When I die

by Madeline Laughs
Pan's Labyrinth

Image by Heather F via Flickr

You know, I’m not that old. But for my short time here on earth I have experienced every kind of grief there is. I’ve lost close family members and friends to illness and accidents, I’ve lost a boyfriend, friends have taken their own lives and I can’t begin to count the number of friends and colleagues I lost to AIDS in the 80’s and 90’s. I have run the gamut of grief.

I don’t know if I have ever handled my grief well. I’m not even sure I could tell you exactly how it affects me. No one ever leaves behind any instructions or guidance about how they’d like to be remembered. That’s only something you see in the movies. My grief has always been very personal and internalized, until recently. I must be realizing my own mortality because now I react outwardly when someone checks out of this reality. Most of the time it just pisses me off.

So I started thinking about how I would want people to take my death. 

I’ve had some serious surgeries over the last decade and my husband and I had to have the “If I don’t wake up” conversation. When you’re the one that might not wake up, it’s easy to say stuff like “You have my permission to invite over all of my girlfriends and let them go wild in my closets. And if Sheri is still single, you should ask her out.” But when you’re on the receiving end of the conversation, you just do not want to participate.

Well, do yourself a favor. Participate in that conversation. It could be the last time you get to hear how much that person really loves you.

If this were to be my last will and testament, this is what I would like.

1. Don’t hang onto my stuff. I don’t know why I hung onto to most of it and it’s a bitch to keep moving it cross country, so get rid of everything except what you truly want. I’m not sentimental about anything, except you.

2. Burn my journals. You can read them first if you want, but then you might not want to burn them and you will cry, a lot. So fuk that. Burn them. They only meant something as long as I was composing, but I’m gone now along with my thoughts and my dreams. Lay it all to rest in a burn barrel on the playa.

3. I would hope that you’d be completely devastated now that I’m dead. I mean, hell, you better be. But try to limit your devastation to just a few days, at the most. There will be plenty of other times for you to be sad. You can save it up for those times.

4. Don’t celebrate my birthday after I’m gone. Seriously, don’t. For one thing it’s an oxymoron.

5. Don’t light candles on the anniversary of my death either. I am not Elvis.

6. Feel free to cremate me. I’m truly not keen on being stuck in the ground somewhere they could be building a home for a new family to live in. But you will not keep an urn with my ash and bone particles on your mantle. Yes, I know I have kept Bebe and Spike’s urns, but they’re cats and I’m still processing that. You could have Ash Wednesday and scatter all of us on the beach together. That could be fun! Oh, and get the earth-friendly, bio-degradable urn. You ain’t keeping it so don’t get the fancy one.

7. Don’t be mad.

8. If you must show emotion of any kind, then celebrate the life I lived. I’ve had a pretty good run so far and there is a lot you can talk about and reminisce over. There is even some photographic evidence that I did live large while I had the chance. Who wouldn’t want to get rip roaring drunk and share belly laughs with all of our friends and loved ones over some of the fun I’ve had?

9. If you must have a memorial, please don’t call it that. I would prefer a party, with a few cases of good wine and lots of food. And really good music. No organ music allowed and no prayers. And no little memorial cards with my picture on it. Those just creep me out, so don’t do it.

10. No wake, no viewing, no funeral home services! No, no, no! Call our friends, bbq me and order the wine. That’s all you have to plan.

11. And love me. I won’t be with you anymore. You’ll remember me though. Try smiling when that happens. Send me light and love whenever you think about me and then let me go.

It’ll be okay.

And like most of us, she left behind small traces of her time on earth. Visible only to those that know where to look.

~Pan’s Labyrinth

Note: I ain’t dead yet 🙂

About Madeline Scribes

A writer with a sense of humor. If anyone can laugh at life, it's me.
This entry was posted in All kinds of Advice and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to When I die

  1. Regyna Longlank says:

    I just read an article in Vanity Fair, I know, I do read other things, and it was by the woman who was the partner of the author of the Girl who Played with Fire etc. In it she described the letter he left for her to read after she was dead. I love that idea, and I am so stealing it. I have been thinking this for several days now, and wondering where to hide it. In our home once we have one I would imagine, but even then it’s hard to know where it will be found but not until then. With a will I suppose, if I had one. You are so clever, hide it in plain sight. Excellent!

    Oh, and don’t even think about it. I’m so not done with you yet! kay? ❤


    • I’m healthy as a horse 🙂 I started writing that post yesterday with every intent of just exploring grief and it took a turn midway through. The thought of someone sitting around missing me so much it hurts them made me sad. I don’t want to think I’d leave behind that much sorrow and sometimes that kind of grief can kill a person. Funerals, unless they’re in New Orleans or someplace similar, perpetuate that grieving obsession. Granted there will be folks that secretly celebrate my death, no doubt 🙂 But I’d prefer that the folks that love me move through that process with joy.

      Let me know what you come up with for your afterlife wishes. Whoever goes first has to expedite the other’s plans. Deal?


      • Regyna Longlank says:

        yes, deal. I hate this conversation but I’m glad we are having it. Mostly I want to tell people that I love them and not to be sad. I want to say some thoughtful clever thing that will somehow make it all ok and give a profound sense of peace to the reader, yet be funny and a little off color and also kitschy and cute. K? So yeah, I’ll get right on that cuz it sounds like cake. Insert expletive of choice here. I love you man.


  2. Beneath The Tin Foil Hat says:

    My sentiments exactly. Wonderful post.


  3. Michi says:

    Death is such a natural part of life’s cycle, and one of the most heartbreaking. My best friend’s father died a year and a half ago – and a party is exactly what they had. They loved him so much, yet when it came time for all of us to gather and remember him, it was a happy time. Everyone shared funny stories, jokes, music, pictures, and delicious food – it was truly a celebration of his life. We can only hope that our loved ones will gather ’round and celebrate us as well…


    • I have always loved the idea of celebrating someone’s life after they’re gone, but have never had the pleasure of participating in one. I think the somber and morose gatherings do an injustice to the amount of life and joy a person had brought us. Your memory gives me hope that one day everyone will smile through their tears and feel gratitude that they played an honorable part in another’s life. Celebra la Vida!!


I think it's so nice to see your thoughts! Please share!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.