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mince is not a meal
August 21, 2014 7:36 PM   Subscribe


 
Aww.

I've watched both my parents go through this in the last few years and I am really, really not looking forward to it. But I guess it's less tragic than the alternative.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:48 PM on August 21


YMMV. And by that, I mean that MMDV.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:56 PM on August 21


Mostly on target, although who's allowed to take two weeks off for such things?
posted by octothorpe at 8:00 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]


Aww, indeed.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:00 PM on August 21


Mostly on target, although who's allowed to take two weeks off for such things?

Communist school children.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:01 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]


My mileage varies indeed, but it's a true, funny, and touching story.
posted by theora55 at 8:02 PM on August 21


This is kind of like being stabbed in an open wound, the first item especially.

One thing that hit me (like a hammer between the eyes) when my father died is the realization that I can control nothing. The people I loved most in the world died, slowly and in pain, and someday it'll be my turn to lay in agony in a hospital bed. (Except there probably won't be any visitors then.) Death may come quickly and be a total surprise, but I doubt it. There's no controlling death or the way we die, not for ourselves or for the people we love and would do anything to protect from harm. It's a shitty deal, but that's the price we're forced to pay for being alive.

Somehow, knowing that there's agony and death at the end of the road has actually made me braver. (If it's all going to end up the same way, best to enjoy what you've got.) I've done a lot of things in the last two years that would have been terrifying before, because I've come to realize that being alive, and getting the most out of life means so much. That's the part we can control.
posted by Kevin Street at 8:03 PM on August 21 [24 favorites]


Wow. That felt like a punch to the gut. Both of my parents are still alive, but my mother was recently diagnosed with cancer. They told us she had about ten years left as a best case, which is not an insubstantial amount of time. But it has lead to all sorts of discussions about what should be done with the house and other things when they both pass away. And the thought of that first night when I travel back and sleep alone in the house terrifies me. I have no idea where I'm going with this, but I think I've decided that if some fortune teller ever offers to tell me how long I have to live, I will reply with a resounding 'No, thank you.'
posted by C'est la D.C. at 8:07 PM on August 21 [2 favorites]


By the time my mother passed there wasn't really much left to do since we'd already sold off the house and all of her stuff to pay for her care. I have a friend who's an estate lawyer who told me recently that inheritance seldom happens anymore because the last few years of life usually eat up all your money.
posted by octothorpe at 8:16 PM on August 21 [8 favorites]


Wow. That felt like a punch to the gut.

Man, no kidding. I kept wanting to tell the guy STOP JOKING, YOU'LL HURT SOMEONE'S FEELINGS but I have no idea to whose feelings I was referring.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:23 PM on August 21 [4 favorites]


inheritance seldom happens anymore because the last few years of life usually eat up all your money.

Which makes this a good time to remind people to MAKE OUT WILLS. Do them with your parents, do them for yourselves.

My parents are redoing theirs at the moment and we are having entertaining discussions about life support and standards of living. The default behavior of the U.S. medical system will completely wipe out any normal estate, so make sure everyone involved knows when to say "when".
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:36 PM on August 21 [5 favorites]


I've been dadless since 2001, and one thing I've learned in that time: I never particularly liked my dad and am glad that he went first. I've also learned how satisfying it is to cook regular meals for my mother, and how good it feels to see how much she appreciates them, considering that she eats like a fucking budgerigar otherwise.

Protip: cook dinner for your widowed mother, it makes you a proper human being.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:41 PM on August 21 [20 favorites]


MMDV too because I was older when this happened and we didn't have funerals for either of them but by golly he's right about the Dad on Your Pants part and the Secrets part (somewhere in a Florida landfill there is a presumably perfectly operational vibrator I threw into a trashbag with a shriek) and the Weird Things You Miss.

Also there are suddenly large parts of your personal history that no one cares about any more (although that may be specific to only-child orphanhood).

Um, on preview, a tip about wills: they only work after you're dead. If you want people to be able to pay your rent if you're in a coma, you need a limited power of attorney, and if you want specific people to be able to make medical decisions in anything close to the way you wanted, you need a living will (although it's not binding - your wishes may still be overridden, and possibly your designated healthcare authority will not be respected, depending on circumstances.)

