The final curtain? The next act? Or something else?
Seven weeks into the pandemic in May 2020, I was thinking about death. Not exactly, but my own burial. I had written an article the year before about eco-friendly burials not always being so eco-friendly. (Must be a spring theme for me.) So, I wrote a poem.
Enter spring 2021, and I decided to unearth that poem buried in Grassroots and revisit it. This is where we sometimes need our friends, our peers in the land of writing, reading, musing, and composing peers, ele-peers to be exact. I sent them the link and asked for ideas.
And they did not disappoint. Their trunks were raised and their ears were flapping as they sent advice to add context. “Why did I write this poem?” was the short version of their sage advice.
Why did I?
I searched the deep grey matter of my brain, but my neurotransmitters were either sticky or shooting sparks without connecting. The deeper I dug, the more I unearthed. And shovel full after shovel full piled into separate mounds. I was further confusing my brain cells.
I sped a fast train ride through some parts of my connection with death regarding family and close friends.
My paternal grandmother, Mumma, buried on my tenth birthday. Three years later, the death of my paternal grandfather, Pappa. My 16-year-old cat dying in my arms early one morning as her coughing woke me and I picked her up from where she lay at the bottom of my bed. The loss of my maternal grandmother, then grandfather, six years later.
Too many friends. My seven-year-old cat in 1978, who I remain certain was slowly poisoned by my abusive, live-in boyfriend (which expedited my escape plan when a well-meaning friend brought over an eight-week-old kitten and pleaded with me to keep her). My dad’s passing in 1997, my 19-year-old cat three months later, my just turned 51-year-old cousin in 2001, and my mom in 2006. Our 13-year-old cat in early January 2008. My best friend, significant other-turned-husband in 2009.
Another journey back to 1970 and through that decade working in hospitals.
The call to the emergency room in the middle of the night to take skull X-rays on a patient with a gunshot wound. I stood by the portable X-ray machine, watching two arrogant residents arguing over how to proceed with this male patient. My eyes flicked from the patient to the resident to his left to the one at the right back to the patient. Then silence. They looked down, said he was dead, looked at me to take the X-rays for placement of the bullet, and left the room.
The next one, doing a nuclear medicine lung scan on an elderly woman, do-not-resuscitate order clearly indicated on her the cover to her chart. Halfway through the scan, she took her last breath.
Third, I entered the room of a gentleman to take a portable chest X-ray. Talking quietly to him, I set up the machine, took a plate from the machine’s carrier, and explained that I would place an X-ray plate behind his back and that it might feel a little cold. As I gently lifted him forward, he took his last breath.
There’s more, but I will leave it be. My heart is feeling heavy right now, and my mind is drowning in memories dredged from age 10 to now.
Why did I write this poem?
I am not certain, but it is my eco-friendly plan for my transition:
My naked body
Is gently wrapped in a shroud,
Mushroom spores embedded.
Caring strangers lift my fragile death,
My sagging flesh, sarcopenic muscles
And withered bones.
And softly lower me
Three feet deep.
Or was it four?
I do not recall.
Laughter fills the cemetery,
Volunteers work this place,
A pandemic has kept family and friends away.
That is okay,
My earthy remains will comingle with momma earth
And the fungi from my simple shroud will sprout a kingdom underground.
Someone will plant a sapling, perhaps an oak.
I would have loved birch, but Florida does not support her need for harsh winter weather.
Perhaps an oak.
I fear not death.
Nothing lasts forever; its energy will transform.
I am leaving this here for whoever needs it.
I hope Prairie Creek Cemetery in Florida will be my last home in this Earthly form.
I am returning.