feel I know you better than that thru your writings), but rather that maybe it was a letter you left for whenever you did die, and maybe a friend or someone posted it for you(maybe you got creamed by a car or something...). I assumed not, given the nature of your blog, but how would we know? :)

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you have been reborn dude! Once you can make peace with knowing we are finite beings you then can trust the process of life. You would have never gotten to this moment were you still toiling away in some godforesaken law firm stressing about some file that got "lost" beneath a bunch of other B.S. waiting to be dealt with. You were dead Jack, the good news is that you were given the opportunity to resuscitate yourself for a second chance at Life. Good on You!

Jerry Critter said...

Goodbye, Jack. It was fun!

Avatar said...

Hey, Jack! I was surprised and frightened, really! Fortunately, I search for comfort in other comments and you woke up dead among them! It feels now like the sun was rised once more this morning. The second time. Great! Thank you!
(Here in Finland it is just now a very lovely summermorning in beginning. The sun is shining. And now I feel happiness!!!)

Linda said...

"To die will be an awfully big adventure" (J.M. Barrie)

dtb said...

Nice to know you're still alive! And yes, it's important to be mindful of our end...It will also be interesting to see how this note changes and is rewritten as the years go on before you reach that point.

I love the bit about family.

Kevin M said...

Well said Jack, it sounds like you have truly done quite a bit of reflecting on your journey. That's a good example for all of us.

Anonymous said...

Jack -

I'm glad you are still around! You wrote a moving piece, and I truly believe you have found yourself and what really matters in life - loving yourself and others. (Plus you saved yourself $1,000's for therapy!)

I have had the privilege of watching loved ones breathe their last breath, and as sad as it is, there is almost a joyful "whoosh" of the spirit that you can feel that leaves the body and is one that is free of pain and suffering, if the person was ill, and gives us all hope for the next dimension. We need to live our lives with no would of's, should of's or could of's!

Wishing you many, many, many more years of health and discovery in this beautiful world.

Lynn

Jack said...

@Fonk,

No worries. My first comment to this post was not really in response to yours...it was in reponse to a few confused comments right on facebook. Totally see your point.

@Anonymous,

I like the mental image of being reborn after the death I was in before I started this process.

@Jerry,

Ok, that made me smile.

Jack said...

@Avatar,

I'm glad you are feeling good now:) If only I were in Finland enjoying the sunshine...

@Linda,

Words to live by.

@dtb,

Me too. I have a sense that it will change in many different ways. That's the beauty of it. It's only the beginning.

Anonymous said...

Jack, you really scared me so much my chest hurt!I really enjoy reading your posts and thought this guy was just starting to enjoy life and I want to see what is next. I'm glad I was wrong.
Cindy

Debbi said...

Yeah, you kind of had me going there, too. I figured you were talking about a message you'd want to leave if you died, but still . . . the word "goodbye" seemed so final! A little freaky.

Anyhow, I'm totally glad you're not dead.

Jerry Critter said...

Well, you know, the old Jack is dead. Hail the new Jack!

stiffie said...

Stewie (to Death): "Love your work."

That is all.

Ray from Ohio said...

Having experienced death on the operating table, I have to say it's not a bad thing. It's not to be feared. I have always said dying was the easy part, living sometimes requires a little work. I am glad to have the opportunity to work at it.

Miles To Go Before I Sleep...... said...

I was on vacation with the boys when you wrote this but now at home and comfy... I really enjoyed reading this.

Its fantastic and beautiful. I can only hope with what little you know of my blog, that it was a small voice in the back of your head when it was time to write this.

And yes, yes, and yes! Exactly what I hope to someday accomplish... putting all my thoughts down on paper for people to read after my passing. I think it's great for you to do it now before it's too late. (and yes, I mean TOO LATE, none of us ever think it could happen in 5 minutes but yep, sure can.)

I have to give you a mental high five on the funeral part. I haven't ever blogged about that part of Ryan's death but since I did all the "hospital decisions", I let his parents plan the funeral... it was catholic... with a "borrowed" clergyman. It was HORRID. He started it by saying, "I hardly knew Ryan at all but it's a good time to talk about death and penance..." The whole (like 45 minutes!) sermon was all about how if you're a sinner you'll go to hell and you have to repent to be saved! ACKY! The highlight was that Izeah kept popping his head up and screaming, "All done now!" ;-)

K... high five again :)

Anonymous said...

I've visited your blog a few times and found it refreshing, just a little puzzled why you chose to post something that said if we were reading it, you were already dead. IMHO, it's a good thing to have one's affairs in order and make one's wishes known, but could you explain more about why the post was phrased as if you were already gone?

Jack said...

@Kevin,

Glad you understand and like the post.

@Lynn,

Well put. Haven't really experienced those last moments as an adult can can imagine it. I think getting over the fear of death might be the most significant thing I have accomplished since I left on my trip.

@Cindy,

Sorry if I scared you. Just using a little rethorical device to get my thoughts out.

Jack said...

@Debbi,

Yep, still here and ticking. Just wanted to use a different structure on this post to unpack my thoughts.

@Jerry,

Definitely feels like a new Jack at this point. :)

@Stiffie,

Stop making me laugh!

Jack said...

@Ray from Ohio,

"I have always said dying was the easy part, living sometimes requires a little work."

Smartest thing I've heard in a while.

@Miles,

Makes me happy that you, of all people liked it. That funeral sounds terrible. I rather dig my own description a whole lot more.

@Anonymous,

Just using a rethorical device to get my thoughts out. It was intended as a letter found following my death describing my thoughts on death itself. As my fictional letter(s) to my mom ("Dear Mom: FUCK YOU") its more of a literary piece.

Anonymous said...

you're an idiot and you're starving for attention- that's why you published a suicide note on your blog.

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

"you're an idiot and you're starving for attention- that's why you published a suicide note on your blog."

While you are certainly entitled to your opinion, I am genuinely confused as to why anyone would actively comment on a blog written by a person whom they believed was "starving for attention."

The irony, it seems, has completely escaped you.