What do a funeral, a birthday, and a drop-dead party have in common? Everything and nothing. We all have a birthday. We’ll all drop dead. Some of use will get a funeral.
Last night I went to a former neighbor’s funeral who died too young. 53. Today is my birthday. 58th. And tomorrow I’ll have a drop-dead party (explained below). All three “events” are happening on consecutive days during a palindrome week (dates are the same front- and backwards: 71317, 71417, and 71517).
I could dive down a numerology rabbit hole to chase the seven (a number I’ve adored since childhood) or the palindromes, but today is not about numbers. I’m still sorting out what it’s about. The sevens? The palindromes? The shocking news about a man who had been a neighborhood hero during four (yes 4!) hurricanes? The birthday plus drop-dead party?
I’m choked up because until a few days ago (another palindrome date) I thought my former neighbor was fine, living his life with his wife in his new house about 20 miles away. I was wrong. This last eleven months, he endured a flood, cancer, surgeries, chemo, and so much pain. He wasn’t “just fine.”
Don’t assume anyone’s fine.
My throat has been dry for several weeks (months even). I haven’t been able to write, not so much due to writer’s block (I don’t feel blocked), but rather some sort of paralysis: a complicated mix of politics, work, and family. Attending the visitation unchoked my voice just a bit. This week’s string of events floated at least one of my nostrils above the mire that’s kept me under, and I want to share something important.
You’re going to drop dead.
Well, perhaps you won’t drop but on some date (maybe not a palindrome date), you’ll be dead.
Some of us will see it coming, like so many friends of mine, and my recently deceased neighbor.
Some of us won’t.
But it’s coming. Winter (the end of the cycle) is coming.
Be kind about dropping dead.
We’re having a drop-dead party to organize our check out papers.
My friend’s mom gets the credit for this inspiration. One of the sweetest things she did before she checked out was keep a notebook filled with drop-dead information. She inspired me to start my own folder. I have started organizing information about my things, my accounts, and what to do with my body when I drop dead.
The point of the drop-dead party is to talk about checking out, share ideas about what to include in our notebooks/folders, how to make the transition for those who survive us easier, and exercise a little control over a situation in which we’ll have none.
My dad has asked, “Don’t you find that macabre?” My response was no. It’s more morbid to hole up in a corner somewhere and try to figure out what you should do to be kind to your survivors when you check out. Or worse, make no plans at all leaving your survivors to figure it out on their own. Talking about it with friends, writing information and messages, and making plans feels less macabre. It feels like adding a little kindness to an unhappy occasion and taking a bit of control over what we can’t.
I would emphasize that control isn’t the point. The point is making it easier for our survivors: information about our accounts, our ideas for a memorial, memories that are important to us, and what to do with that bag of bones!
Throw a drop-dead party with your dearest friends. It’s not macabre. It’s kind.
© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved, 2017.
Happy Birthday to you! I can relate to this on many levels. And I think it is a great idea to get papers together, etc. I started this process with my mom a couple of months ago. I got some of her papers and info but there is more to do. She had been resistant for awhile but I think it is unkind to leave loved one to deal with grief and chaos on top of it. I have a folder and my son knows where it is and it has most of my papers and accounts and written instructions. Everything but funeral stuff, but it is still a fair amount. I don’t want to leave a mess for my son. Good luck to you and wishing you more ease.
This is SO GREAT. People need to talk about this stuff, plan for it, and not pretend it isn’t going to happen. My hubs and I are clear on everything, but I haven’t necessarily communicated that to others in the family. No one lives nearby, so it’s not like it will be on them. But, love this. And, happy birthday.
First of all Happy Birthday!! I’ve been meaning to get all that stuff written down for years, so good fro you form making it happen. A mutual friend of ours told me that it is the best gift you can give your children. Now I just need to do it.