My brother texted me today worried that our mother--a healthy and vibrant 67-year old-- was a little too obsessed with planning life six feet under. This weekend, she went casket shopping. She went at it hoping to find the perfect box like a bride does a dream wedding gown. My bro asked me to phone her because something was definitely not cogent. And I did. After chatting about the kids, writing and the banalities of life, I point blank asked mother what was up with the sombre planning? She immediately blamed my little brother for telling on her and laughed out out, more like a LMAO if we were texting, and said that we worry and does protest too much. There she was quoting Shakespeare again, or at least his Puerto RIcan cousin.
She broke it down for me: "Death is the most certain thing in life," my love, she says, "in fact, it's so close to each of us that it's right behind our ears." And with that, she went on to explain that she wanted to make sure that she "liked" the casket she would be viewed in. Color of choice: white. Style: elegant. She explained herself eloquently too: It's not morbid and nothing is "wrong" with me. I want to leave everything planned so all you kids" -- her five children and special grandchild whom she considers a son -- "will be there surrounding me in my beautiful casket without having to run around grieving and planning. My dad did it and so did mom." Hilarious. We both laughed. I couldn't believe it, I laughed...
Like a good daughter of fishermen and farmers mom has a very fascinating view of death. She will too continue the legacy of departure parties. My grandmother actually chose the kind of cheese and coffee that was served at her wake--gouda with the red wax and El Pico coffee, french roast!
Mom comes from a generation of, 'if you want things to be done right, you do them yourself." Perhaps that was the greatest generation, post WW II babies, or the ones who invented blogging and Twitter are the best, you know, the post Reagan babies, but one thing is clear, mother is leaving nothing to chance. She says: "even though I am going to be dead, I want to like my casket." You got to love a woman who leaves this life in style.
Besides the hilarious nature of this party planning, there is also something gloriously refreshing about mom's attitude around her death. She recognizes that it will come. And as the control freak that she is, she wants to make sure that the damn funeral is done to her liking, lest she come back and give us a piece of her mind.
Mother is also the kind of woman who doesn't like to trouble people very much. She cleaned her own house, cooked for her five kids, washed her and our own clothes, and worked, hard too. It's a character trait that I somewhat find enviable, as I am totally the opposite: I like to ask for help whenever I can. And even pay-- a cleaning lady, take out, laundry, etc. My motto? If I can afford the service why not? I recognize, unlike my mom and many women of her generation, that I am not superwoman. And I also value time in a different way, money is time, time is money! So that time when the house is being cleaned by someone else, whom I always pay handsomely whenever I can afford it, is now freed up. =I then can spend quality time with my kids, family, friends, my self, or mother, like going on her casket window shopping spree. Well if she didn't live in the Caribbean and I in the northeast.
Art by Ladislao Loera
Art by Ladislao Loera