Being old isn’t always defined by the amount of times you’re rode the earth around the sun. My grandfather is 82 and he has more spunk and energy than I do. In some regards, age is an attitude … an outlook on life.
Here are ten characteristics I’ve noticed that define the “old outlook” on life.
One: Increasingly skeptical
Two: Increasingly isolated
Three: increasingly worried
Four: Increasingly moralistic
Five: Increasingly unwilling to try new things, hear new things, embrace new things, see new things …
Six: Increasingly tribalistic
Seven: Increasingly protective of things over people
Eight: Increasingly sedentary. There’s a difference between retiring and becoming sedentary. Old people do the latter.
Nine: An increasing idealization of the past
Ten: Increasingly becoming more and more like a dead person.
WHAT ARE OTHER CHARACTERISTICS OF THE “OLD OUTLOOK”?
Back before Twitter, before Facebook, before Gmail, around the same time that Hotmail was cool, there was this place called the “Myspace.” And on this “Myspace”, it was a common practice for the members of the “Myspace” to answer a litany of random questions and then post one’s answers to said random questions so that all one’s friends could see the answers.
Let’s go back to the age of indestructible Nokia cell phones, to the time when you connected to the internet through dial up, and let’s pretend it’s once again cool to have frosted tips and answer random questions.
One. Are you a death virgin (have you had anyone close to you die?).
Two. When you die, do you want embalming, cremation or other?
Three. Who is your current crush? (Had to throw that one in there for old times’ sake)
Four. If you could choose, would you rather die having sex, or die while saving an old person from drowning?
Five. Would you rather die slowly (so that you could say your “good-byes”) or fast (so that you could have minimal pain)?
Six. Does the most epic way to die necessarily involve Chuck Norris?
Seven. Do you believe in the afterlife?
Eight. On a scale of one to ten (with 10 being the highest), how would you rate your fear of death?
Nine. Should voluntary active euthanasia be legal or illegal?
Ten. Have you ever touched a dead person? If so, how would you describe that experience?
Eleven. If you died today, would you be happy with your life? If no, what would you regret?
Twelve. What do you think is worse: outliving your spouse or outliving your children?
Thirteen. If you could come back as a ghost, who would you haunt?
Fourteen. Worst death ever in a movie?
Fifteen: If you believe in God, do you think he knows the day, hour and minute when you’ll die?
Reach back, grab some nostalgia and answer these question in my comment feed.
As the news flashed across the screen, “230 Dead in Club Fire” I sat remembering five years ago when I unzipped two small body bags. I remembered the smell. The smell that lacks a comparison; a smell that sticks to your clothes; a smell so permeating that your piss smells like it for days after.
Enclosed in each body bag was the small body of a burnt child. I was unzipping the bag to see if they were viewable. Charred. Blackened. Bald faces. “No”, I thought to myself, “there will be no public viewing.”
And my face, my face looks down as I let things outside of my control paralyze me from the inside. Motionless, I sit as I remember that mother as she screamed out her grief in the funeral home.
When we think about the inevitable, how do we lift our heads? How do we not just close our eyes and ask for the mercy of eternal sleep?
You will die.
I will die.
Maybe painful. Maybe today, robbing me of watching my son grow. Or maybe I die old, the last of my family, alone. Or, maybe I will see my son die, unable to stop an inevitability that is stronger than I.
And yet, I’m reminded, as I sit paralyzed that although from dirt I was made, I am no longer.
“Stand up, child of God, so I can speak to you. Stand up. You were made in my image, you will create. You will create what is good. Stand up, so I can speak to you.”
So I stand. I will not be paralyzed by what I cannot change, I will learn to smile. I will be vulnerable. I will stop and look at the stars, the flowers, the beauty of the snow, the fading transience of a passing sunset. I will always have time to talk to you, to stop and help you and to be your friend. Each day will be my masterpiece; each day, as I lay down my head to rest, I will see that it was good.
I will be the creator of the good. I will be like God. I will speak it into existence.
Every time tragedy strikes, the swindlers come out in drovers. In fact, a couple scam artists set up fake charitable organizations during the Sandy Hook School Shooting and were taking “donations” for the families of the victims. There are few words to describe the awful level of humanity one must adopt to scam those experiencing tragedy. And while we’d like to think scamming those at their weakest moment is a confined event, it takes place as a matter of practice by some who are masquerading as “funeral directors.”
I’d like to say that ALL funeral directors are in the funeral business to serve people, but sadly there are those who are looking to profiteer on humanity in their weakest moment. Yes, many — even most funeral directors — are good people, but there are some.
In 1984 the Federal Trade Commission established The Funeral Rule. It was created to protect you, the consumer, from scam artists who hide under the guise of respectable, here-to-help-you “undertakers.” Even decent funeral directors tend to bend parts of the The Funeral Rule, and I – being a funeral director – know which parts tend to be bent.
Let me highlight those parts of The Funeral Rule that you, as the consumer, should be aware:
One. A burial vault is NOT required by state law. Most cemeteries require a vault to keep the ground from eventually caving in, but some do not require vaults. If you don’t want to pay the extra expense of a burial vault, find a cemetery that doesn’t require them!
Two. While embalming still constitutes the “traditional funeral”, it is NOT required. In fact, we must have the permission of the next of kin to embalm. You can even have a public viewing with an unembalmed body. No worries, no one will catch death if an unembalmed body is displayed in public. *Some states require embalming when transporting a body from one state to the next.
Three. You don’t need a casket for cremation. Profiteering funeral directors will try to sell a rather pricey “alternative container” for cremation, but most crematories only require a body bag that keeps body fluids contained.
Four. You don’t have to buy the casket, urn or merchandise from the funeral home. You can buy it from a third-party, such as Wal-Mart; or, you can make it yourself.
Five. Our “basic service fee” is necessary to pay, but everything else is an optional item/service to be purchased, such as a casket and even transportation of remains (you can do this yourself … although you need to go through the proper channels).
When all is said and dead, if you want a “traditional” funeral or cremation, it should be more cost effective and efficient to use your local funeral home’s services and products, but sometimes it’s not. I advise you to price shop BEFORE you pass. Some funeral homes are nearly twice as expensive as others and it’s helpful to find that out before you die.
There are funeral directors who are legally sound, but ethically stinky in their pricing. Make sure you find a funeral director that YOU can trust with your funeral and your money. And know your rights.
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