How Do You Know If You're Dead?

by Tana Suter • 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.

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