How Do You Know If You're Dead?

by Tana Suter • More.com Member { View Profile }

I’m asking because there is some evidence, albeit limited, to suggest that I’m dead. My friend Charlotte shared a recent conversation she had with a former client. When my name came up, the client said, “Tana? Someone told me that she died.”

Charlotte concluded with a chuckle, “If you were dead, I’d know it. Right?”

And I’d know it, too…right? I realize that the Grim Reaper isn’t a touchy-feely kind of guy. But when someone dies I would think even he would conform to standard rules of etiquette and inform that individual first. And if there isn’t such a requirement, don’t you think there should be?

It’s weird to hear yourself being referred to in the past tense – someone who was but no longer is. I would hope that anyone speaking of me in that tense would offer gratifying declarations such as, She never missed a deadline. She had so much energy. Or, She was talented and beautiful. Okay, maybe that’s reaching.

But all that tensing leads me to a related question: How do you know when you’re having a really bad day? When I was younger, a flat tire on a rainy day was about as bad as it could get. That was before I lived long enough to generate a reply that had sufficient shock value to clear a room: I got cancer, I lost my job and my dog died. All I needed was my pick-up truck to break down and I could’ve written a country song worthy of Reba. But I didn’t own a truck – I navigated the clogged arteries and tight underground garages of Washington, D.C., in a hybrid car. That left me little in the way of heart-rending material for a plaintive lyric with just the right twang.

So I decided to redirect my dashed country-song-writing energies into a one-act musical about my life. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Act I, Scene I: (Spotlight center stage. Two menopausal women, one bald and the other with thin, post-chemo hair. Both dressed in black tails, top hats and canes, swaying side to side to a rhythmic piano vamp).

Woman 1: How do you know when you’re having a really bad day?

Woman 2: When you wake up only to discover that you’re dead. Ba-da-bing!

I know.  Some of you think I’m displaying an unhealthy preoccupation with death in addition to exceedingly bad taste in theatre. Fine, but before you solidify that conclusion, please take a moment to respond to the following questions:

Question 1 – All those who are not going to die – ever – raise your hands.

(If you did not raise your hand, please continue on to Question 2.  Otherwise please return to whatever death-defying activity you were engaged in, i.e., scrambling up the face of a 1,000-foot sheer rock cliff, or cave diving. At night.)

Question 2 – When I die, the band I want to play at my funeral is (select one only):

a) Montovani’s String Orchestra (If you selected this response, you’re already dead. I’m just saying…)

b) Guns ‘n’ Roses

c). Bonnie Raitt

d). I don’t want a band. I want a DJ spinning Motown and funk’s greatest hits.

Bottom line? There are worse things in life than death: a bad facelift, untouched roots, loss of cognitive function, an awful band at your funeral. Take what you learned from this handy self-assessment and lay out a preliminary plan for your ultimate event now. Then store those funereal blueprints in an easy-to-find place. You’ll feel relieved and secure in the knowledge that, just in case you die and you-know-who doesn’t think to mention it to you, your loved ones will discover your wishes and throw an appropriately fierce bash everyone will remember and that’ll do you proud.

What’s your reaction?

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