Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I’m 60 now and at three score years it’s none too soon to think about getting my affairs in order. It’s really my “remains” I’m concerned about. I live well, but I don’t have much. I rent and as far as personal possessions, I’ve got old pawn-shop grade electronics, and some of my furniture is held together by sta-ties.
I’ve got two adult children and didn’t want to be like the lyric in the old Temptations song, “Papa was a rolling stone, and when he died all he left us was a loan” ó along with his corpse (that we had to pay to plant.) Funeral home services are expensive, and I have no money to prepay my interment.
As a veteran, I can get a free headstone and hole dug in the backyard of the Salisbury VA that has meant so much to me. But even if I opt for immediate cremation, that could cost more than $1,000.
But then, as I was perusing last year’s VA benefits handbook under burial benefits, a solution presented itself under the “In Memory Of” headstone section.
These so-designated headstones are for “those whose remains were not recovered or identified, were buried at sea, cremated and scattered or whose bodies we donated to science.”
Hallelujah! I knew what that meant. I could become a cadaver at a medical school, and you know what, when they finish slicing, dicing, and chopping you, they cremate your lab-frog remains FOR FREE!
So then I just had to decide what medical school to go to. I’d always wanted to attend UNC-Chapel Hill and their med school has a “whole body donation” program. (I could then get my “postmortem” from Chapel Hill.)
The application process seemed simple enough, but there was one catch. You have to provide your own transportation. You can’t drive yourself, you’re dead, so you need a designated driver. I’ll bet a funeral home would charge me an arm and a leg for driving me to Chapel Hill in one of their black panel vans, which I would gladly give them. But they would probably want money instead.
As luck would have it, I have an old friend back in Charlotte who runs “After Hours, All Hours Courier Service.” He handles rolls of carpet and furniture, as well as packages, so I reasoned that me, in a body bag, wouldn’t present a problem for him.
I called him and told him “I need to go to Chapel Hill.”
Tony replied, “Do you need to go on a week day or on the weekend?”
“I don’t know when I’ll go,” I said. “I hope it’s no time soon!”
I continued. “I’m going to the medical school there so they can autopsy me, or something like that.”
Tony paused. “But you ain’t dead yet.”
“Of course I’m not dead yet!” I said. “I can’t very well arrange for transport after the fact, now can I?”
I apologized to Tony for not explaining the situation before we got into the conversation and we reached an agreement.
All arranged, right? Nup! Now, just because you’re dead and registered with them doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily take you “when the time comes.” There are certain conditions regarding your death that would preclude you from being accepted as a whole body donor, such as expiring from a pernicious infection. Or being too fat. (As if overweight people aren’t discriminated against enough when they are alive.)
So you need to have a backup plan.
Nonetheless, I feel like I’m pretty well organized right now. One last thing. I’m going to have the inscription “John 3:16” chiseled at the bottom of my headstone. I’m glad, because God’s going to have to do some work to piece me back together again.