Is it morbid that I’ve satarted a “my obituary” file?

I’m home sick from work today, having succumb to the flu that knocked out everyone else in the family last week. And, as if this weren’t enough, an incredibly heavy object fell onto my left foot last night as I was making my way to the bathroom, causing, among other things, my back to go out. (You had to see how it happened to understand.) Also, I haven’t eaten in over 24 hours, and, as often happens when I don’t eat, my thoughts are growing progressively dark. So, I’m laying here in bed, my foot elevated, a vomit bucket beside me, contemplating the fact that, as Kurt Vonnegut once put it, “I’m crossing the spine of a roof, having ascended one slope.” It’s a difficult thing to convey to those still climbing up the front, but things change when you reach the top, and start coming down that other side. The passage of time accelerates. The body heals less quickly. And you start to accept that gravity is pulling you inexorably downhill, toward a finish line.

I should add, lest anyone start worrying about me, that I’m still in good health, despite these recent developments, and I’m confident that I’ve still got several decades to go before the end’s in sight. All things considered, life is great, and, as a family, we’re incredibly fortunate. It’s just that, from time to time, circumstances conspire to remind you of your mortality. And I’m knee deep in it right now, having recently lost a close family member well before his time.

So, with all of this coursing through my mind, I decided to catch up on the news this morning, and learned that actor James Rebhorn had passed away after a ten year battle with skin cancer, leaving behind an obituary that he’d written himself.

Here’s the section that really got to me:


And, as I lay here, thinking about how truly beautiful his words are, I instinctively opened a new file on my desktop, where I could tuck what he’d written away. And, as I was labeling the file – “ideas for my obituary” – that’s when it struck me that I really had passed the top of Vonnegut’s roofline… Young people just don’t do shit like that.

One last thought… It’s not really all that depressing to confront one’s mortality. Or, at least, it doesn’t have to be. It could, I imagine, be a good thing. It could be healthy to step back on occasion and remind oneself that his or her time here is limited, and that, because of that, life should be celebrated and enjoyed, and time with loved ones shouldn’t be taken for granted… And that’s where I’m at right now. I’m just laying here, reading Vonnegut, and looking forward to spending time with the kids when they get home from school.

vonnegutgraveupdate: It’s a few days later now, and I’m still reading Breakfast of Champions. And I’ve come to something else for my death file. This time it’s an idea for a grave marker. I love the sentiment.

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  1. anonymous
    Posted March 25, 2014 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    It amazes me how little I thought of death in my youth. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence. Perhaps it’s biological. The young need to take risks for the species to advance.

  2. Posted March 25, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Dude, I have my funeral planned out. It involves the song “Shine On Your Crazy Diamond”, beer and someone running across a field yelling my name and then the rest of you chasing after that person and you all sort of collapsing in a heap, rolling about and squalling and screaming and crying. Have fun!

  3. Posted March 25, 2014 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    I occasionally think of songs that I’d like to have played, but that’s about it. And I have told Linette that I don’t want to be pumped full of chemicals. I don’t care if I’m burned up, or just put right into the ground, but I don’t want to be covered in makeup and pumped full of toxins. That’s not how I want to exit the world… Oh, and I’ve told Linette that I expect her to throw herself on my funeral pyre. I think that would be romantic.

  4. Posted March 26, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps we could arrange to have our funerals together, Mark. Ken and Linette could both jump on the pyre while Pink Floyd blares in the background. Peter Larson could simply say, “Interesting” as his eulogy and leave everyone who didn’t post on here wondering what the fuck was up with that.

  5. Posted March 26, 2014 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    I told you to get the fuck out of the house, you idiot.

    All of you laughed at me. Are you laughing now, Mark?

  6. Posted March 26, 2014 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    You probably got sick from all that sausage. Well, I hope you feel better soon.

  7. Elviscostello
    Posted March 28, 2014 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Preplanning is a great idea. I’ve written down my wishes. If I get something terminal, we go to Hawaii, and at the end, my wife and family puts me on a float board and pushes me out to sea. If I die here, my wife has me cremated and uses the rest of the money to spread my ashes in Hawaii, teaspoon by teaspoon, figure about 6 months…

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