We're old, most of us who hang around this blog and with age, death becomes a topic of consideration. Try as we might to ignore it, such necessities as wills, medical directives, the question of burial versus cremation, financial arrangements, even the choice of music at our funerals and a host of other decisions make it hard to avoid thoughts of our demise.
But none of these things nor death itself are what bother me in thinking about the end of my days. They feel more like paying the monthly bills or taking out the garbage – just stuff that needs to be done.
No, what bothers me most about dying is my naked body - who will see it, who will touch it and what they will do with it.
I'm not concerned that my body isn't as cute as when I was young. Nowadays, it's pudgy, wrinkled, discolored here and there, scarred in a couple of places and an amazing number of parts are droopy. No one's interested in this body for a Playboy centerfold but, then, they never were. The aged condition of it is not the issue.
However, what if I'm caught dead on a day when I haven't shaved my underarms for a couple of weeks? Or I'm in a favorite shabby shirt I never wear out of the house? Or what if I drop dead before I've had a chance to shower and I'm dirty? How embarrassing.
And that's just the beginning of what bothers me about being newly dead.
I might die in my sleep, nightgown bunched up around my waist with my private parts hanging out? I would hate that.
Remember that photograph years ago of dead Lenny Bruce lying naked next to the toilet with a needle in his arm? Okay, I'm not a junkie, but there are all sorts of inelegant positions and places and states of undress one might be in when death strikes. How undignified.
If I die at home, they'll zip me up in a body bag and wheel me out on a gurney where the neighbors can watch. Don't like that either.
When you think about onlookers, dropping on the street is even worse. They might all just walk around me thinking I'm a old drunk who passed out, and who knows how long I'd be there for people to stare at, an object of derision before someone figures out I'm dead.
If I die by suspect means or an obscure disease that puzzles scientists, there may be an autopsy. On television, they cover or blank out the private bits of the dead body, but I doubt that's what happens in real-life death.
In that case, a medical examiner will cut a huge Y down the front of my naked body to open up my guts. They might probe my body cavities. Eew. They might take pieces of me and perhaps whole organs to study under microscopes. Please, please no.
When all these things are done and depending on state law, someone, as though a vampire, will drain all my blood. I doubt anyone drinks it (I think I remember that vampires want living blood, anyway), but what do they do with it? Flush it down a drain? That blood is part of me.
Having opted for cremation, I might avoid the Dracula phase. And I'm pretty sure, since I don't want there to be a viewing (are you reading this, bro?), they will forego the ghastly makeup. But I know from past experience that the funeral home will request clothing to dress me in – yes, even for a cremation - and a stranger will touch me all over getting my body into them. Ugh.
All my life, my naked body has been sacrosanct, exposed only by my choice – to a physician or a lover. Custom and the law, too, do not allow other people to touch us except with our permission. It's personal, my body, private. But when I'm dead, strangers can stare and poke and touch and cut. I shiver at the prospect.
Oh, all right. I'm mostly kidding about all this and as a practical sort who does not usually dwell upon what I cannot control, I exaggerate. But as you can see, I have put more than a little thought to the disposal of my bodily remains.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone: Alzheimer's Part 10 – The Nursing Home