Also, tell your family your wishes about organ donation, because they make the decision, no matter what you write down. (Donor families do not pay for organ donation procedures in the US. That is a myth and a mean one at that.)

Also also, when your loved one dies, order more death certificates than you think you could possibly need. In some jurisdictions you can do it directly and the funeral home will rip you off; in others you have to go through the funeral director or face a delay.
posted by gingerest at 8:45 PM on August 21 [12 favorites]


I guess I'm sorry for everyone who felt bad from this? Because I thought it was fucking hilarious and perfect and it makes me so fucking relieved that there are other family-less people out there who find it a neverending carnival of terrible hilarity and biting back awkward cackles of "oh god what now" every time something else goes wrong/stops taking care of itself/taxes happen/what the fuck is perpetual care anyway/tombstones cost HOW MUCH/no i don't remember when i had the chicken pox and everyone who did is dead now sry

It is a wild ride.
posted by elizardbits at 8:49 PM on August 21 [37 favorites]


Also I found out about 2-3 months after my mom's death that my dad had pretended, 100% totally faked and faked it well, totally falsely and lyingly pretended to be as horribly afraid of dogs as my mom was. I discovered this when I found photos of him as a teen and young adult at his family's summer home outside Budapest, gleefully cuddling all manner of dogs and riding horses and generally being something of a country gentleman, that he felt he had to conceal from my city girl mom who was afraid of everything that moved that wasn't human or mechanical, including the tiny kitten I may have catnapped from the delly next door to the Limelight one extremely high night.
posted by elizardbits at 8:53 PM on August 21 [34 favorites]



Mostly on target, although who's allowed to take two weeks off for such things?

Communist school children.


Me, actually, although I might as well be a communist school child
posted by elizardbits at 8:54 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]


Yeah this was a well placed bit of writing.
I lost my mom at a young age and my dad about 6 years ago. Some things I've learned...

Definitely definitely have a power of attorney in place, also your DNR wishes, a will, and make your wishes known. My dad was in that he had foreknowledge and we had time to get things in place. If he hadn't taken those steps we would have been up the creek.

As he moved closer to dying, his religion - long ignored by all of us - became more important. It gave him great comfort when we went through some of the rites with him before he got too sick to participate, and it was a HUGE relief for him to know that he could be buried in consecrated ground after being cremated, and then to find out that he could stop his insulin and and start the process of dying himself without it being a sin. Even if you're not religious, please take into account that these things DO matter.

If you can get hospice care, do it. It's not just for the dying.

Never underestimate the lengths that shitty relatives will go through to pilfer things at the wake.

Yes, I cleared my dad's browser history, at his request and without looking. Some things you just have to do without being asked.
posted by disclaimer at 9:15 PM on August 21 [10 favorites]


As an American who has buried two parents now, the word "Dumpster" is intricately linked with a parent's death.

We have so so many knickknacks that no one would even take for free at a yard sale.
Start cleaning now, save your kids 2 weeks of their lives.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:17 PM on August 21 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I was in grad school and took, like, a whole quarter off both times. Money was still a thing but very very fortunately I had a husband to sponge off.

A thing you can do for comfort, if you are a very bad person like me: steal the glossy catalog from the funeral home and cackle privately at the memorial options. Freaky statuary! Cremains keepsakes! "Huggable urns"!
posted by gingerest at 9:20 PM on August 21 [5 favorites]


In the last few years I watched both of my longtime girlfriend's parents die, I've had cancer, my cat died and I've watched both of my parents age into their 70s. So, death has been much on my mind and the future is pretty terrifying. Life just seems to end in pain and misery most of the time, no matter what you do. I don't want to believe that I've got a whole lot of unbearable suffering ahead, but it seems almost inevitable. Like, that's just how life goes, you know?

