Do You Have a Bury-the-Body Friend?

17578403 - woman carrying spadeI’ve gotta get me some friends, and not just Facebook friends, although I appreciate every one of you. I need some “bury the body”* friends, preferably young ones with strong backs.

County commissioner and sister writer Claire Hall shared that saying with me at a party on Saturday. A “bury the body” friend is one whom you can call at 3 a.m. to help you dispose of a corpse and they say, “I’ll be right there.” They don’t ask why you have a body to bury. They don’t say, “Are you crazy? It’s the middle of the night.” They just show up. With a shovel. That kind of friend.

I don’t expect to bury any bodies (okay, I did bury a dead rabbit a while back), but I do see the need for a bury-the-body friend. As a widowed, childless woman getting older by the second, I have been reading this book, Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers by Sara Zeff Geber. It’s extremely well done, and it scares the bejeebers out of me.

Geber’s main message is that we need to get our act together while we can. Even if we have spouses and kids, we need to make arrangements for our older years and our death. Our spouses may die. Our children may or may not jump in to help. And if we have neither, we’d better figure out who is going to handle such things as paying our bills, making medical decisions, making sure the dog gets fed, helping us to transition (God forbid) to a nursing home, or deciding what to do with our bodies when we die. Cheery stuff like that.

If we don’t have all our paperwork in order and haven’t chosen people to take care of things, either things will not be taken care of, or the job will be given to folks who don’t know us well enough to know what we would want.

So we need friends. Let me stress that I do have friends, wonderful friends, but most of them are older than I am. No, no, no, says Geber, you need to cultivate younger friends. Cozy up to them until you trust each other enough to put their names on your advanced directive. I’m not good at cozying. I hate networking. I’m uncomfortable at parties unless I’m playing with the band. Take a class, volunteer, join a club, says Geber, but I’m already plenty busy, and where I live, most of the people doing these things are seniors like me. Should I move?

How do all the people on TV sitcoms hook up with friends who are always together, always in one another’s homes, always there in a crisis? Does that really happen?

I’m working on ways to connect with friends under 65. I’m open to invitations and thinking of making some of my own, even though I’m an introvert who is much more comfortable at the computer.

How about you? Do you have a bury-the-body friend? If you don’t, do you worry about it? If you do have such a friend, how did you connect and how do you keep the friendship going?

Here’s another question: With young people so tied to their electronic devices, will they find themselves without lifelong bury-the-body friends in old age?

Please comment.

* I’m still trying to locate the original source of the “bury-the-body” saying, which has developed many variations, including that a real friend will show you the good spots for burying and that a real friend will assume that if you killed somebody they deserved killing.

** If you remember last week’s post, Annie the dog had knee surgery on Aug. 16. We were almost done with the worst of her recovery when her inflatable collar deflated early Saturday morning. I woke up to a limp collar and the dog licking her incision. She kept licking it, reopening the wound and making for a tense weekend. I bought a new collar that proved too big. She got it off and went back to licking. This morning, which was supposed to be the day for removing Annie’s sutures, the vet sentenced us to an extra week of the collar, the pills, and the inability for me to leave the dog for any longer than necessary. Back to the Mini Pet Mart. I bought a new collar that even escape artist Houdini could not get out of. We’re both going stir-crazy. Grr.

Photo Copyright: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo

Sing Your Song Now

This past week, I’ve been thinking about death. On Friday, I heard about the deaths of two friends, the mother of a woman I sing with at church and the husband of my lifelong best friend, Sherri.
Catherine, the mother, was 89. She had suffered from the effects of a stroke for many years, and she had been bedridden since October. For years, I saw her sitting in the front row at church, a little confused, most of her hair gone, but so in love with God. Shortly before Catherine died, she told her nurse, “My stroke is better.” She was ready to go. Last Thursday, she passed peacefully into the next life. We’re singing at her funeral this coming Thursday, repeating the songs that were sung at her husband’s funeral in 1993. They’re together now.
After I heard about Catherine’s death, I gave up on work. Whenever someone I know dies now, I relive my husband’s and my mother’s deaths. I need time to deal with the turmoil in my mind and my heart. We had sunshine and blue sky with the most fascinating cloud patterns, the kind in which you can imagine all kinds of things, from animals to angels. I lay on the deck and watched them slowly change.
As the afternoon wore on, I took Annie to the dog park, where she romped with four other big dogs and a shitzu-maltese that didn’t realize it was little.
It was at the dog park that I got Sherri’s call, one I had been fearing. Her husband, Gene, had been in the hospital for two weeks, unconscious the whole time. A massive heart attack, coupled with out-of-control diabetes and kidney failure, offered a bleak prognosis, and he died. A week before he went to the hospital, they had been living a normal life with no idea that he would not make it to the end of the month. Gene was 69.
Sherri married Gene the same year I married Fred. We have shared so many things in our life. From first grade through high school, Sherri and I were always together. We went through lost teeth, First Communion, first periods and first bras, first crushes, and first attempts to play the guitar. We both married divorced men who had three children from their first marriages. As we aged, we saw the same chiropractor and took the same pills. When another friend and I formed a traveling vocal group, Gene sang bass with my husband Fred. I can still see them in their white shirts and red bow ties.
Sherri worked at Los Gatos Town Hall while I worked at the Los Gatos Weekly-Times. Eventually we both left California, but for different reasons. Sherri and Gene ran into financial trouble, lost their house and hoped to start fresh in a small home on a big patch of land in Texas. They had only been there eight months when Gene went to the hospital in Ft. Worth. Sherri buried her husband on her 60th birthday. I’ll be 60 next month. Now, we have something else in common, something no one would ever wish for: We’re both widows.
I’m thinking a lot about death these days. You never know when it will happen. If there’s something you must do in this life, do it now. Yesterday, I sat in the sun playing my guitar and singing for a long time. It felt good. It felt right. If you have a song that needs singing, sing it now.
Rest in peace, Catherine and Gene. May God be with your loved ones as they go on without you.
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