A quote from one of my all-time favorite novels reads: “…while
golf and fishing are Scotland’s most popular outdoor sports, gossip is the most popular indoor sport. And when it rains as much as it does in Scotland, people spend a lot of time indoors.”
That quote reminds me of our small northwestern Colorado communities. We don’t generally have rain in the winter, but we do have -20 temps and general winter misery that keep us indoors more than normal. The resultant Vitamin D withdrawal, schedule disruptions from the holidays and weather systems, and general unhappiness triggered by frozen nose hairs frequently rears its ugly head post- Christmas in the form of malcontents with an axe to grind, interpersonal noise and general crankiness. Sound familiar?
If you find yourself on the receiving end of the gossipy malcontents, don’t fret. Some other poor cluck will be in their scopes next week.
If you bring your gossipy malcontentedness to the newspaper office, don’t expect to find yourself or your gripes in print unless you bring actual evidence of wrongdoing (think Watergate and the Pentagon Papers).
On that note, if you don’t like the way something is being done at the paper or by our reporters, please ask us about it—preferably in person. Our office is open Monday-Thursday from 9-5, although if you show up on a Wednesday you might get a less than hospitable explanation about why we do things the way we do them. If you have a better suggestion we’ll certainly take it into consideration. We’re always looking for ways to improve.
Meanwhile, we’ve all got a bit of cabin fever this time of year. We’re tired of snow removal, tired of tiptoeing across icy downtown streets, and tired of bad roads. That means we need to give each other a bit of grace and space.
We’ve got months to go before spring actually arrives, so perhaps the best advice is to “hold your tongue.” Try meditating. Till June.
What will happen when you die?
I’m not talking about your eternal soul or your intrinsic being, that’s between you and your Creator to figure out. I’m talking about the pragmatic stuff… What happens to your cherished collection of concert T-shirts? Or that kitchen filled with vintage appliances?
On a bigger scale, what happens to your property, your house, your investments? There’s a lot of unexpected detritus to deal with when someone dies, and if plans are in place to take care of those things before death, it’s much easier to deal with.
Depending on which statistic you use, the majority of adult Americans don’t have a will in place, including adults with minor children. If you die, and your kiddos are underage, what will happen to them? If you don’t decide, the government can decide for you, and that’s scary. What about your pets? Who will take care of them?
Even fewer adults have a plan in place for their “digital footprint” after their physical death. (Who is going to turn off your Facebook account, etc.).
How many of us have shared our post-mortem wishes with the family members who will be tasked with decisions about our physical bodies? Do you want to be cremated, buried, donated to science, turned into a diamond, planted as a tree, used in a fireworks display, added to a shotgun shell, melted and turned into a glass paperweight (these are all legitimate options available today) or otherwise disposed of? What do you want done with your ashes? (Ethan is still stuck in my living room, a fate he probably would have considered worse than death, but we never got farther than the cremation question.) If you’d rather be buried, what kind of headstone do you want? And have you made plans to cover the costs of burial?
The reality is that family members usually end up making those decisions, often from a place of shock and pain, and what they decide may or may not align with your wishes or accurately represent your life.
Family members are also tasked with writing the obituary, and that’s a painful role to take on. After more than 15 years of copyediting obituaries, I’ve come to the conclusion that we should all write our own obituaries and update them once a year, if for no other reason than as a kindness to those we leave behind. We know our own life stories better than anyone else, and we’re definitely the best person to pick our own obituary photo.
The HT is planning to host some events in the months ahead that will include “How to Write Your Own Obituary,” how to create a will that will hold up in court, dealing with your digital footprint, and how to have those hard discussions with family members.
As the saying goes, the only guarantees in this life are death and taxes. Unfortunately, particularly when we’re young, we do very little preparation for either. It’s time to change that,