Friday, October 23, 2015

Instructions to Be Followed upon My Death

I've been thinking about death lately. Not in a dark, depressing way. I'm fine. I could work out more, eat better and drink a little less, but for the most part life is great, busy and wonderful. I'm grateful every morning that I wake up to find my son tapping me on the forehead and asking me to turn on Micky Mouse. But still, death has been on my mind. I've lost friends over the last few years. Some had a chance to say goodbye, others didn't. When I was younger I felt immortal. Not so much anymore.

I don't know when my time to go is coming, so I figured I would put this out there. Here are some instructions to be followed upon my death...

Let's start with the simple stuff.

Stevie, please take the useful parts of me and immediately give them to someone else. I don't want them. Take the eyes that watched our kids come into this world and give them to someone else so they can watch their kids refuse to eat salad from across their dinner table. Take the heart that you listened to when you laid your head on my chest and bury its beat in someone else's... not in the ground. Take my skin and arms and legs and guts. Take everything else and offer it up to the world. Give back a little of what it has given me. We don't get to keep anything in this world. It is all borrowed.

Next, please tell the kids to not be afraid to cry, ever. I spent too much of my life afraid to cry. Once I realized that crying didn't make me any less of a "man" and actually made me more of a human, things became remarkably easier. So be sad and vulnerable and weak when you need to. Rely on our family and friends. Their love for you and I will carry you guys through this. You never have to walk alone.

Set up a funeral, but not a big fancy (expensive) affair. Just a room with some chairs, perhaps an ice bucket of beer in the back and couple bottles of good whiskey. I don't need an Irish Wake, but some folks may need a drink. The hard part comes next.

Once everyone is sitting down and had a few drinks, have someone read this:

John didn't really believe in a God. Maybe he was wrong, maybe he was right. If he was wrong, he knows that now and he'll be dealing with it in his own way. If you knew John, you know that he was pretty good at talking himself out of awkward situations. He'll be OK. Most funerals John attended in his life focused on a message that the person who had died would be waiting in heaven for their friends and family. Since that isn't what John believed, he wanted to take this opportunity to write his own message to all of you. Also, he was kind of full of himself like that, so he respectfully asks that you humor him this one last time. Here's his goodbye message:

Hey everyone. Thanks for coming. Sorry I died. I'm sure it's really hard - probably extra really hard for some of you. Maybe just kind of sad for others. However you are dealing with dead me is the exact right way to be dealing with dead me. You be you. I hope I had the chance to say goodbye to some of you. If this happened quick, perhaps I didn't. If I have lived my life in a good way, I would hope that the need for me to say goodbye would be small. I would hope you already know exactly how much you meant to me, and how much you enriched my life because I would have told you over and over again. That said, if you are a random person that knew me in high school and you just showed up because you saw my obituary, I probably never got around to telling you how much I appreciated and loved you, but I did random person I haven't seen since high school. I really did. Probably not as much as I loved my wife and my kids, but you understand that would be silly.

Stevie, Captain, Duchess. (Whoever is reading this, please use my kids real names and not their silly internet names.) I'm sure this is much worse for you than it is for me, because I am dead. I want you to know that you are the very best parts of me. You are everything I ever wanted in life, and every day with you was the best day I ever had.

Since I don't really believe in an afterlife, my consciousness was snubbed out as soon as my brain was depleted of oxygen. That means the alive me is gone. I'm not waiting for you in the clouds or on another celestial planet. I won't be writing any more words. You don't have to listen to me sing anymore. The creative me, the part with autonomy and free will is gone... unless I am wrong.

Tell you what. If I am wrong and I can find a way through space and time to be a ghost in the room with you right now, I will turn the lights off and on... now.

OK. One of three things just happened. A the lights did not turn on and off. B the lights did turn on and off and I have made a horrible mistake and am now doomed to a purgatory like hell, wandering the mortal plane as a disconnected spirit for all eternity, or C someone, probably your uncle, is messing with everyone and turned the lights on and off to be funny. That's not funny, Jim. A funeral is no place for ghost jokes.

But really, all jokes aside, I'm probably gone forever. I'm really sorry that I won't get to see what happens from here. I know it will be a mix of good, bad, great and horrible things, and I know you will handle them all with grace... unless you don't, which is OK too. I know that I did my best to fill your world with love, and I know that in many ways I succeeded. I believe that the people who are closest to you in your life have a way of reflecting your best and worst qualities. When I look at you, all I see is the love I put into the world. So thank you.

Which, I suppose, brings me back to not needing to say goodbye. As was mentioned earlier, I did not put any stock in an afterlife. Some may say that a life without the promise of salvation is a life without purpose. To those folks I say my life was a life filled with purpose... and immediacy. I didn't live for a better world after death, I did my best to use the time I had to make a better world in life.

And, in a way, I do believe in life after death. Just not my life.

I believe in all of you.

And it's with that belief that I leave you all with this. You are what is left of me now. There is no need to say goodbye, because each of you bears the awesome responsibility of carrying me with you... just as I carry the love of the folks whose lives touched mine. I'm not waiting at a pearly gate somewhere. Look left. Look right. I'm waiting there. Unless you are sitting on an aisle. I am not in the wall.

Sorry. I said no more jokes.

If I knew anything to be true in my life, if I ever put my faith in a single belief it was this: You are what you put into the world. I'm done putting things into the world. My house is built and all of you are its foundation. I hope, I pray (yes, I pray) that it is sturdy and beautiful and filled with love.

Thank you. Now go have some beer and whiskey or juice or water and tell funny stories about dumb shit I did.


John (Dad)

P.S. If you liked this, or other stuff I have written, be sure to come like the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page. I'm still very much alive and posting over there. I don't plan on dying any time soon. I just figured I would put this out there in case I get hit by a bus or eaten by a pterodactyl that we thought was extinct but was actually just really really patient.

P.S.S Don't read that first P.S. or this one at the funeral. It would be confusing. The post scripts are for the blog post only.


  1. Wow, a bit happy and a bit sad at the same time. Thanks for sharing. I wondered what an athiest would wants said at his funeral,and you just answered it. Good writing, again. I love your blog, and visit once a month or so (was turned on to this by my floor care guy's newsletter here in Camarillo, CA).

  2. "Sorry I died."

    Haha, I couldn't help but laugh at this. "Welp, I'm dead... apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused..." I definitely think this is a good way to talk about your own death though. With humor, that is. It should make it a little bit easier for everyone to bear, or so I'd think.