If I really must kick the bucket (and, I suppose I really have to, at some point), then I’d like it to be a convenient and comfortable descent into the Eternal Nothingness. I want it to be in my bed, while I’m watching something funny on YouTube and eating out of a giant tub of popcorn. I love popcorn, and I fear they might not have it over on the Dark Side.
The other day my brother and I were digging something in our mother’s garden. I was wielding a hoe like a pro when, out of sheer stupidity I decided to swing it over my head (the twelve-year-old idiot still lives and thrives inside my slightly older body). A giant clump of dirt detached itself from the back of the hoe and struck me squarely in the face. I certainly deserved that and, had it not been for the frightening monster maggots that fell out of that flying projectile piece of dirt and landed right in my hair and mouth, I would have taken it like a man…a woman, I mean. But the white monsters with black tails (where they store their venom, no doubt) scared the ever-living shit out of me, so I ran around the garden screaming like I’ve never screamed before. You may have heard me in Tokyo. Worse even than having that crap in my mouth was the suspected presence of filth and dust in my eyes. Ever since I fought off impending blindness by having a very pricey surgery performed on my oculars, I have an uncontrollable fear of some uninvited foreign object landing in my peepers. To my delight, except for several renegade lashes, the peepers were clear of UFOs.
After I calmed myself down and washed that dirt off my face, my brother and I dove headlong into a philosophical discussion about the profound distinction between worms and maggots. Worms, my brother claims, eat plants and other non-human organic life forms. Maggots, on the other hand, eat human flesh exclusively. In fact, he proceeded to tell me, the maggots we found in mom’s garden had obviously feasted on human remains. And very recently, in fact. Nothing else could explain their alarming size.
Now, my brother has lied to me numerous times over the years. His most notable lie was the one he told me when he was eleven, when I was in high school and learning to drive. Having picked up his craft from the very best (see previous post), he spun a convincing tale of my parents’ impending car purchase. Apparently, amazed by my driving skills (and my pleasant adolescent demeanor/reliability, duh!), mom and pop decided to buy me a Jeep Wrangler. I’m a girl so I don’t know Jeep from…well, a shopping cart. But for some reason this lie sounded true and I saw myself driving a very cool vintage Jeep the very next day. Suddenly bad skin, ugly eyeglasses, and crooked teeth didn’t matter. I would be driving a Jeep!
Alas, dear reader, I still have bad skin, crooked teeth and…no Jeep. I do have a bicycle with a very cool “Put the fun…between your legs” (wink, wink) sticker. That’s the same as a Jeep, isn’t it?
Having been cruelly lied to before, I should not have believed him about the maggots. But these squirmy things were so hideous and filled with what appeared to be half-digested human flesh. And, after all, my brother does wear an impressive mustache. In my opinion, one should always trust a man with a mustache, especially if he’s wearing a hat (a fedora, preferably).
This being said, in order to avoid having my body devoured by maggots (all that expensive lotion I’ve rubbed into my skin over the years!), then and there I decided to be cremated. Not right now, of course (that would be inconvenient, as I still have some delicious left-over chicken sitting in my fridge). I’m not ready to die, really, and have no plans for such an event in the near, or distant, future. Firstly, I’m young enough to have all my birthday candles fit onto one medium-sized birthday cake. Secondly, I really have nothing to wear for Death. But once that issue is resolved and my limbs age to the point of no repair, I’ll be gladly on my way. I expect that will take place in about 3 or 4…hundred years.
I cheerfully made my cremation announcement that night at dinner. Surprisingly, my family didn’t take it as well as I’d expected. They called me a “morbid idiot” (?!) and threw bits of dry bread into my face. One disgruntled relative even told me I’m no longer allowed to open my mouth during a meal, unless it is to allow the passage of food into my system.
Strange family, mine. But, having considered the issue of cremation further, I think I might have another announcement to make tonight. You see, I’ve decided against it after all. And here’s why.
Here in Serbia we have several holidays (comparable to the All Souls’ Day elsewhere in the world) when we visit our dead relatives in their new abodes…at the cemetery. Generally speaking, grandma and grandpa don’t see a lot of traffic around their new residence on a regular weekend, but most of us make it a point to visit two or three times a year. I usually go in October and March. I don’t want to bother the old folks too much at other times of the year; god only knows what they’re up to in, say, April or September.
These holidays (we call them Zadušnice) involve not only an inconvenient trip to the most depressive place on the planet as early in the morning as it is humanly possible to drag oneself out of bed (if you’re there at Noon, you’re late, so don’t even bother!), but also a very expensive and tiresome preparation of food to be brought along to this “red carpet” event. These preparations start days in advance, as enormous pies have to be baked, puddings cooked, soups stewed, and chickens roasted. My grandparents are buried at the top of a very steep hill (so they could have a great view of the river flowing several miles away, of course). That means that loads of food must be carried to their graves on foot each time we go on one of these burial-ground picnics. One attempt to reach the cemetery in my uncle’s car nearly got us all killed one year. Days of heavy rains had washed away a good part of an already-neglected village road and our Yugo, loaded with humans (still living), roasted chickens and bottles of various refreshing beverages, nearly toppled over the edge of a dangerous ravine. You know how they say your life flashes before your eyes when you think you just might die? Yeah, that’s actually true.
This food is not meant to be some kind of weird ritual sacrifice to those already gone. So why do we do this crazy thing three times a year? Because we kinda miss those old people that used to give us cash (and terrible sweaters as gifts) and we figure, if they can’t come to dinner, we’ll bring dinner to them. The food is meant for the living, of course; and, truth be told, those who make it to the top of that hill sorely need it. Some people have tables and chairs (made of concrete, marble, or some other material meant to outlast the cemetery itself) permanently installed at their loved ones’ grave sites. Others, like my family of underachievers, simply spread out a tablecloth over grandma and sit around in an ever-growing circle. How we manage to chow down any food knowing the old cat lady is resting (forever) just below our large platter of meat pies and chocolate-covered strawberries, I really can’t tell you. You just gotta be there to see it. So let that be yet another reason to visit our lovely peninsula for you potential Western tourists bored of the luxuries cruise ships (they sink!) and fancy French resorts (full of celebrities!) offer for your vacation needs.
Do you see why I simply cannot be cremated, despite my fear of monster maggots and dirt getting into my eyes? Where, I ask you, would my family dine if I had my ashes spread to the four corners of the world? But eating food off the damp ground on top a nearly-inaccessible hill…no, thank you! I’m having a Jamie Oliver restaurant built over my grave. If they want to eat over my dead body, they’d better do it in style!