I felt responsible yesterday. It's a rough word, implying maturity and sober organization. Some days I've got it, some days I don't. But yesterday, after literally years of being reminded that it was necessary, my wife and I finally signed our will. We also started a family trust, to boot.
It's a heavy moment when you sign your will. I don't think often about death, but it's impossible to miss when you're deciding what happens after you move on. We're not meant to be on this earth forever, but actually deciding what's going to happen with your stuff after you go makes it clear that everything in this life is temporary. Other than my dog and my Buster chair, I don't have anything worth fighting over, but I still had to divide up my assets between the three boys. I don't have what you could really call "papers," in the academic meaning, but I've kept all my journals and notes, along with all the manuscript pages for each book. In my moments of grandiosity I see myself donating them to a library someday — though I can't imagine an institution that would want them. So it is that all this labor and sweat is fleeting, and even the things I leave behind don't have an everlasting quality.
Which got me to thinking: what can I leave behind that might have a lasting quality?
Well, a party for starters.
As I was driving home from the House of Pain today, still sweating and in need of a few moments of relaxation before starting to write, I took a shortcut through the Saddleback Church campus. It's a vast space and always empty on weekdays. I drive through there often on the way back from the gym. For some reason it gives me a sense of peace.
Anyway, today I'm cutting through Saddleback when I see a sign with an arrow and big block letters: Memorial Service. First the will and then that sign — the burden of pondering my mortality felt like more than a coincidence, I got to thinking about what my own memorial service would look like.
This is what I came up with:
For starters, there'll be music. Lots of it. And loud — the kind of volume that makes your bones ache. Songs: Thunder Road, of course. Bottle of Smoke. Something by Tom Petty. Creating a playlist will have to be a deathbed priority.
Liquor? Oh, yeah. I don't want people to get so drunk that they forget who and why they're memorializing, but a fair amount of craft beer, premium wine and brown liquor will put everyone in the party spirit. Shots are definitely in order.
Crowd? The more the merrier. I think it's a stretch to think I'd draw enough people to fill a small auditorium, but a good-sized room filled with family, friends and maybe a few people who like my books and have nothing better to do feels right.
I'm ok with some crying and heartfelt speeches. Maybe a poem, or even an original song composition(!). But I'd also like to keep it real. My good friend Chris Noonan will definitely see to that. She's called me Shithead since high school. I don't see her changing anything for a memorial.
Bottom line is I'm having a whole lot of fun and adventure in this world. That final blowout party should reflect all that. I want it to be the gold standard of memorials, inspiring everyone who attends to also go out in style.
This responsible phase will pass, hopefully by the end of today. But another small note has come out of it. I am realizing that all the little regrets and bonehead moves that I've been carrying around for years — born out of stupidity and prolonged in my memories by shame — don't matter one iota. It sounds trite, but I'll own it: nothing matters but love.