While out to dinner the other night with some friends, the topic turned to what is to be done upon our own demise. Yes, perhaps this is a result of my occupation, but nonetheless we made our way around the table answering this ever so eerie question. My first pal stated, “just cremate me.” His wife shared with us “green burial” and around the table it went. It then got to me. All stared with much anticipation wondering what Digger O’ Dell himself was going to say. As I answered, they all sat in amazement over how detailed my answer was. 

You see, many of us think when it comes to a loss we will need to decide on cremation or burial and that is all. We look at the disposition as the sole answer to “what now?” What if the only thought we put into our children’s birthday celebration was the flavor of the cake? Can you imagine leading up to your wedding day with the only topic of discussion being where the honeymoon is going to be? What if you turned to your spouse upon the 50th anniversary of your marriage and simply asked if they wanted a card or hug to mark the occasion? Some have a tendency to avoid the topic of our own demise and push the discussion off by simply suggesting a disposition only, such as cremation, burial, green burial and so on. But what about the life that we lived? Shouldn’t that be the focus at the end of our time? After all, is the end the most important part of our life or is it the journey we had leading up to it? By shifting our viewpoints from disposition to a final farewell, we begin to look at it through a different lens that leads us to focus on life rather than loss. 

My answer to my friends was this: I’d like to first be sure that my three children and wife have time to be with me shortly after my passing at the funeral home. This is only to be held privately, for immediate family, as I never want to take this opportunity away from them if they feel the need to see me one more time. During this time, each of them should bring in their favorite Dad joke(s) and tape them to the cremation container. Just before leaving me for cremation, it will be requested that each read their dad joke out loud as we share these jokes together often. A few days later, a life tribute is to be held. My oldest son, Luke, is to put together a playlist of our favorite songs and to bring fishing pictures and tackle to display throughout the funeral home. My buddy, Obie, will be asked to create a bar menu of favorite cocktails for our friends and family to enjoy. My friend Brad should be ready to encourage everyone to take a tequila shot, because all that know me know that I have dodged this request all my years with creative approaches. Attendees will be asked to bring a funny story, of which a few I’m sure will be a tad off color, and there will be a chance for everyone to share this memory of our time together. At the conclusion of it all, a portion of me is to be scattered when my son catches his first tuna fish of the season with Team Eastbound off the coast of Ocean City, a second portion to be made into two aqua colored necklace charms for my daughter, Emma, and wife, Sarah, and a third to be placed into a football for my son, Chase. Each of these are to remind them of our time together fishing, looking out on the water from the beach and tossing the ol’ pig skin around in the backyard. The focus of my loss is to be on the times shared, jokes told and memories of the happiest moments together.  

After I concluded my answer, each dining companion looked at each other and began to backpedal stating how they would want this music played and the other would want that picture displayed. A conversation that started out with generic one-word answers became the most entertaining topics of discussion. The table erupted with laughter at different moments and there were a few deeper themes that surfaced as well. Ultimately, we each began to discuss our final farewells through a different lens and began to focus on how our legacy would live on rather than how we are to disappear.

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