Making sense

Anne Lamott, on writing ...

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Grown-Up Accounting

So I'm trying to get life insurance. I want to leave some sort of financial legacy if I should kick it sometime soon, or, as is the case with my (proposed) twenty-year term limit life insurance policy, within the next two decades.
Although I've long thought about dying -- I'm a neurotic sort -- it's occurred to me, as I near fifty, that people my age do, in fact, die, and when someone dies at fifty, people shake their heads and say, Oh, so young, but it's not the same kind of head shaking that happens when someone eight or eighteen passes. Now THAT's tragic. For people my age, the body starts deteriorating: There's cancer. A lot of cancer. And sudden heart attacks.
Like many people who think about their deaths, and hope they get to be ancient and die in their sleep, without a conscious last-breath clue, I can easily picture myself, being visual and all, my own Last Day. There I will lie, in the Death-Is-Approaching Bed, all veiny and wrinkly and smelling of lavender and stale urine, a metal pitcher bedside filled with icy water. I picture beautiful music present in the background, something flute-y or piano-y or harp-y. And candles. Maybe incense. Ideally, I will be surrounded by my three children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Probably my husband will already be gone -- he's seven years older and prone to high blood pressure -- and I will not remarry should my sweet man predecease me, so it's with great likelihood that the people surrounding me as I die will be biological offspring. Maybe a sister or two. A cousin. Possibly, although this is a long shot, some long-suffering friends. (I am not a very good friend. Ask people who are friends with me. I never call or invite my friends over. They make an outing date and I say, Yeah, that sounds like great fun, but then that date approaches and I would rather take a bath or read a new book or roll around on the floor with my dogs.)
In my ideal death scenario, as my respirations decline slowly, slowly, slowly, I will see Jesus waiting for me at the end of that bright light we've all heard about, and there will be Mother Mary, in her beautiful blue robe, with her slender arms outstretched, waiting to receive me. On the sidelines will be my grandmother Dorothy, holding an enormous jar of dill pickles (this makes great sense to me); and my mom and dad, who will greet me with hot cups of coffee and an open Scrabble board, maybe even a Winston Red; and my Aunt Jannie, who makes me think always of pink cotton candy, I don't know why; and possibly my favorite teacher, Miss Pagna, who was the reason I taught school to begin with; and my husband, of course. My guy who loved me through all my neuroses and shenanigans and fluffy-cloud-unicorn thinking. He's going to be there, all strong and tall and smell-good-y. Also welcoming me will be all the dogs I've known and loved: Midge, Blackie, Fluffy, Barney, Taffy, Sunny, Bella, Millie ... and each will be freshly bathed, healthy and bark-y, but the good bark-y, not the annoying bark-y. They will dance around my feet and I will magically have endless peanut butter spoons to lay at their feet.
Heaven is going to smell like cinnamon rolls and espresso and a baby's neck, right after its bath.
Now, at age 48, I must prepare for my eventual passing, even though I desperately hope it's another thirty, forty, dare I say, fifty years away. I love life, I mean, I get a huge fucking kick out of being alive, and I sure hope there's more in store for me. I want symphonies and concerts and crab legs and black-tie dinners and Christmas Eves and ocean holidays. I'm greedy.
I want there to be more in store for my husband, too, and our three children, all of whom are adults and poor (the children, not the husband) because they have liberal arts degrees and have to pull espresso shots at Starbucks just to get health insurance. They are suffocating under enormous student loan debt, and it brings me great joy, therefore, to think that when I die I can bequeath money, enough to clear their frigging academic debt and maybe allow for a European vacation.
When I worked full time, I think I had a $100K policy. Now that I am not working, I have a $0.00 policy. The hubby carries $10K on me, which is enough to bury my corpse and/or cremate me (I'll let him decide should I die first) and maybe have a small get-together, but not enough to be preserved in a fancy coffin and/or urn suitable for important placement and then have cold shrimp served at my wake. I think it would also be nice to hire an improv comedy troupe to perform at my service. I have no idea how much that would cost. Do you? For sure, I want a readers theatre group, small in size, from the local high school (if such schools still exist when I die at 92, which is the age I've aiming for). I want the group to read portions of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, concentrating on the part where the woman who died in childbirth exclaims, Oh Earth, does anyone realize how wonderful you really are? and then goes on to discuss hot baths and hot cups of coffee and new-ironed dresses.
If my Scrabble-playing parents were still alive, they would tell me that I am being perfectly ridiculous spending any time at all planning my death scene, funeral, and subsequent monetary plans. Possibly my father would be interested to know if I planned on having any George Jones music played at my service, but I know for sure that Mom would tell me, as she lit another cigarette an inch away from her oxygen cannula, that I was a person with a paper head and should spend my time instead making her a big bowl of tapioca pudding.
In about a week, I'll know whether underwriting approves my life insurance plea. I'll know how much money the policy will be worth; I'll know how much my monthly premiums will be. This, this I can intellectualize. I get it: it's grown-up accounting. Responsible living.
Why am I so anxious? It's not like I don't have a plan.

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