When I turned 39, I received my first letter from AARP. Looking down at the envelope, I was stunned. Me? Middle Aged? There’d been a mistake.
If my response seemed melodramatic, then, imagine how I reacted when a crematorium invited me to lunch, recently. My heart stopped. “R.S.V.P required,” it said. Being a careless reader, I thought it read, R. I. P.
My pulse slowed to match my heart beat moments later. It had come to the crematorium’s attention I was among those “who had not prearranged.” Naturally, I gasped. “Prearranged what? Had the world become such a killing ground, Death required reservations? If so, I was happy to stand at the end of the line.
That, “Lunch would be served in a relaxed environment,” gave me no comfort. Would I find myself stretched out in a coffin?
And what was this talk about “smart” cremations? Were there dumb ones? Were they cheaper?
Too many questions. I tore up the invitation.
There’s no good way to encourage people to think about dying, I suppose. Some folks feel a short life is tragic. Others believe it’s sad if it drags on. A woman at my retirement center frowned to discover my mother was careless enough to be alive at 102. “I wouldn’t want to live that long,” she sputtered — as if most of us were allowed to make that decision for ourselves.
What I do know about the future is that at 11:30 a. m. next Thursday, I will not be sitting in a casket, scarfing down chop suey. I’m barely out of bed at that hour. Instead, I’ll take my leave like Emily Dickinson, in a carriage drawn by four black horses. Death need make no reservation. Frankly, I prefer him to arrive unannounced.