Friday, September 15, 2006

When It's My Turn To Go

Last night, I went to a viewing for my neighbor. She died a few days ago. It reminded me of the one and only other time that I'd been to a funeral and that had been my grandfather's when I was about fifteen or sixteen.

A very serious affair, they'd cordoned off all of the grandchildren into a separate alcove with a curtain. I remember sitting there with all of my cousins, and a aunt whispering to us that if we wanted to cry we could, it was okay. She even handed out tissues to everyone. Once the funeral service was over, they made all the grandchildren stand up, form a line and walk past the open casket. A shiver ran through me then, and it ran through me again as I write this.

Last night, was also a somber affair. Lights were low and voices were hushed. The open casket commanded the front of the room, while rows of chairs were set up in the middle of the room. In the back, photo albums lay spread open on the tables for people to browse through and see the deceased in happier times.

I really didn't know anyone personally. I had gone at the request of another neighbor. I'd only met the woman a few times and we talked about various mundane things. I remember her daughter and children living with her for a while as their house was built just down the road. They girls were so small, and full of life. At the viewing I hadn't recognized them. They were teenagers now. I introduced myself as a neighbor to the grieving family and told them I was sorry for their loss. What else could I say? I had no memories that I could share with them. But, it was interesting listening to their memories as they tried hard to remain brave and stoic.

When I returned home, the first thing I did was go to my husband and tell him that I do not want a viewing when I die. I reminded him that I wanted to be cremated and only a memorial service for my friends and family to gather and remember the good times we shared and smile and be happy for me. Then, I want my ashes scattered along the beaches of the Florida Keys.

I want my family and friends to have happy memories of times we've shared. I'd rather that, than having them take one last look at me as I lay in a casket, stiff and cold. Made up and polished into an unfamiliar expression; no smile on my face. No dimples showing as I grinned. So, no somber moods or hushed voices at my memorial. Laughter and happiness only. That is my final wish.