Dear Xander,  Family and Parenting,  Self

What You Should Do When I Die

Dear Xander,

I am 34 years old right now. By the time you turn 21, I will be 52, and when you come to be my age right now, I should be 65.

Thankfully, because of the way this country is run right now, by the time you turn 34, I should still have a good 10 years left before I retire. This means not only that I can still probably provide for the family, I can probably also have paid off the family debt and also for my funeral expenses. What I’m bequeathing to you after I die will depend on how far I’ve been able to save by the time I’m about to croak, so I’ll leave that for later.

Right now though, I want to pass down to you my instructions on the more pressing matter how to deal with my passing.

First: The moment I stop breathing, stay calm and compose yourself. No point crying, feeling sad or grieving for at least the next few days, because I got to be honest with you, your dad can’t help you when he’s dead. You need to be strong for the span of time it takes to do what I need you to do. So man up.

Two: find me a casket, and don’t cheap out. I need a good quality box with clean lines (if Apple made caskets, I want that one) and a cushy interior. Depending on whether I look good when I die, get something with a window. If I died after getting hit by something in the face, then don’t bother. Put a clip-on fan in there as well, if they don’t have one installed; I hate being warm. And make sure you put the pillow I sleep on every night to support my head; if I’m going to rest in peace, I need to at least sleep with the smell of my own pillow. If the pillow doesn’t fit into the head of the casket, cut it and remove a bit of the stuffing. I don’t mind, it’s only going to be there a couple of days anyway.

Three: the way the plan goes, I probably won’t be seeing anyone or anything until you’re going into step 4, so be a dear and get my earphones and a long-life music player (or plug it into a charging outlet together with the clip-on fan), load up some songs into it, put the thing on shuffle and plug the phones into my ears. I like Dream Theater, Rage Against the Machine, Daft Punk, Katy Perry and all the songs from Dishwalla’s first album. If you know where I keep my music collection and the music player can handle the storage, better still.

Four: DO NOT give me a funeral wake – no prayers, no incense, no burning of offerings (if it turns out they have an economy where I’m going I’ll e-mail you and let you know). I want a funeral PARTY – with luck, I will have pre-arranged a booking for one night with a restaurant that has a good 8-course menu, a bar, a good collection of beer, liquor and soft drinks and allows us to put a casket with a dead person in it on their premises for one evening, so all you need to do for the party is get balloons for the kids (if helium still exists by then), and prepare appropriately selected goodie bags. Also, make sure you let the guests know to come in their Chow Yun Fatt/Leslie Cheung Shanghai Night best (suits or suspenders for the men, cheongsams for the ladies); it was the theme your mother and I chose when we did our wedding dinner.

If I didn’t manage to pre-book all these things before my passing, put me in a freezer and get everything ironed out before the day. Just remember to thaw me out for a day or two before everything is ready. I don’t want to look like a popsicle during the party.

You might also want to let your guests know to package their ang pows like they do for a wedding; remember we’re doing this in a restaurant, not a bloody void deck.

Five: Try to relax. Feel free to laugh and joke through the night about me, about yourself, about anything and everything; I will leave it to you to freestyle your way through the party, but just make sure it’s fun, okay? My humour was my best asset, and I want people to remember that. Of course, if anyone (including yourself) needs to cry at any point, don’t stop them, but keep it to tears of joy if you can. All I want is for you guys to be happy and have fun.

Six: When everything is over and the last guests have gone, grab yourself a couple of beers and a chair, then come sit next to me. Put one beer on my casket, and have the other beer with me. Talk to me. Whatever you want to say. Anything at all. I know I can’t reply, and I’m sorry. I really really want to, but, you know, me being dead and all. But please, do it anyway. I want to just listen. I just want you to know I will always listen. For as long as you want. For as often as you want. Just talk to me.

Seven: Inevitably, the time will come when my physical carbon-based self will need to be dealt with. Bury me if you can, but if you can’t, cremate me. I won’t ask that you put me at home – that will probably totally freak your visitors out; just put me in a nice place you can always visit. And always visit.

Eight: Now you can grieve. Don’t bother with people who tell you, “He’s gone. Move on.” Grieving is a very important part of emotional wellbeing and must not be slighted. And for your information, you should know better, especially after that talk with me after the funeral party; I am not gone. I will never be gone. You move, I move. That’s the deal I made with you since you were born, and I fully plan to stick to that deal.

Finally, there’s a very good chance your mother will outlive me for another couple of decades, so take good care of her. I’m trusting you with my wife, so don’t screw it up. I will be watching you.

I will always be watching.




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