The complications of funeral arrangements are just vast; I had no idea. One of the hardest things for me was what music is going to be played, which confused me no end – whether live or recorded, classical or otherwise. I’ve had to make my decision, and here’s the list, although anyone who wants to contribute can do so.
Faure’s Requiem – Pie Jesu
Turn Turn Turn (The Byrds)
Dream a little Dream of me (Mama Cass)
We have all the time in the world (Louis Armstrong)
The Royal College of Music will provide singers to contribute some of this music live; an extra advantage of being in London.
What else? Where will the ceremony take place? Ian Brown advised we went to Golders Green Crematorium; I’ve heard good reports of the space, and anyway it’s the only game in town. Then I need to organize the limousines to transport guests and singers and speakers to and from the crematorium; the flowers (thankfully a friend’s doing those); caterers, recommended by another friend – I hope they’re good even if I’m not there to taste it. Then there’s the blog – to print or not to print?
I asked a friend of mine, who is a very well known conceptual artist, to take pictures of me through these last weeks. I’m quite happy with them, and in fact have already used one to illustrate my blog. I just try to do my best, without being too controlling.
You will have to take me at my word on the next bit of forward planning; to me it seems unbelievable. I have a Rottweiler estate agent who has mounted an attack on me. It started out with missives of love and stories of god creating miracles that would cure me, and then quickly slid to her own agenda. Believe it or not, what she wanted to do was to find out the day I was going to die, so she could jump in and rent the apartment out again as quickly as possible, for more money. So one day I get an email asking me to sign a lease, and the next day I get an email asking me to pay my rent for 3 months in advance, though I didn’t realize I didn’t need to pay it at the time. The giveaway was that she wanted to visit my apartment with the landlord, to evaluate it I guess, and then somehow the landlord slipped out of the picture, and she still wanted to visit, to sniff around. So next Tuesday she’s coming over, documents in hand, and she’ll get paid just to shut her up. Let her God give me strength.
Going back to funeral arrangements, last night on the BBC Terry Pratchett the novelist, who now has Alzheimer’s, presented a program about Dignitas, in Switzerland – the only place in the world where you can go, without residency, and have an assisted death. I’ve studied this before, and it was good to hear the detail of it again, and to hear from people going there, and to see someone actually dying there, which is no beautiful sight, I have to say. First of all, it’s almost farcical. They ask you many times if you’re ready to die at this moment. It didn’t seem to me that the person who was dying, who was a very wealthy businessman, had particularly chosen the right time. It was around Christmas, and his perfect corporate wife was there, with the perfect makeup and the perfect earrings (I wondered if she stayed that way, every day of their perfect 30-year marriage?), holding his hand at the very end, though there seemed to be something strange in their relationship. (But what do I know about 30-year-marriages?) The room he died in was in an urban estate council flat rather than a country estate complete with mansion like his own home, so not a place he’d have felt at home in. Having said he was ready to die, he was given something for his stomach, and after a long conversation about what chocolate he’d prefer, he was given poison, and then chocolate to take the taste away.
I started to think about going there myself, though I doubt that I have the energy to do so. Even the snow on the beautiful Zurich suburbs didn’t entice me to go there; it was so bleak, and when he took the poison he keeled over and couldn’t breathe, and it took him about 20 minutes to die. It didn’t seem like fun as advertised. They talked a lot in the program about hospice care, but not about hospice at home, which seems like not a bad alternative. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to die, and I can’t know. I don’t know who’ll be with me, and I can’t know. It’s tempting to want to know, and to control it, but I couldn’t make myself really want to do it. And anyway, I have too many good days now, like today.
Have you ever seen Bugs Bunny sing Wagner? I’m glad I saw that before I keel over.