It’s all about the food
It’s Thursday, 11 July, 2019. Over the past two weeks many things happened, the biggest being that I started chemotherapy. This is my week of rest from chemo, and it’s welcome. I feel pretty darned good today. I’m not experiencing the fatigue and nausea I’ve been having. I am craving Chinese food but that probably has less to do with chemo than the fact that I just really like Chinese food. The only reason I’m not craving Mexican food – my favorite – is because my friend Brenda cooked me an amazing Mexican dinner yesterday. Thank you Brenda!
Have you noticed that no matter what the topic is, I always bring it back to food? It’s all about the food. Imagine my explanation to the police of a fender bender, “Officer, I was making a right turn at the intersection when that other car pulled out of the restaurant parking lot and hit me. You know, the Vietnamese place with the incredible pho and the soft, fresh spring rolls.” Or, if I was plotting with fellow criminals to rob a bank I’d suggest, “Let’s rob the branch next to that Indian place. I haven’t been there is a while and I want to grab a samosa.”
Buying the farm
So I want to talk about something that most people find morbid but I think is practical and important. What to do with my body when my time runs out. When my clock stops ticking. When I bite the dust. Kick the bucket. Buy the farm. Bite the big one. Cash in my chips. Go belly up. When I go on to my reward.
Funny. We have so many euphemisms for something we have to talk about but we don’t want to say. Let’s face it, we’re all going to di…pass away. And when we do our loved ones are left having to figure out what to do with our “remains.” Would grandpa like the casket with the brass handles, or would he prefer silver? Do you think mom would have preferred to be buried in her pink dress or that cute blue one she wore to Janet’s wedding? Don’t the people who love us, who will be sad, deserve better than to have to plan a big death party after we bite the bullet?
I’ve already made some simple pre-arrangements. I’m not going to plan my funeral. Frankly, I don’t care about it. Although I’ll be the guest of honor, I won’t be there. So I’ve dealt with some of the practical matters. I’ve donated my body to an organization called the Southwest Institute for Bio-Advancement (SWIBA), located here in Southern Arizona. When I check out and the doctor calls it, my “next of kin” – now there’s a term that screams of death. When do we refer to our family members as our next of kin except when we’re talking about death? Anyway, my next of kin will phone SWIBA’s 800 number and SWIBA will arrange to transport my body from the hospital to their facility. There, they will remove anything they think could be useful for medical research and, once that is done, they’ll cremate what’s left and turn the ashes over to my family. I think that’s pretty darned cool. I love the idea of the stuff I leave behind going to good use. Otherwise it’s just going to be worm food, and that seems like such a waste.
I want to be cremated. I think the notion of having my body placed in a beautifully crafted, very expensive box built for the sole purpose of being buried and never seen again is archaic, if not a bit narcissistic. That said, it’s important to me to have a place for my name. I’m funny about that. I don’t want my ashes dumped in the ocean or spread under a tree. I want a place where my name is carved in stone. Or brass. Or anything. Well, not sand. I want a place where my loved ones, my friends, perhaps my yet unborn grandchildren can visit me. I want a place for my name.
How important a name is
I clearly remember the first time I visited the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1984. The memorial is basically a V-shaped black granite wall with the names of the American servicemen and women who died in that awful conflict engraved in it. I don’t personally have anyone in the wall, thankfully, but that war had a huge impact on my youth and I’ve never been unemotional or unopinionated about it. As I sat there in the grass allowing myself to mourn for those thousands of beautiful people whose lives were stolen from them, I noticed some of the visitors touching the engraved names. Feeling the shape of the letters. Caressing them as though they were actually caressing the faces of their heroes. Some people brought paper and a pen and scratched the names of their loved ones onto the paper, creating their own memorial. Maybe they’ll tape it to a picture of their lost warrior. Or maybe they’ll tuck it away in their wallet so they can feel the presence of their son, brother, niece, best friend, always with them. It made me realize how important a name is. I mean, nobody is actually buried there. People don’t go there to visit their loved ones. And yet in a way they do. They go there to remember them. To pay respects to them. To thank them. To mourn for them. To pray for them. And they do this simply by seeing, touching, caressing their names. That’s how important a name is.
Here in Tucson there is an Arizona Veterans Cemetery. Being a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy I’ve earned my own little spot there. The cemetery has a grassy area where those who so desire can be buried in the ground, with a headstone. But it also has an area with walls, called columbaria, made up of niches into which the urns containing the ashes of veterans and their spouses can be placed behind a marble cover. Their names are inscribed in the marble and they will remain there until a developer comes along and moves them to make way for a resort. Or, until another giant meteor lands on earth, killing everything. Whichever comes first.
I’m Nick G. Marulli
I’ve made arrangements for my ashes to be place there in a columbarium. I visited the place recently. It’s kind of weird seeing the place where my remains will be after I’m gone. Seeing what my loved ones will see when they visit me. Wondering what people will feel and think. Will anyone sit on a bench and spend some time with me? Will anyone scratch my name onto a piece of paper? Will I get a crappy spot in the bottom row like cheap generic cereal in the breakfast food aisle at the supermarket?
Finally, when I go to meet my maker, please do me a favor. If you can, tell the people who arrange for the inscriptions that I always use my middle initial. I’m Nick G. Marulli. Including the G is my own personal memorial to my grandfather, George. Don’t let them leave it out. And if you visit me at the cemetery, cozy in my niche, feel free to touch my name. I won’t mind. But be gentle. I’m very ticklish.