Parents’ burial wishes bring scary realization

By Dave Kirkpatrick

I really didn’t think my New Year’s celebration would leave me sober. Instead, I imagined the itchy teeth, twisting intestines and red-hot pipes that so commonly accompany my bouts with post-consumption blues.

I wasn’t hung over for the first time in I don’t know how long. But that wasn’t the most sobering thought I had. The impending reality and finality of death would soon make itself very evident to me.

Before you become alarmed, I must say that I really didn’t experience any personal tragedy over semester break. I guess I can be thankful for that.

What I did experience was the realization that all of us—men, women, children, everyone—face only one certain thing in life. People say there are two things we all face, taxes and death. Well, taxes can be avoided, I’m sure of it. But death is inevitable.

My mother and father are no “spring chickens.” They’re both very much alive, but they’ve seen their fair share of ups, downs and in-betweens.

They recently paid a visit to their lawyer, where they did something I’m sure was very hard for them. They felt the time was right for their wills to be written and their wishes for funerals and burials legally stated.

When my folks hit us with the idea of death, my sisters, brother and brother-in-law were all relatively shocked. I always knew my parents would someday die, but I just never thought about it. I guess that is why they went ahead with the preparation of their final requests. They knew time was not infinite for anyone, and thank God they’re not into that Michael Jackson, oxygen tent stuff or I’d never get rid of them. Just kidding folks! I’m in no hurry.

They told us that they both wanted a natural death; life support systems were out of the question. Burial, they told us, was to be simple. No large crowds, no long, drawn-out mourning period and no fanciness is what they said they preferred.

At first I thought the conversation was morbid and just too close to scary. I soon realized, however, that what they were telling us was necessary and I respected them for being honest and open with us.

I have heard too many horror stories of people not preparing wills and leaving their families with enormous bills, unsettled estates and unclear burial wishes. It is comforting to know that there are no unanswered questions concerning my parent’s wishes. We all stand on common ground and if we’re not prepared for the death of our parents, we’re at least prepared for the necessities that accompany such an experience.

What I’m trying to say here is that I think we all take our folks for granted. Hey! Maybe we need some cash, maybe we need a little advice or maybe we need bail money. It doesn’t matter what it is. If we need it, we usually ask our folks first.

Life is so simple when everything goes the way we want it to. But once in a while, a wrench gets thrown into one of our wheels and we kiss the pavement. If we need a shoulder to cry on, we go to our folks. If we need a band-aid for a wound, we know we can go to our folks and not have to worry about them pouring salt into it. It seems like there is nothing they can’t or won’t do for us.

I’m not trying to sound like a Hallmark commercial or a Stevie Wonder tune, telling somebody we love them. I’m trying to re-evaluate how I have treated my folks. At times I’ve been a jerk, concerned only with myself. At other times I’ve cursed, sworn and spit because I was so mad at them. But through it all they remained committed to their children’s well-being.

Do yourself and your parents a favor and talk about the things you try to avoid discussing. Whether it be about you and your mate, your job, your schooling or even something as scary as your parents’ wills, it seems to help an awful lot when everyone is on common ground.