STOP JOKING, YOU'LL HURT SOMEONE'S FEELINGS

I could relate to that compulsive irony thing, where you reflexively make jokes even though they don't actually make you feel any better. It was like he was trying to confront the death of his parents armed with that Vice wiseguy voice, and his weapon was inevitably wanting. There are some things that snark just can't save you from. Makes me think of that line from Fight Club: "How's that working out for you, being clever?" (I've never even seen that movie, and that line still haunts my days.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:24 PM on August 21 [5 favorites]


We have so so many knickknacks that no one would even take for free at a yard sale.
Start cleaning now, save your kids 2 weeks of their lives.


My dad, who recently turned 67, and is closing in on the age his dad died suddenly, has out of the blue started to clear out the basement and garage(s). I suspect it's for my benefit, and I'm really not sure how to feel about that...
posted by Harald74 at 9:33 PM on August 21 [4 favorites]


I suspect it's for my benefit, and I'm really not sure how to feel about that...

Feel grateful. He is sparing you a long, long, miserable job. If you can spare the time or energy, I'd say offer to pitch in. It could be good to know what stuff he finds most valuable, and what stuff you'd never want to throw away.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:38 PM on August 21 [18 favorites]


"I didn't think I'd laugh that much at an article with the tags 'death, parents, Joel Golby, funeral, ashes, life, family, dead parents, Orphan'."
posted by Sebmojo at 9:41 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]


Joel Golby also writes some of the weirdest and funniest celeb gossip columns ever.
posted by Nevin at 9:44 PM on August 21


Okay, my parents are both still alive, but I helped my ex clean up her dad's house after he died, and a lot of this article resonated. The bizarre caches of things - a closet full of toiletpaper, unopened knee-high socks from the 70s, her 20-years-dead mother's clothes, shoes and craft supplies, an aluminium bucket full of water and unpeeled onions quietly rotting away. It seemed like such a maddening, frustrating, miserable experience in so many ways that laughing about it was the main way of coping. I suspect I will do the same when it's my turn.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:47 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]


Start cleaning now, save your kids 2 weeks of their lives.

Cue slightly hysterical laughter. Right, no, try 6 weeks. Though, okay, my mother may have been a bit of a collector. I thought I would never get through everything, and I never did find the one family heirloom I wanted, but such is life. I vow to not do that do my children, and I guess time will tell.

It's been hard to make the decisions of what to keep, as it is just me. There was so much - family bibles, civil war pay card, parts of china sets, etc. and all that stuff kept filtering down to fewer and fewer people until it's just me. It was odd at 40 to not just be an "orphan," but have everyone else gone, too. I miss getting to laugh about the weird family stuff and sharing the childhood memories.

I joke about the orphan thing, I'm not sure you get to take the orphan tag as an adult, but I have found that it makes my peers uncomfortable to even find out I've lost everyone, so it's good to be able to share in the dark humor.
posted by dawg-proud at 9:51 PM on August 21 [9 favorites]


YOU ARE AN ADULT NOW

Suddenly, at age 27.
posted by fredludd at 10:28 PM on August 21 [3 favorites]


This is a bit odd for me. I really appreciate the dark humor in this, because so many people nowadays are such damn pussies about death. (The term 'he or she passed' fills me with active loathing.) Hey, my parents are dead! So count me in on the orphan club. But my mom and dad died 22 and 15 years ago, respectively, so I really didn't have to deal with any of the shit listed in the article. Hell, I've been cooking for myself since I was 15... but I was fortunately spared having to be the executor of anyone's estate or having to arrange any funerals.

Anyway, when I was younger, I used to think, "well, by the time I'm in my forties, at least the whole 'I'm an orphan' thing won't be such a big issue." WRONG! Shit, it comes up more then ever. "Beatnik, where do your parents live now? Where are you spending the holidays? Can't you ask your parents for money? Man, I sure hate vacationing with my parents! How about you? Don't your parents bug you about getting married and having kids?"

