No Carnations For Carl

My life hostage’s uncle passed away last month. This was the first time we’ve dealt with a family death as a couple and it brought up conversations at dinner I don’t think anyone ever wants to have. Conversations that made our niece exclaim, “Can we be done with this please!?!” Which made me think, is a conversation about the end of life ever really done?

Anyone looking for my life hostage post mortem needs only go as far as my shoe collection. That’s where we’ve decided he will be. In a shoe-box, marked simply like my other shoe boxes, with his name in sharpie. You think I’m kidding but that’s what he wants and my belief is that this is the last major decision a person can make in life so I will bend over backwards to honor that for him.

No carnations for Carl? Done. Mom wants to wear her Blackhawks sweater? You got it. A backyard BBQ for Steve? Perfect. Grandma wants everyone to do Rumchata shots? We can talk about that. Do you know what you want?

It may seem morose to think about these conversations and it was clear none of us were fully comfortable having them, as we did turn almost everything into a joke that night. But the next morning, over breakfast, we had a conversation that took a more serious tone, to a degree.

What if I go first? It’s unlikely but what if? I want to go with you. Sweet but unrealistic. Do you want a funeral? I don’t know, should we let the families decide that? What happens to our ashes once we’re both gone? Do they get knocked down with the house? Maybe that’s why people have kids – death and taxes. You can see even our serious conversation went off the rails a bit. In the end though, I feel more prepared than I was if something were to happen to him. As prepared as one can be.

During his uncle’s eulogy, my life hostage’s cousin opened by saying he told everyone over and over again he was prepared for this day but the truth was he had lied, he wasn’t ready. I truly believe that’s a lie we all tell other people and ourselves. No matter how much we prepare, we’re never really ready. It was a blessing. They’re in a better place. They have no pain. That’s what the logical side of our brain says out loud. Meanwhile inside, our selfish heart is screaming. I want them here with me. This was not supposed to happen this way. What am I supposed to do now?

If you’ve never read the book Tuesdays with Morrie, I urge you to pick it up. It’s worth the read and accompanying tears. In it, Mitch Albom writes: Everyone knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it. So we kid ourselves about death. But there’s a better approach. To know you’re going to die, and to be prepared for it at any time. Do what the Buddhists do. Ask, is today the day? Am I ready? Am I doing all I need to do? Am I being the person I want to be?

I know my life hostage and I are going to die. Will either of us be ready? I can’t speak for him, but I’m pretty sure they’ll have to sedate me when he goes. That’s my selfish heart speaking. My logical brain? Well, I’m keeping an eye out for a shoe-box befitting of my partner in crime.

Rachel Olszewski

A hot mess held together on a daily basis by dry shampoo and probiotics, Rachel is still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up but for now is a communications professional by trade. A true Chicagoan through and through, she is an East Coast transplant trying to set down roots. Although the height of her high heels may be getting shorter, Rachel’s expectations are not getting lower and she is on a mission to change the world one person at a time.

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