Sometimes, death can be a laughing matter

The Sunday Column

I spent most of my life planning for the future: Getting a job, plotting a career path, getting married, buying a home and saving for the future.

Most of my plans worked out well except for the slight interruption the government imposed on me a year or two after I graduated college and just before I got married. I got a letter in the mail, which I thought was a congratulations card. It seemed like a very thoughtful gesture until I opened the letter and found out the Army decided to draft a few extra people just for the heck of it, and darn, if I was not in the lucky group. Once I finished my stint in the military, or as I call it, “twice around the world in three years,” I quickly got back on track with my original life plan.

The next major impact came when I retired. Having been a planner and saver all my life, I sought out a finanical adviser to secure the future for my wife and me. After the adviser learned we had no children, his next question was did we have a favorite charity, school, niece or nephew to which we wanted to leave our money? “WAIT a minute,” I said, “My desk at the office is not even cold yet, I haven’t cashed my first retirement check and you want to know who I want to spend my money?” It didn’t take long before I discovered the only person really interested in my future was me.

As my life draws to a close, I find people asking me if I have made my final arrangements. Despite all the planning I have done in my life, planning my final arrangements is not something high on my priority list. For me personally, I would rather plan an elk hunt in Idaho, which seems like a better use of my time and money.

I have talked to several people lately who have given some thought to their final arrangements and have found some quite serious but humorous.

Dave, a friend of mine, told me he did not want to be buried or cremated and opted instead for a burial vault but with a caveat. He added seriously and with a straight face, “I spend so much time shopping I want my burial vault to be on an upper lever facing Walmart.”

Another acquaintance was concerned with what he didn’t like and stated emphatically, “If my tombstone reads, ‘He enjoyed working in his yard,’ I am coming back and killing someone.”

During my life, I have hunted in West Virginia quite a bit often during its muzzleloading season. Over time, I met a number of the local hunters, and one year I ran into three hunters I saw every year heading to a fire trail. Normally they had four in their party, and when I asked about the missing member, they told me he had passed away several months ago. I expressed my sympathies and added that I was sure he was with them today in spirit.

“He’s closer than that,” one hunter said. “His last wish was to be cremated and have us mix some of his ashes in with our black power so when we went muzzleloading hunting he could go along.” Holding his rifle over his head with head bowed, he quietly said, “He is here with us today.”

A good friend of my wife and I recently commented that she didn’t want to waste good ground being buried or money on a lavish service. She opted for cremation with a special twist. “I want all my organs donated and what’s left of me I want cremated and sprinkled on all the men in my life that I thought were ‘hot.’ No sense in wasting good ashes,” she laughed.

Keeping in the spirit of planning and my personality, I am now declaring my final wishes. I want no service, no viewing and no funeral dinner. If a dinner is to be held, everyone in attendance should plan to pick up their own check. My remains are to be cremated and the ashes spread on my favorite state game land hunting ground. I am leaving enough money for the cremation in a coffee cup next to the toaster in the kitchen. In what time I have remaining I am planning to continue to live. Right now I still have too much work left on my Honey-Do list to go any time soon anyway.

John Kasun writes from his home in Duncansville.

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