‘He’s Gone’ " Let’s bury him
Breckenridge, CO Colorado
There is a manila folder in the back of my filing cabinet which reads, “Things to do with Kenny when he is dead.”
Inside the folder, in Ken’s handwriting, are specific instructions on how he wants to be buried. Included are what he wants to wear, his choice of music and even where his friends should go to drink to mourn his passing.
Kenny specified that we play “He’s Gone” by the Grateful Dead ” he said I can choose what version as long as it is one recorded while Donna Godchaux was in the band. He also said he wanted to be buried sporting comfortable pants and a Hawaiian shirt (not pressed). Always the bargain hunter, my friend stipulated he would take whatever casket is on sale, so long as there is plenty of leg room. He also requested that his brother and I shovel the dirt on to his grave ” not “some slack-jawed cemetery-monkey maintenance worker.”
The “Things to do with Kenny when he is dead” folder began as a file containing some business papers and promissory notes dealing with a partnership my old friend and I once had. At the time I didn’t have the foresight to offer any burial instructions.
This was all over 20 years ago. After we ended our business venture I must have moved his burial instruction into a separate file. I don’t remember doing so, but the heading is in my handwriting.
A lot has happened in those 20 years. My friend has divorced remarried and has had his child grown into adulthood. I also would guess that we both are not as cavalier about death as we were in our 30s.
Ken and I met in fifth grade. We were fast friends for years with much in common ” including a morbid sense of humor. Up until several years ago, we would each sign our yearly Christmas and birthday cards to each other with “You’ll be dead soon.” Without speaking about it, we both stopped doing that when each of us had a few brushes with the grim reaper; it’s just not as funny when it could be true.
I came across the “Things to do with Kenny when he is dead” folder recently when I was cleaning my desk. I was actually looking for a “do it yourself last will and testament” form. Both my mate’s and my family have urged us to create a will, but I’m having a little trouble getting motivated in that regard. I mean, what’s in it for me?
But upon reflection I can see that it could take some of the burden off my wife, who will have enough on her hands ” especially if I happened to die during ski season.
Certainly I wouldn’t want my passing to overburden my friends and family, but as far as my remains go, I’m not too concerned.
What makes the most sense to me is if the Genesis verse “dust to dust” and “return to the soil.” It would be a nice symmetry if we all could just be left in the forest to fertilize the pine beetles. Unfortunately, in this country you can’t even do what you want when you are dead. I have learned that you have to be buried in a cement vault which takes decades to break down and is a costly waste of materials.
I finally gave Kenny a call to let him know I rediscovered his burial instructions. He said he couldn’t remember what he wrote two decades past ” except for “He’s Gone” by the Dead. Kenny added that his new wife knows what to do in case of his passing. He did say if I was around he hoped I’d attend but didn’t mention anything about shoveling duties.
Before we hung up, he said: “Well take care Berger, I wish I was out there with you skiing every day. Make a few turns for me, because God knows, we might be dead soon.”
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or from http://www.webersbooks.com.
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