No, that isn’t a threat; it’s a reminder, because we should all face the inevitable with some kind of equanimity and preparation. Today I wrote to three members of my family asking permission to be buried in our parents’ grave. Ghoulish or just plain organised? You decide. I had grand plans of having my ashes scattered from the top of Killiney Hill, a place of great beauty with a splendid view of the bay. But I didn’t reckon on having a keen genealogist in the family with a heart of gold whose wishes run contrary to mine. "We want a place to visit, a stone with your name, a visible calling card for future generations who might wish to find their blogging ancestor." That gave me food for thought along with the surprising discovery that there is room for a third in the family plot. "How could you bear to be stuck in with them?" asked a concerned close relative who knew how difficult the filial relationship was at the best of times. "I’ll be dead!" I reminded her sharply but then I spent far too much time imagining a twilight zone with them and me forever locked in each other’s embrace: my body gave a quick involuntary shudder before returning to reality.
Greg Baxter was in his early thirties when he found himself in a personal hell: drinking to excess, hating his job, and doing everything except that which he loved, writing. He started teaching creative writing and in the process found his own life utterly changed. A Preparation for Death is an intimate account of Baxter’s failures and eventual redemption. This autobiography will land on the shelves of bookshops in July 2010 and promises to be a riveting read. The proof copy (the title of which seemed so appropriate as I licked my grave-request envelopes this afternoon) is sitting atop a precarious pile of books waiting for my attention on the kitchen table. We have eaten a quite few breakfasts, lunches and dinners overlooked by this literary stack, my cultural condiments, the pepper and salt of my world and no one has complained, yet!
A lovely gentleman once told me, in a moment of confidentiality, that he was terrified he would die in the middle of a book. He worried that he might not experience the ending due to experiencing his own ending. I have no such fears because I know, in my heart of hearts, that whenever that moment comes, my lovely books will be the last things on my mind. I found some great quotations to end my somewhat sombre piece that will, hopefully, make you laugh.
I wonder if Nancy Regan was awake when she said this: I believe that people would be alive today if there were a death penalty.