AARGH! I mean, I've been living with, "hey, they're dead" for a long time, and I often think of Yzma's quote from The Emperor's New Groove: "He ain't getting any deader!" But I often get. so. TIRED. about having to have the dead parents discussion over and over and OVER again. I've had two decades of dealing with this shit and it doesn't get any smoother, believe me. Because no one ever seems to relate and they always get so quiet and uncomfortable. "It must've have been so terrible for you!" Yeah well, it sucks, but what can you do about it?
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 10:48 PM on August 21 [9 favorites]


Last month my uncle died. A couple years ago, my grandmother died. A bunch of years ago my grandfather. My dad's still here, but like dawg-proud notes, I know it must be kind of bleak for him in some ways. He's the last one.

If he was closer I'd make him dinner sometime, as turgid dahlia suggests above. That will have to wait until Thanksgiving, when we'll cook the big family meal together (his third wife's family) as we have done for several years now, and worry about the timing of the turkey and why dont the notes we left on the recipe last year and the years before make any danged sense?

Anyway, I'll call him tomorrow and ask how the salmon are biting.
posted by notyou at 10:53 PM on August 21


Start cleaning now, save your kids 2 weeks of their lives.

After my mum died 2 40 yard trash bins of stuff went to the dump. It's brutal and you feel like a traitor throwing it out. So yes, let go of your stuff early.
posted by Zedcaster at 10:56 PM on August 21 [3 favorites]


Start cleaning now, save your kids 2 weeks of their lives.

My mother is an attorney who does estate planning (and thus has seen the messes people leave their children, not to mention the mess her own mother left her). She has been continuously working a few things at a time for years on clearing out things from my parents' house that aren't used by my parents or wanted by me or my sister. It is seriously one of the nicest things she could do for us. Every time I get a text saying something like, "Grandmother purchased for you and your sister these glass vases that look like flower baskets with tall handles. Cannot see either of you using. Okay if I give away? Love Mom" or "Do you want unofficial guide to your college from 2000-2001? Moving through the excess accumulation!!" I am seriously so thankful that she's making the effort. It's a real act of love to prepare for what will fall to us after her own life is over (may that day be many decades from now).
posted by ocherdraco at 11:17 PM on August 21 [7 favorites]


everending carnival of terrible hilarity and biting back awkward cackles

I have a tiny (8 people still living in my entire extended family) and generally sardonic/hilarious family and this part describes us pretty well sometimes-- last week I went with my dad and aunt to visit my insanely long-lived grandmother, who is deep in dementia, and she asked if her grandparents were in California. Yes, they are, my aunt says. Later she brings up her grandparents again. Can they come visit?

"They're pretty entrenched in California."
posted by NoraReed at 11:56 PM on August 21 [26 favorites]


Adults are expected to know the facts of life. Death is inescapably one of those facts.
posted by Cranberry at 12:26 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]


Start cleaning now, save your kids 2 weeks of their lives.

Whatever the opposite of hoarding is called, my grandmother had that. Anything she wasn't using regularly got thrown out. If she hadn't been stopped she would have ended her life owning one set of clothes, a bed and a kitchen chair; everything else in the house would have gone.

It obviously meant her house was more or less pre-cleared, but you can't help wondering how many interesting old books, photographs and other items were junked before anyone could stop her.
posted by Segundus at 1:23 AM on August 22 [4 favorites]


Hospice is wonderful, but, like everything else in America, some of it is for profit now, and shady (Google it). Be careful in choosing your hospice organization.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:24 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]


Very British.

This is not a negative criticism.
posted by Decani at 3:06 AM on August 22 [7 favorites]


Start cleaning now, save your kids 2 weeks of their lives.

Oh gawd, yes. If there was anything that we learned about cleaning out my mom's house was that if you don't throw it away, you're just saving it for your kids to do. No one cares about your kid's fifth grade report card twenty years later or that stack of birthday cards from your aunts. Throw the shit out.
posted by octothorpe at 3:38 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Start cleaning now, save your kids 2 weeks of their lives.

Cue slightly hysterical laughter. Right, no, try 6 weeks
.

My parents had hoarding tendencies. I went home every weekend for four years to clean out that house.
posted by magstheaxe at 4:00 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]


Well, there's a lot of truth in this piece factually speaking, and I know we all have different ways of coping with pain and expressing it and so on. And I know that humour can be a perfectly innocent defence mechanism. But the humour in this piece just doesn't sit well with me. At all. I'm 36 and never quick to offend, but hmmmnn. Bad call.

