Low-key big living

Tue Review 10 May 2016

Sometimes, the difference between the upbringing of my husband and I is vivid. Over time the edges have softened and we meet in the middle more frequently. However, there is a non-avoidable aspect of life that we still negotiate delicately. It’s the subject of death, which came up this week over a discussion about life insurance

In my family, we make jokes about dying, or of killing each other, and will openly discuss wills and funeral plans.  There is even a small container in my mother’s house that contains lists of which songs we all want played at our funerals, because making those decisions after a death is “added stress that’s avoidable”. When my grandmother moved into a nursing home, she told each of her grandchildren to say what they wanted of hers and then take it. She also laughed at my choice: a damaged copy of a book I loved reading whenever I was at grandparent’s place as a child. What’s so funny about that? It’s “Australia’s Most Dangerous Creatures” – a great reference book about what will bite, sting or stab you, complete with colour photos of said creatures and injuries. How sweet.

In my family, death was acknowledged as a standard part of life, a task that must be dealt with (such as via will-writing) and to be discussed with melodramatic flavour whenever possible:

“We’ll be over on Sunday.”
“I can’t promise I’ll be here. You should know I’m not long for this earth.”
“Then you’d better not plant any radishes”.

I have no idea how radishes become part of the running joke, but responding to a request by saying “I don’t know if I can – I’m not long for this earth, you see” has been a standard response for multiple generations for over 50 years.

In my husband’s family, and probably in most families, this would not have been seen as normal behaviour.  Death was not a light-hearted theme. It should be respected and should not be discussed too frivolously.

I know that death is a serious issue and a painfully sad matter to attend to when someone passes away. I also know also far easier to prepare for the inevitable if you feel comfortable talking about the subject. Between hubby and I, we manage to find middle ground between his respectful compassion and my practical bluntness.

But I still have some questions to be answered.  If you have a joint life insurance policy and you die together, what happens to the money? If you get your ashes turned into a diamond, can the company guarantee that every single ash of yours was collected, and there’s nobody else’s ashes diamond-ified with you?

And at my funeral, in addition to a Mika song and a piano piece by Kuhlau, which opera song do I want?  The one from The Shawshank Redemption that carries everyone’s hearts over the prison walls, or the one that Felicia mimes in a giant silver stiletto in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert?

Life is full of tough decisions.

Goal check!

Brain Goal: I will read 5 books by Christmas.
Action: I’m reading an old favourite at night to help ease me back into the routine of reading. “Felidae on the Road”. The best $2 my Mum ever spent in a supermarket.

Body Goal: I will exercise for 30 minutes every day, outside when the weather permits.
Action: Well, I’ve managed to get outside for a walk twice in the last week and have been exercising regularly (although not vigourously enough!).

Soul Goal: I will visit 12 new places by Christmas (only 3 to go)
Action: Currently planning the trip to Scotland in June. Been browsing Booking.com for places to stay that are near, but not in, Edinburgh.  So the next new place we visit may be Perth or Stirling.

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