The Blog of Brian Copeland

GOING OUT ON A HIGH NOTE

Guest blog by Joseph Manners, our Nashville fun NABor.

I know that I will offend someone with this blog. I apologize in advance that you just didn’t get my opinion or my sense of humor regarding this topic.

Just moments after your ass was smacked and your first cries were heard throughout the hospital, your life sand timer was activated, each grain signifying that your death was imminent. Granted, some of the choices of your life will cause the sand to move quicker. But in the end the last grain will fall and your time will be up.

In the book by Gilda Radner, It’s Always Something, she writes: “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end.” That book had such a profound impact on my life – not to make me want to live a better life or to live day as it were my last Mainly, Gilda’s book made me determined to control my ending, how I am perceived or at the very least, the last memory that someone has of me.

I was prompted to read this book after my sister-in-law succumbed to her battle with cancer. My brother held her hand until the end. He said, “No one should die alone.” I tear up every time that I think about that statement. This manly man had something figured out so early in life.

You will need to have some background on me to understand some of my warped concepts on death. My father’s family had two different businesses: one built coffins and the other sold and delivered hearses. So as a child my brothers and I played hide and seek in the coffins. Trust me: crushed velvet or not, when the lid is closed it is pitch black. The head pillows were nice and made it much more tolerable to hide the longest. But I don’t remember a big difference between the cheapest models and most expensive. Perhaps the lid was heavier to open. So if you are concerned that your loved one might come back for you, lid weight might be an important feature. We would also go on family trips to deliver the hearses. Guess who rode in the back? We had a great time. We just saw them as really big Cadillacs. Believe me they had incredible features at the time. Odd, given that really three people (tight fit) would ride in the front. Climate control, power seats, power windows, cruise control and the list went on and on. So my perception of death is much different than that of many others.

As a child, I remember attending too many funerals to count. In my family (perhaps a southern thing) it was a family reunion. Many times, the age old question of how many different varieties of potato salad can be eaten and or made was answered during one of the family funerals. Kids would play while the adults would reminisce about their childhoods or their relationship with the deceased. The women would always go on and on about how good or bad the body looked. Comments like: ‘They made him look so natural’, ‘Why did they pick that tie for him?’, ‘She looked too thin’ (I know some of you are saying, “Is that possible?”), ‘The makeup was too thick’ or ‘He just didn’t look happy, that forced smirk was too unrealistic.’

The eulogies were normally delivered by a pastor who didn’t know the deceased. The details of the deceased’s life were normally wrong. Some of the meanest family members who died were talked about as though they walked on water, while delivering food to the homeless and offering guidance with a kind hand to the young ones. I was young but I knew mean and I just assumed anyone that mean had to be going somewhere where air conditioning wasn’t an option. Yet, the eulogy would go on and on about the love between the immediate family members and the deceased. (Most of whom hated each other so much they couldn’t sit together at the funeral.)

I recall helping a family member once load up the flowers at the funeral home into their car. Later, my mother said someone stole the flowers and they didn’t make it to the graveside. I felt too guilty to admit that I had helped.

I recall being told that objects had been stolen from someone’s home while people were at the funeral. I was also told that jewelry disappeared from the deceased body moments before the casket was closed. Money does strange things to people. Somehow some feel justified that they are owed grandma’s gravy boat, Uncle Ben’s gold shoe horn or Cousin Debby’s gold lamé shoe collection. (Very retro.) Lucky for me being poor comes in handy. There will be no fighting over my collection of dust bunnies, old furniture, or my numerous bottles of shampoos from all of the hotels that I have stayed at over the years.

My most memorable funeral memory was watching as a mistress of an uncle pulled the body up from the casket and kissed him over and over. (Yes she left lipstick stains on his face) She cried out “Oh Lord, not him, not my Bobby.” (Name changed to protect the humiliated) The wife stood and pulled the girl by her hair. This shifted the body so that he was half in and half out of the casket. Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up. She told her to walk her whore ass out of the funeral home before she was thrown out. She then said , “You dare bring this drama in front of my kids while they are mourning the loss of their father?” A backhand across the face of the mistress and she hit floor with her skirt going up on her waist. She revealed her panties that were over her panty hose. I know you shouldn’t laugh but even then I laughed at things when I knew I shouldn’t. However, the body was half over the casket looking down at the mistress with her skirt still up and I was snorting. The adults scrambled to put everything back like it was as quickly as possible. This was a visitation! I remember thinking the funeral would have to be even better! However, the mistress didn’t come back and everyone kept quiet about the events from the previous night.

Personally I have never feared death. However, I am afraid of how and where I die. In my lifetime I have had a gun put to my head (see prior blog), I have been in car wrecks and several years ago I had a run in with cancer. However, death never entered my mind. It was always not here. Not sure why but I just didn’t want that to be the whispers among family and friends.

Several years ago a friend died. Prior to his long battle with cancer he planned his whole funeral. It had a PowerPoint presentation, music, his voice for spoken words and the body was absent. He had made the decision that he didn’t want the typical funeral. I laughed so hard. Ite left an incredible memory staill still makes me jealous. That is the way that all funerals should be: a true celebration of a life leaving your life on a high note.

So I wrote some brief notes and thought about what I would like to have happen at my funeral.

• I would like to donate my body to science. Undoubtedly, some of you will say weird science.
• I would like any usable organs to be given away. Hopefully, my ability to be snarky is something learned and not something that could be passed on via those organs. However, someone did remind me that the eybrow transplant and or head tilt transplant should be removed from my donations. (just in case)
• I would love to have a small wake where those foam sticks are given out and everyone is encouraged to beat other people. This will allow the violence that so many people have and want to get out.
• I would like everyone to stand and speak about me anyway they wish. Some will feel guilty and want to makeup something nice. But others will be real and tell stories about me that made them laugh or at least smile. That is the feeling that I want everyone to walk away with at the end.
• I will ask that donations be made to a few charities that mean a lot to me. (Guilt should work here.)
• I will ask my family to give certain gifts to one another. (Guilt might work here.)
• I would love my will to be read aloud, where I give tons of things away (that I clearly do not have). I would love to see the gleen in the eyes of some of them. Then to watch as the greed they just felt is ripped out from under them when it is revealed in the last sentence; “Unless I didn’t win the lottery.”

I would like my favorite rambling thought to be told at the end. “When I die and I am standing in front of gates of heaven, Saint Peter will look through his notes and say “Wow you were busy on Earth. We have several volumes about you. Thank goodness we switched to computers several years ago. Give me a moment. You covered the biggies as well. Mmm. I am not sure that you belong here. Wait, now I see why. You do have one redeeming quality. I see here that you never Vogued. Madonna has a lot to answer for that one. Lucky for you near the end you did ask for forgiveness. By the way when we let you in, please keep it down. There are some that will not understand how you made it past the gate. Give them awhile. They will get over it. After all, you may be surprised to see a few others who made it in as well.”