To be honest, it reads as if he either wasn't very close to either of his parents, or that he needed to write the article but the only way he could steel himself to do it was to awkwardly slap on some very unfunny jokes.
posted by paperpete at 4:53 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


My mother-in-law was super organized. In a closet she kept a shirt box for each child with a selection of their childhood memoribilia, a stack of heirloom monogrammed linens (immaculately clean), the family silver (polished, natch), and several photo albums with all the people and situations in them named. That's it as far as nostalgia. The rest of her apartment was also clean and organized. We were able to clear it in a weekend.

I think about her a lot when deciding what things to hold on to -- it really was the nicest thing to have a carefully curated, manageably sized, and well-cared for archive of this stuff. The shirt boxes, especially. The boxes were just the right size to flip through and see a baby footprint, a hand turkey, a book report, an especially glowing report card, a picture of friends camping in the backyard and that's it. When I walk through Michael's nowadays and see the insane amount of scrapbooking and treasure-boxing going on I get anxious for the people who will have to go through it all in a few decades.
posted by apparently at 4:55 AM on August 22 [9 favorites]


the humour in this piece just doesn't sit well with me. At all. I'm 36 and never quick to offend, but hmmmnn. Bad call.

I think it's just very, very British.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:56 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


As someone who went through the same thing, just at a younger age and in the US, this is spot on.

I would add one thing that probably only applies to orphaned college and grad students - the dorms at your school will likely shut down during breaks. Finding affordable alternate housing for those times is a bear, and your school's housing folks will be useless.
posted by metarkest at 5:01 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]


But the humour in this piece just doesn't sit well with me. At all. I'm 36 50 and never quick to offend, but hmmmnn.

This age adjusted comment echoes my feelings about the article.
posted by Kerasia at 5:09 AM on August 22


Never underestimate the lengths that shitty relatives will go through to pilfer things at the wake.

Oh that's horrible, but I hope each one gets confronted in the act with sustained eye contact and "Thank you for taking that off our hands. I hope it means as much to you as it does to me."
posted by psoas at 5:14 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


I can't really get into the writing style here and had wished for a more cathartic read for me personally. This is not a criticism of the article, but like some others it didn't quite coalesce for me. I may have had too high of an expectation given today is a sad anniversary for our family.

I've joined this club. I've been there for a while. Others around me have started to lose their parents and loved ones. We're also told we're too young for this sort of thing. However, we've been out on our own for a while, most of us are married, others have kids, and we have our own homes. None of that really helps you feel like you're on sure footing.

When my mother passed, I had people twice my age come up to me, rough professionals that had hardly spoken to me despite us working together for nearly a decade, and they just said, "Something changes when you lose your parents. It doesn't matter your age, you can't really describe it, can you."

Those sad, blank stares. I remember vividly the eyes. Something about them, slightly teary, wide, lost. These were my eyes as well. There is something innate in these feelings.
posted by Muddler at 5:30 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


We have so so many knickknacks that no one would even take for free at a yard sale.

My 75 yo 2x cancer-survivor father's biggest concern in recent years is what will happen after he dies to the shelves of collectible mugs and duck figurines on the shelves of his den. It breaks one's heart.
posted by aught at 5:49 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]


I think my yiayia (dead) and pappou (alive) felt the same way about their sort-of-classy sort-of-kitschy pseudoclassical Greek tchotchkes, but OH HO, they did not realize their grandson would be delighted to TAKE THEM ALL

CHECKMATE, YIAYIA
posted by Greg Nog at 6:01 AM on August 22 [12 favorites]


Too much looming in that piece.
posted by arnicae at 6:08 AM on August 22


the humour in this piece just doesn't sit well with me. At all. I'm 36 and never quick to offend, but hmmmnn

This is some very strange culture clash. I had to go back and read it again, looking for humour, because I didn't remember any; and I still didn't find any. It just reads exactly like something I could have written myself, trying to provide a glimpse of what it's like to join the strange My Parent Died club that you can never leave.
posted by emilyw at 6:10 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


emilyw, the article didn't have too many actual jokes but it had a kind of weird facetious tone that seems weird to use when you're talking about dead parents.
posted by octothorpe at 6:20 AM on August 22


Thanks, octothorpe. I was trying to express the same idea but couldn't think of the right word. Facetious tone is seen as a mainstay of British humor in the U.S.

