There is now a 20 minute extended version of this track, with the spoken word more spaced out and measured here
I hope this isn’t too morbid, musing on one’s own death, and that the humourous bits come through and lighten the tone. I wrote this over a year ago. It’s not really a poem - more prose - but I hope parts of it will be useful.
Extended remix here
It will seem odd to sing of the end from where I hope is the middle.
These things though are often left unspoken and who will know if I never tell
that when I die I would have hoped for certain things to go my way
so I may rest in the eternal peace of a soul fitting end, if indeed there be a soul.
I have attended many funerals and heard the mourners say
they hoped the proceedings were as the deceased would have wanted.
I have witnessed the overly Christian tones of an Atheist farewell
and imagined a grimace from within the polished walls of the coffin.
I have farewelled close family members and been shocked at how little I knew.
I barely knew my mother-in-law (ours was a late marriage) but there was something
beautiful, spiritual, in the moist softness of pink rose petals parting from my fingertips,
the remembrance of Pachelbel’s Canon in the old, half-empty church
and the coffin lowered to reunion with her long dead husband beneath.
I have no idea who will be left to think of me, or who will care, when I pass.
My husband? Parents? Children? My remaining sister? Nephews? Beloved grandchild?
It could happen tomorrow, or in fifty years, and maybe I will have changed my mind
but the things I write of here, today, have been set in my thoughts for already a decade.
Before I proceed with the order of service, let me offer this to see how it bears out in time
and whether there is any truth in premonition of one’s own death. It is simply this,
that when I was thirteen I felt strongly that I would live only to the age of fifty-five,
which to a teenager seemed ancient! Although I had no vision of how I would die.
And maybe this is a family trait rising to the surface perhaps too soon,
as I know that my father has his funeral mapped out to save us from uncertainty and disorder.
Possibly my need to get this down on paper is prompted by my sister’s death at 43
and a nephew’s at 21. How unfair seems illness to cut lives so short so swiftly
and suspend them cruelly in comas. The waiting is a sentence on the living, yet kindles hope.
I am not keen to go, although I feel I have come almost to terms with death, but I don’t wish to linger.
Please, if there is very little hope, turn off the switch and let me sink into sleep, but for your own sake stay within the law.
I don’t want a mournful sermon to send me off. This is how I hope it will be. Please do your best, those who are left.
First, let the surgeons take my organs, in memory of my sister, if they can improve the lives of others.
I’d like a simple white coffin with no ornamental extravagance. If my hair is still long let me wear it down.
Some flowers would be a nice touch – simple daisies ( a small variety) will do. I am a lover of daisy chains.
My husband would say I’m romantic – too romantic – but I know what is important to me and I’d like to lie among nice things
before the rot of worms and pessimism sets in. Sorry my love! It is true what Eliot said – humankind cannot bear too much reality
though I have my realistic streak too. I have learned that too much realism is unkind to the spirit.
Dress me in a long flowing dress of soft, simple cotton in white or blue or saffron, perhaps a little embroidery.
And no shoes or underwear! I insist on bare feet and no knicker line! And let my breasts fall free!
I’d like to wear my wedding ring and I’m always seen with earrings that dangle and sparkle, but no necklaces please!
I think it would be symbolic to send me into the flames with a book clasped to my chest, and there is only one
that carries a weight of meaning – the blue bound volume of T.S. Eliot (1962) given to me by my Auntie.
You’ll find it on a book shelf somewhere. I’ll become ash with Burnt Norton. Let me be; it’s amusing!
As for make-up, I do like it and although there will be no-one to see it I think it will hide the pallor of grey
But keep it simple and understated – no bright lipstick! Just a subtle shade of muted berry to keep my lips moist.
If you discover my strange habit of keeping my children’s lost teeth, and find them scattered throughout my drawers
in little boxes and envelopes…or the sachet of hair from my son’s first cut…I think I can finally part with these
I won’t take them with me! I’ll be in the mood for letting go of life’s little oddities and mother comforts.
My service should take place outside if I am lucky enough to go in Spring, or the cooler part of Summer.
I prefer a cathedral of trees and the openness of sky to the trappings and plastic fernery of a chapel.
Keep it short and simple. Let only a few determined speakers tell of their memories. That is all very well
and perhaps necessary if there is any grieving, but I’m keen to have some poetry, so please…Poets come and read
send me off (not up) with verses and bring a guitar….even better a saxophone .
There’s only one bit of the Bible I’ll be happy to have read – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 – and when it gets to the part
“When I became a man…” please do me a favour and say “woman”. I am what I am.
I’ve already made it clear that music and poetry should be invited to the service but please bring me a Buddhist monk
with bells and gongs and chants. And a prayer on the Four Immeasurables – Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity.
Scented flowers are beautiful to me – like Roses, Jasmine and tropical Frangipanni – so cover my coffin with these
and imagine me smiling as I lie in wait for the furnace. I will be happy.
Don’t feel that afterwards the guests should take tea as I was not a drinker. Drink wine or beer and be merry!
When the ashes have been raked and bottled I hope that someone will drive me to my resting place of choice and scatter me in three
Part of me will go to my husband. If he should go before me scatter a third on his grave and water me in.
If still living he may wish to hold me for a while. Two thirds of me should be driven to Moorook and scattered
at a part of the Murray where there’s a rose garden beside the river. Pour me over the roses and I will enter their roots.
The final portion should go into the river where pelicans nest and I shall return to the epiphany of my youth
whatever it was that remained with me all those years. From the time I was 16 and a group of us slept in cars beside the water.
The morning was supernatural with mist. It was bitter cold. My clothes were damp. I stood in the early light and watched
a pelican rise into the white wisps of daybreak. I don’t know what happened but I was unexpectedly one, with trees, birds, river, mist
and as I write this it still stirs my solar plexus, catches in my throat, and induces a tear. I don’t know what it was
but that’s how I’d like to end. Returning to a sacred morning. Ash to earth. Ash to water. In my element.
© Deb Matthews-Zott 16.05.09