I figured out my last request.
It doesn’t need to be put into play right this second - although who knows - but I better get this on record so everyone has time to practice. Here goes. When I’m lying on my death bed, I want all my grandchildren to gather around and sing “Good Morning, Starshine” to me.
It would only be fair. I’ve been singing it to them every morning they’ve woken up at our house for all their little lives, and I must admit the response has been underwhelming. No one sings along, and this morning I noticed I didn’t even get the eye rolls I’m used to. It’s like no one’s listening.
I used to be mildly concerned about my funeral, particularly about whether my wife could round up six people to be pallbearers. I don’t have a lot of friends. She could probably find six people willing to wear a suit and give up their afternoon, but some of them would be surprised to be asked. I didn’t see that as a real problem, because I’m going to be dead. I’d be beyond the risk of being embarrassed by people finding out they meant more to me than I meant to them.
Now, though, my plan is to be cremated and have my ashes spread throughout the orchard. Being composted would be more useful, but I’m not sure that most funeral homes even offer that as an option. It seems like a good way for someone to go, especially a guy who will always think of himself as a farmer.
The chicken coop stands in the corner of the orchard. I do think it would be more respectful to keep the chickens inside for a few days after the service. I’m about as much in tune with Mother Nature as anyone, but I’d prefer not to have the chickens scratching - you know.
I realize the grandchildren will be embarrassed with the whole singing request, but I don’t care too much. Let's face it, I’ve been embarrassing them basically their entire lives, sometimes without trying. Why stop now?
I’ve noticed over the past few years that more and more people are choosing to not have memorial services. I can understand why – there was that whole Covid thing, plus people are more mobile and so can end up dying in a place where they have no real connections. If you've moved five or ten times in your life, you might double clutch at being asked where home is, let alone where you'd like to be buried.
But the thing is, rituals are one of the ways we define our humanity. A life should be treasured. Every life should be treasured. For thousands of years, the people who’ve known and loved us have gathered and for brief moments became a whole, greater than its parts, celebrating and mourning a life that was no longer, a void in the world not quickly filled. I don’t know if my grandchildren know how much I enjoy their company, how proud I am of all of them, how most mornings I wake up in a good mood and, for better or worse, want to share with the entire world. There are so many things that I don’t know if my grandchildren will remember about me.
But if they have to sing “Good morning, Starshine” I bet they’ll remember that.
Copyright 2023 Brent Olson