The fact that it's not maudlin or quietly ruminative about what would be seen as a very heavy situation puts it more squarely in that camp.
posted by psoas at 6:25 AM on August 22


If you’re planning to do this: ask your parents now, while they are vital and healthy, where they want to be scattered.

Please do this now, especially if you have a parent with whom you are not particularly close. I know exactly what my mom wants done with her ashes* (and I pray I won't have to deal with that for a very, very long time) but my dad died when I was 24 and the box with his ashes has spent 13 years tucked away on closet shelves or book shelves. And I've dragged it along on four cross country flights (long story). All because I didn't know my dad well and I have no idea what he would have wanted. And no one else seems to either. Most of his family is dead and my mom doesn't have a clue.

So there he sits. On a shelf. Sorry dad.

* "I don't care where my ashes go, as long as you don't mix me in with your father!"
posted by elsietheeel at 6:26 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


There are some things that snark just can't save you from.

Snark is the blanket fort of life. It may not keep away the boogyman but at least I won't see him coming.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:33 AM on August 22 [11 favorites]


I think there must be some cultural thing at play here, because it doesn't read as facetious at all to me. I think he picks the same tone that I'd chose if I had to write something like this. Sure, it's tone is light, and he focusses on the minutiae of the situation, but that signals something (and like all unspoken agreements, it means a lot less when it's made explicit). Because how can you capture what it's like to have both of your parents die on you when you're 27? It's impossible to do that, but by discussing the trivial, the small daily details, the embarrassing moments, he hints to the audience that he feels all the big things (he wouldn't be confident enough to write this if he didn't), and he uses the little things to provide a bit of insight into what living with the big things is like.
posted by Ned G at 6:35 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Two of my best friends have recently been faced with their mothers dying just this year. Both are also only children, and one was raised only by his mother.

I've been trying to be as supportive as I can, and they're grateful for the support I give, but I am very aware of just how healthy my own parents are and how much longer they're likely to live and I have never felt so bloody useless as a friend.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:41 AM on August 22


I feel like he's talking about the little things to demonstrate that he bumps into the fact that his parents are dead ALL THE DAMNED TIME. Every day, in big ways and small. He sounds lost to me. I liked the article.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:45 AM on August 22 [10 favorites]


Facetious tone is seen as a mainstay of British humor in the U.S.

To me that tone is just the normal tone I would use in a public piece about something personal like this. It's educational (and slightly frightening) for me that someone else might find it "facetious" or "humorous" and worse "inappropriately humorous", yikes!

Publishing something maudlin about my personal stuff would seem the odd and inappropriate voice for me; if I wrote that kind of thing it would be for extremely close friends only.
posted by emilyw at 6:46 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


I can't get over the quality Vice is pumping out lately. Who knew?

My mom had a stroke this year and my dad landed in the hospital in a pre - diabetic sugar coma. They lived with my developing family for 6 months and just recently went home to their dusty hoarder house which they still will not clean out. On rough days I "joke" about how convenient a home fire would be.

Get your house in order and you'll give your children the greatest gift.
posted by Pardon Our Dust at 6:52 AM on August 22


Get your house in order and you'll give your children the greatest gift.

