post-mortem regrets

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👇🏿 ain’t got no time for that? press play for the radical radio recording ✨

we stand in the same room where ritchie picks his own urn “prairie rose”, through me.

it is clear to me then: his nudges, he wants the silver pink one. prairie rose. he’s dead, gone already, though i hear him clearly. it’s prairie rose he wants.

the remaining family, me, mother, and brother, debate over caskets and urns. the casket, is it to be wood, plain, or gloss finish? the plush pink one is a clear no. out of the wood ones then: it would have to be well built; it would have to stand up to his sky-high craftsman carpentry standards. (fuck me, those are high.) he would roll over in the damn thing, grave not applicable, if we choose a shit one.

we debate as we pass the ball to the sinking realization that ritchie will soon be laying in one of these, at his very own viewing.

how plain will it be? do we choose the burlington casket, the amber cremation casket, the mcconnell casket. how would he feel about the price? $650. 850. 900. 1950. spend it to honor the human, to burn it, to keep it in a metal jar with scribed roses on the outside. (metal shrapnel removed of course.)

the viewing, the cremating, the death rituals, have all come and gone and now, near two years later, i’m back at the funeral home doing research for my memoir. i’ve got the funeral director and his full attention, back in the room where ritchie picks his urn through me.

“what’s it like?” i ask.

i share the only image i have in my head is from all of the csi shows, the og csi, miami, la, with the funeral director: a wall of half-fridge fronts that have roll out trays that bodies lay on, not yet packaged, not yet processed. i round-a-bout ask him what it’s like where they keep the dead, while they wait their procession.

“no, it’s not like that at all. much more like a milk, or grocer, fridge. one large walk in door, with walls that are lined with shelves, each shelf has a padded bottom on it and the bodies are lift-hoisted onto the nice soft bed.”

i think there is something about having to have the cremation before a certain time, like the tuesday night after the thursday that ritchie dies, so i ask “was the cremation because he had died on the thursday and couldn’t be “out” much longer. how long can bodies last out? post-mortem?”

“they can last a while actually. the shorter cases are due to diseases or other degenerative diseases which are already in the body. those accelerate the decomposition of the body, thus not having as much time as others.”

i realize then, that we have to cremate ritchie by tuesday in order to have his ashes ready for the service on friday.

“you’ve been doing this a long time, that must be a heavy thing to carry.”

“it’s the children that are the worst, and this time of year.”

our conversation carries us into the foyer of the funeral home and we look into the belly of winter through the windows. so soon out of the gate, this death director flips the script and asks me: “what would you have done differently?”

differently? about the service, nothing. it is all exactly as it is meant to happen. at the house, comfortable, a small-ish gathering, friends and family, etc etc. differently? i would have waited some time before having the service. i would have waited to have the whole family over.

there we are one day post-trauma, delivering news, planning and organizing whole family transport; flights, car rentals, accommodations. there we are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 days post-trauma, death, loss: organizing, arranging, entertaining dozens of people throughout those days. come over. leave. reconvene. leave. plans: phone calls drop way to make room for group text messages, through me. mother doesn’t want anything to do with her phone. brother not online and busy-distracted with other things. any other things.

text messages also allow me to duck the socially awkward “how are you doing” “how’s your mom” “how are you all holding up” kinds and lines of questioning.

how are we doing? shit. how’s mother? shitter. how’m i? shit.

yes. one day at a time.
yes. it will get better.
yes, you are doing a good job for showing me you care.

no. it’s not helping.
no. it’s not about you.
could you go away now, please.
thank you.

differently? waited. because then i become: the care taker; the entertainer; the host; the server; the bartender; the housekeeper; the front desk attendant; the parking attendant; the pet sitter; the groundskeeper; the coordinator; the organizer; the planner; the chef; instead of the daughter who lost her dad to suicide death. the woman who experiences trauma by walking into the tragic, horrific scene of her dads suicide. waited then, until everyone cries their own tears into their own kleenex, and then comes together to…

celebrate the man who graces all of our lives with his happiness, his sadness, his spontaneity, and his pain. the man who tries very hard to be a good human, who tries to do right by his family, his wife and their two kids. the man who struggles and persists until that very last moment, when he doesn’t.

that’s what i would have done differently.

that’s how i would have changed the path.

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