When in the South, do as Southerners do

When in the South, do as Southerners do

Maybe it’s just a Southern thing, like flying the Stars and Bars, serving up vinegar-based barbecue and calling your parents “Momma and Daddy” long after you’ve reached adulthood.

Those are red flags, for sure, and I don’t want to be buried here.

Not that I’m sick or anything, but with my brother in the hospital and his being two years younger, I’ve decided I’d better make a plan so that when I die, I’m not left like a musical chairs loser.

I don’t worry too much about my brother. Last time I heard, he was in line for discharge, having spent the night in a Florida hospital, owing to shortness of breath and COVID-related asthma. By now, I hope, all he’s got to worry about is Hurricane Ian, but that’s supposed to hit the Gulf side, so he and his wife should be fine.

But his hospitalization, brief as it was, has stirred up some powerful emotions. Obviously, I regret not being able to be there for him, and it’s regrettable we haven’t spoken since before the Fourth of July, but what’s really bothering me is I have no plot reserved for my final resting place.

The only thing I know is I want to be buried back home.

“Well,” my wife said, “then you’d better get on the phone.”

She’s all set: long, long ago, she told me all about her plans to be cremated and how the dispersal of her ashes should go. Strangely, she wants no part of being scattered in or near the ocean, which is what I would have guessed, but I’ve only been with her since 1987.

My wife’s also drawn up all kinds of instructions concerning her assets, financial and otherwise, so she sleeps quite soundly at night.

Me? I’m lucky if I can rest, uneasily, for four hours at a stretch.

Part of the problem is I’ve always planned to live forever. I rarely see a doctor, hardly ever consider altering my lifestyle and have an almost absolute distrust of anything to do with hospitals.

I don’t want to get caught up in any “system,” be it legal, penal or medical, because I know how little anyone cares about the person.

It’s all about money, and I don’t have very much. If I’m careful and my wife keeps an eye on my rather embarrassing bottom line, I can afford one restaurant meal a month and the occasional beach trip.

Beyond that, I rely on God’s good graces, and that’s another problem. I haven’t been to church, not counting weddings and funerals, since we relocated to North Carolina in fall 2000. Without a parish here or in Ohio, there’s no priest who’d even know my name, let alone agree to allow his church to serve as a jumping-off point for my journey into the afterlife, such as it is.

So that’s not good. Neither is not having a graveyard picked out, a headstone in waiting for the second date or any way of knowing if I’ll have a good view, maybe of a quiet stream or the setting sun.

At this point I’d call for a show of hands, but I’m afraid the vast majority of you faithful readers have long since taken care of that business and, like my wife, don’t worry about it anymore.

I’m reminded of a recurring nightmare. In it, I’m late for a class I’ve never attended and, as I sit down, am handed a final exam I have no chance to pass because I’ve never been there before.

Allow me to quote the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 13, Verse 35:

“Keep watch! You do not know when the master of the house will return: In the evening, at midnight or when the rooster crows.”

Geez. It’s no wonder I can’t sleep, waiting for that darn rooster.

But I think I may have found a temporary solution to the problem of my resting place, at least in the short term, and that’s thanks to a Southern tradition I didn’t know about until I started editing obits.

Back at the turn of the century when I was still making my living in daily journalism, part of my job involved proofreading obituaries, and as the last line of defense against lawsuits and other nasty ramifications resulting from typos in those final sendoffs, I began to become aware of something rather peculiar — to wit, words like “will be buried in the family plot” in such and such a location.

I’d never heard of such a thing. Then again, down here people call a stocking cap a “toboggan,” so what did I know about this place?

Turns out, as I discovered driving on country roads, it’s not uncommon at all to see grave markers set in yards, sometimes in between garden sheds and plastic swimming pools, mostly stuck in the grass beneath a live oak tree, Spanish moss swaying in breeze.

That gave me an idea.

Maybe — and I’m just spit-balling here — I can be buried temporarily in the back yard of the house we’ve rented for almost 22 years. I wouldn’t want to be left behind when my wife headed wherever she might be going, but until and unless more permanent arrangements are made, that might buy me some time.

Still, this gated community might have rules on the books prohibiting that sort of thing, so I’ll have to be slyly circumspect.

I guess my only choice is to keep on living, if not forever, then for as long as I can to avoid that infernal rooster’s cock-a-doodle-Dewey.

Mike Dewey can be reached at Carolinamiked@aol.com or 6211 Cardinal Drive, New Bern, NC 28560. He invites you to join the fun on his Facebook page, where talk of the afterlife is encouraged.

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