Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cryptic Sayings

Living next door to a funeral home tends to remind one of his mortality.  So it’s going to be embarrassing if, after over nine years of such reminders, I kick the proverbial bucket without clarifying some things regarding my departure.  First, as I’ve mentioned to my lovely wife Darla numerous times, and in my previous article, Between the Quick and the Dead, I don’t want to be exhibited, as if I were a science project, or a blue fin tuna.   My body never looked especially good when I was alive; I have no reason to think it will look better when I’m dead.  Why would I want my friends and family gawking at my carcass?  I never gawked at theirs.  Who came up with the open casket idea anyway?  How much do you want to bet it was a self-satisfied embalmer?   If one of you Wry Bread readers should happen to find me displayed in such a manner, I hope you will have the decency to close the box, or at least flip me over.  If people must gawk at me, I’d rather they do it behind my back.  
One good reason to put my wishes in print here (Alright Pretty Boy, maybe the only good reason) is the hope that someone at the festivities will remember reading this, and come to my aid.   I’m sure Darla would honor my wishes in this matter, if she remembered them.   But amid all the weeping and wailing that my untimely demise will no doubt engender, she may be too distraught to think clearly.    

The other day she said she dreamed that we had both died and we had a “double casket” funeral.  (That may be cheaper than two singles---I’ll have to look into it).  I asked her if my casket was open, and she said she couldn’t remember.   Yes, I know what you’re thinking.  This betrays a shocking lack of interest, on her part, in my state, while in state.   One wonders if she even bothered to check my pulse.  How could she be assured I was a proper subject for burial if she didn’t even notice if my coffin was open?  She did say, however, that she noticed her hair, which in the dream was (uncharacteristically) curly.  
And another thing---- I know this is not traditional, but it seems like I’m the logical choice to conduct my service, as I’m the pastor who knows me better than any other.  Furthermore, who better to highlight the positive things about me and gloss over the negative ones?   The only hitch is that unfortunate matter of my being dead.  Clearly I will have to record the service in advance.    

I have given some thought to what I want engraved on the plaque at my grave site, assuming someone springs for a plaque. 
Some options were:
  • Finally---a diet that works.
  • I told you I was sick.
  • My kids went to a funeral and all I got was this lousy plaque.
But as I have previously written, the one I decided on is a nod to the great German reformer, Martin Luther:
  • Here I lie.  I cannot do otherwise.   So help me God.
Some might think it’s foolish to print this here, as a sick reader (and I have yet to meet one who isn't sick) may use it before I do.  But that’s unlikely.  I’m sixty-two, which means that, according to my calculations, I’m already two years older than all those people who died at the age of sixty.  The way I figure it, with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, a family history of heart disease, radon in my basement and Godzilla in my nightmares, I should have been dead long ago.  Just last week I was reading an old book, and I think I came down with a touch of Consumption.  Plus, I’m starting to forget things, so I may have caught a mild case of Old-Timer’s-Disease---probably from nursing home visitation.  Darla says she thinks I might have picked up Hypochondria too.   I’m not sure what it is, but it sounds serious.
All this talk of death and dying reminds me of some of the “ways you know you might be getting old,” which I wrote some years ago to be read at the birthday parties of friends, in order to add to the general frivolity of the occasions.  I had hopes of putting them in a book or in a line of greeting cards, but as I’m clearly on borrowed time, and could keel over any moment, I’d might as well put a few of them here:

You might be getting old if:
  • The only birds to return to your yard each spring are vultures.
  • Your family has tattooed your chest with the words, “No heroic measures, please.”
  • You have to ask a neighbor to water your houseplants and bring in your mail, whether or not you are away.
  • You no longer bother to enter the Publishers’ Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.
  • Local paramedics make practice runs to your home.
  • Your children have tagged all your furniture.
  • Your dentist no longer requires your presence when cleaning your teeth. 
  • You are the only veteran of your war in your town’s Veterans’ Day Parade.
  • You find the music on the Easy-Listening station too hard to listen to.
  • You discover that your pastor has preprinted the Order of Worship for your Memorial Service.
  • Your cardiologist tells you, “Absolutely no more Scrabble™ games.”
  • Your wife insists on checking your vital signs before she goes to buy the week’s groceries.
  • Your annual insurance premium exceeds the potential death benefit.
  • You are the only person you know with just 3 digits in his Social Security number.
  • A local investigative TV reporter does an exposé on the care you are receiving in the home.
  • You discover that your wife has sent your best suit to the local Funeral Home.
  • If you lie in your backyard for a little sun, your neighbor’s dog invariably tries to bury you.
  • Your high school reunion is held in the social hall of a nursing home.
  • Your wife’s “honey-do” list has been reduced to:  1) Get out of bed. 2) Bathe yourself.
One of the great blessings of knowing Christ is that death is now, for us, like a poisonous snake that has lost its venom.  The Christian doesn’t look forward to the process of death, which may be long and painful and generally unpleasant, but he has no fear of the outcome of death.  For him, as Paul put it, death has lost its sting, and the grave has lost its victory.  He is confident that if his earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, there’s a building of God, a house not made with hands awaiting him. Jesus said, “Truly truly I say to you, He who believes in me has everlasting life. “ (John 6:47) 

One of my favorite illustrations is a story told of John Quincy Adams as an old man.  I can’t put my hands on the exact quote.   I think Tommy Humphrey may have taken it during the Super Bowl blackout.   But here’s the gist of it: The former president was hobbling along, and someone met him on the street and asked, “How is Mr. Adams today?”  He responded with something like this.  “Mr. Adams is doing very well, Thank You.  But I’m afraid the house in which he has been living all these years is in disrepair.  The roof is missing shingles, the windows are no longer letting in much light and the support beams are weak and tottering.  I’m afraid the house is becoming, on the whole, uninhabitable, and Mr. Adams must be moving out of it soon.  But he himself is quite well, quite well indeed.”  As I remember it, just then, a dog came along and tried to bury Mr. Adams, but he was saved by an approaching Veterans’ Day Parade.  I can’t recall much more, probably due to my early onset Old-Timer’s-Disease, but I distinctly remember that Mr. Adams’ hair, at the time, was uncharacteristically curly.



  1. Did I mention that I have Leeds Disease? It morph's a subject's features until he looks like Joe Leeds of Sykesville, MD. It is not often fatal, and in my case, the affects were generally regarded as beneficial.

  2. Is the music on the Easy-Listening station too hard to listen to because your ears are failing, or is it a growing phobia since you hear it in the elevator during your increasing visits to the doctor's office? Perhaps it's just because you're tired of old songs. One day maybe you'll get to hear a great new song that only a few can learn! Revelation 14:3

    1. I think maybe the music is too raucous for my old ears---or are they Joe's old ears?

  3. I suffer from early onset dementia...it all started at age 2 when I would habitually forget where I'd placed my pacifier so I had it put on a necklace for safekeeping. Come to think of it, where did I put that necklace? As I was saying, early onset dementia. It shouldn't be that at age 34 I'm so easily distracted. If I had a dollar for every time I was... and another thing, I have the distinct feeling that my office is shrinking. I've been into the other pastors'offices and although it appears that pastor Rusty's office has shrunk compared with pastor whatshisname, mine certainly appears to have shrunk more rapidly.
    I should certainly get my paperwork in order lest my office shrink to coffin-size.

    1. Hmmmmmmmm. Coffin-sized offices. That might be both convenient and cost-effective.

  4. They should bury you facedown to give your backside a rest.

    1. That's a good one, Pretty Boy. Actually, Now that you mention it, I want to be buried vertically. That way I'll have a jump on the rest of you at the resurrection. Can I have my John Quincy Adams illustration back now?