Sunday, June 7, 2015

Existential Angst

Lately I’ve been aware of certain cosmic absurdities in life.  In the last few days, I’ve received missives, memos, communiques and sales pitches persuading me to pre-pay my own cremation.  Again.

According to the Neptune Society, which seems to have me demographically impaled on its trident, there are a whole host of reasons this is a good idea – none the least of which is “less impact on the environment.” 

Impact on the environment??? Until now, I hadn’t given the matter much consideration.  I just figured I’d croak, degenerate into detritus, and become mulch.  Now that’s being environmentally responsible.  However, I don’t want to become mulch BEFORE my time.  I’ll “go green” when the time is right. 

However, following close behind that bit of unsolicited advertising, came an ad featuring a cartoon monkey, looking perplexed as he was dangling over a cliff suspended by a branch.  The caption:  “Don’t get caught without your (cemetery) plot.”  (This full-service establishment also offers cremation options.)

Now, according to MY agenda, this seems just a bit premature.  Memo to crematoriums everywhere:  I’m not ready to get smoked just yet! 

What an affront to the sacred rhythm of life.  There I was, swaddled in my blanket womb, underarm rings on my jammies from a fever, and a migraine headache that should be registered as a weapon of mass destruction. And I’m assaulted by advertising pustules obese from the appearance of the virtue of charity, trying to extract loose change from my sofa cushions!  This is absurdity on steroids.

Granted, I felt lousy. Perhaps a little irritable.  I was a whiter shade of pale.  My entrails had turned to filmy slime, and what color I had in my face looked congealed.  I had eyes like a racoon, and I felt like my head had given sanctuary to a stegosaurus. Fevered delirium is not the best time for salesmen ready to light my fire.

But there is something inherently faulty with the reasoning in these ads.  They must be the product of moronic nitwits with vegetative brains from breathing head-lightening quantities of CO2. I’m still irritable. 

Oh, these executives are cunning.  They try to get to us before we’re detritus, just so they can make an ash out of us.    

So in an exercise born of utter boredom, I came up with some macabre jingles that significantly raised the ridiculousness bar.  They are the product of an arrestingly unhinged mind.




  1. Don’t wait to cremate.  Return to burn.
  2. We have “no-fault” vaults – for those who are without sin.
  3. For a small retainer, we provide your container.  The Basket to Casket Funeral Parlor
  4. Ferment in our cement.
  5. Bring your flab to our slab.
  6. Stay calm – we embalm.
  7. For a little cash, we’ll make you an ash.
  8. Burn, Baby.  Burn.

Obviously I was unwell.       

I realize it’s an immutable genetic imperative that we all die at some point. It’s the specifics of all species.  I know that.

But just to make sure there was nothing cataclysmic going on, I had my son-in-law check me over.  He is an accomplished physician, and I trust him.  If he says I’m ok, I AM ok.

He assured me that nothing alarming jumped out at him, except a preponderance of pleated flesh.  He recommended Tylenol Extra Strength for the headache…mine and the one I had just given him.  I asked him how Tylenol worked.  He explained that according to the manufacturer’s representatives, it’s supposed to relieve the migraine by reducing my “existential angst.”  My existential angst?  But that’s so easy.  I should have thought of it myself. So I took his advice and popped the Tylenol. It worked!  All my existential angst disappeared.  I felt so good, I began contemplating cremation! 

Dave also informed me that as time goes by, eventually we age out of certain things – like jury duty and colonoscopies. 

Oh Crap!  Hold on.  You mean we all eventually age out of colonoscopies?  That can’t be.  I measure out my life by certain procedures.  The universe craves symmetry, and so do I.  Time is slippery.  How am I supposed to regulate my life without procedures that are both regular and predictable?  It’s how I gauge where I’ve been and where I’m going. 

People don’t save time, we spend it.  How would I know how to invest my time, if I age out of its rituals?   I need a rhythm to my time, a cadence, a tempo for structure.  For instance, according to my personal peculiar timetable, three more mammograms, and Abram will be preparing for a mission; four more dental check-ups, and a possible crown replacement, and Josh will have his driver’s license; Carter and Necie are 6 pap smears from high school graduation; and Beckham and Asher are 2 colonoscopies away from college.

It’s a matter of timing.

Events happen at intervals.  All things must take place in sequence and synchronization.  I’m just trying to keep things in their natural order.

True, my lower extremities are getting lower all the time.  I can’t deny the obvious. But when I go, I’m hubristically inclined to do it in my own time.  I’m cocky enough to schedule my own calendar.  I’m calling the shots.  I’ll decide.  I’m not pre-paying my cremation!

So as I sat on the exam table, oozing existential angst from every pore, I told Dave that I may die multi-chinned, multi-segmented, circumferentially challenged, with a repository of spare times around my midriff and contoured like a puffer jacket – cocooned in my own bulk.  Hey, I’m ok with that.  But I categorically refuse to enter the next life with polyps!  So, keep scheduling those colonoscopies.  I can stand a stain on my character, but not a blight on my bowel.

He popped two Tylenol, and agreed.

There is a man on the corner of Highland Drive and 45th South every day, who dances to music I cannot hear.  But I sense the beat, and have often been tempted to stop my car and ask if I can join him.  I wouldn’t violate his own rhythm of life.  But I am better for having witnessed it; better for this man’s  joy. I doubt he was thinking about cremation.  Forget the Tylenol.  Let’s dance!

 We can’t prevent what comes our way.  I suppose we just help each other take the blows and make the hardship easier to bear.  It’s the embroidery of life. 

That, and eternal colonoscopies, are the best way to deal with existential angst!