Jeff Smith 6 p.m., Nov. 29
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A Tomb With a View
You can't take it with you. Or can you? I rarely read the obituaries. I am not yet of an age where I can expect on a daily basis to see in them at least a friend of friend of a friend, so therefore I typically skip them. The rare occasion when I do read them coincides with the death of a close friend or relative of my in-laws, who unfortunately happen to be at "that age". My relationship to these recently deceased via their loved ones, my in-laws and polite society all require that I acquaint myself with their previously unknown personas prior to our introduction.
What I am at is an age where I sometimes find myself thinking ahead to the future, and quite frankly, my old age. Today was no exception. After a morning spent at a skilled nursing facility in Santee on a humane society visit, I started to become anxious. What was to become of me? I love these old people. I would not do what I do if I did not. While some are quite lucid, many are in the advanced stages of dementia. There are times when I cannot break through but I can still see the struggle going on. "What the hell is happening to me?' is a recurring, fleeting facial expression, and then it is gone. Today, a man I was talking to and with whom I was sharing the companionship of our therapy bunny, Marshmallow, said to me "do you see him? I don't know if he understands what is happening, but I think you should go talk to him." I looked over and saw he was referring to a very elderly gentleman who appeared to be sleeping. He sometimes would try to look up, but it was an effort and he gave up. My heart broke in half. I have never cried on a visit, but today I came close.
I went over to him and set Marshmallow down on his wheelchair tray. I asked him, "Sir, would you like to visit with our bunny, Marshmallow?" He did not respond, so I touched his hand. Suddenly he looked up, confused. Then he looked down and saw the rabbit, and then looked back up at me. His eyes were watering, and there it was. Connection. He put his hand on the basket and stroked the bunny with his finger. I stayed with him for a few minutes and then I had to move on to some other patients. He held on to the basket with his hand and I gently removed it. He looked up at me and then he went back inside. Leaving his side was the hardest side I ever left.
So today, after I got home, I needed a little respite. I mowed the lawn, and then my husband said "I'm heating up the hot tub." He is a saint. He is also the focus of my worst aging scenarios, where he dies, or I die, or someone dies and they are too close to us. I try really hard not to think of these things, but I know they are inevitable. I try not to think about that either.
Once the hot tub reached optimal temperature, me, hubby and a tall, cold can of Oranjeboom relaxed into it. I took the paper with me and turned to "Tell Me About It" in the Passages section of the Union Tribune. Due to those crappy new half pages, the obits just happened to be right next door. My husband remarked on the stunning photo of one beauty, "she looks like Betty Page." That made me laugh, but he was right. She was gorgeous. I read about her, and then I glanced down.
Cemetery Lots. Huh? Real estate ads for your burial plot? This one caught my eye. And it made me lighten up a little about the existential crisis called mortality.
GREENWOOD Mausoleum private companion marble sarcophagus main level with park view, marble statue of Apostle Andrew included. Valued at $50,000.00 sacrifice $20,000.00 or best offer. To see call "XYZ".
So, this economy has forced those with the choicest real estate in which to spend eternity to downgrade and sell to "best offer?" The view alone is to die for, but sacrifice I must. I found this touching, but funny, that someone would want their loved one to have a view, and then use it as the selling point. And anyway, isn't the view from Heaven supposed to be phenomenal?
$50,000.00 for a burial plot. Me? I'd just as soon spend it while I'm here. Who am I going to impress with my tomb with a view? If I am any example, my nieces will visit my grave just about as often as I visit those of my dearly departed. That is to say, never. Yes, I know there are those that take the final resting places of their beloved very seriously. I just happen to not be one of them. I prefer to poke fun at the absurd, and come judgment day, I just hope God has a really good sense of humor. And maybe a room with a view.