Heh; Mom was a pack rat (not quite into "hoarder" territory, but a couple corners of the house would have made people go "hmmm" and wonder), but then when my grandparents died she took on the brunt of cleaning out their house - and it was enough of an impact to Scare Her Straight. She's been gradually cleaning my parents' own house out ever since.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:05 AM on August 22


My mother, my mother-in-law, and my grandmother all died within two years of each other. We had to go through more collectables and tchotchkes than you can shake an entire forest at. Hundreds of jazz albums (kept). Dozens of pairs of shoes (Goodwill). The top of my kitchen cupboards are FULL of collectable teapots; I DON'T COLLECT TEAPOTS. Ancient kid-art, souvenirs of vacations taken long before I was born...what do I save? What do I trash? Will some relative I've never heard of end up being destroyed because I gave away that QEII ashtray they'd had their eye on for forty years without my knowledge?

I still have a tin containing the chunk of hair my mother cut off in a fit of independence when she left her second husband. I laugh about it, but realistically it's just one more goddamn thing my kids will have to decide whether or not to trash when *I* die.

I loved this article BECAUSE of its somewhat flippant tone. I understand that a lot of people out there will be completely destroyed when their relatives start dying off - particularly their parents - but I cope best with humor. It makes the fireflies in my brain light up with joy when I read something written by another person whose first response to grief is a knock-knock joke. When we scattered my mom, the minister and I walked back to the house singing, "Blame Canada" and it was fantastic.

Tons of sympathy to people who are having a hard time coping with the loss of a loved one. Seriously, it's hard. I get that. OBVIOUSLY I get that. The thing is, there are plenty of grief support networks out there, and places where you can go to hear your loved one(s) spoken of in reverent and respectful tones; there aren't as many places where a person like me can feel as though I'm not a bad person for making anal probe jokes the night before my mother died.
posted by Hamadryad at 7:10 AM on August 22 [8 favorites]


Ten years before my grandmother died she called us all together and said, "Soon I'll be dead, take whatever you want right now because I don't want to deal with it." She wasn't even sick! We all thought she was nuts, but really what she was was a steely-eyed pragmatist. So we all spent a long weekend being forced to go through all of her stuff and duke it out, with her sitting there, over who would get what. I'm really glad she did that, because her presence mitigated the actions of some of the more craven relatives, and we were also able to ask her "how special to you is this pasteboard, sequin-encrusted bust of a matador, really?"

My mom and I have both inherited her matter-of-fact approach to death, I think. We were at a funeral of a distant relative recently and, appalled by all the carrying-on, I turned to her and said, "I just want you to know that when you get really old and sick and infirm, I'm going to put you on an ice floe, like the Eskimos." And she whispered back, "Aw hell, Rob, just stick a hoe in my mouth and drag me out to the back 40."
posted by staggering termagant at 7:19 AM on August 22 [9 favorites]


I'm 47. In the last fifteen years I have helped my parents clean out the homes of their parents, and watched a lot of my friends lose their parents and have to clean out their homes.

It convinced me to purge a lot of stuff. And you know what? I really like not having that much stuff. It's nice to have more space and less junk.
posted by elizilla at 7:25 AM on August 22


When I was 15, my dad lost his mum. My dad is painfully shy, a sweet but mostly silent person. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with him one day, and he brought up the matter of nana's inheritance, which had been split in two savings accounts for me and my brother. I mumbled 'OK', and after a moment's silence he started talking again, completely unprompted.

'It's weird to think of myself as an orphan.'

And it's true: think of orphans and you think of children, usually the protagonists of novels by Dickens. You forget that the vast majority of orphans are adults.

My parents are both still very much alive and well. Which is good because my parents are also two of my best friends in the world, and I would be a wreck without them. I'm thankful, though, that they don't keep hold of a lot of stuff; when they go, I'm pretty sure the thing I'll miss is them.
posted by dumdidumdum at 7:46 AM on August 22


I was enlisted to help a friend move some stuff from his parent's house. We went to get the boxes and on the way home I remarked that the house sure had a lot of stuff. As his parents are old and frail I asked what he is going to do with it all when they go. He said, "Me? No, the insurance company." "What kind of insurance is that," I asked. "Fire insurance" he deadpanned. I am still not sure if he was joking.

My parents have been forced to downsize as they moved into a retirement community. They are in a small house they call the "waiting room" that either is the place they are in before they die or before they go full assisted living.
posted by 724A at 7:50 AM on August 22


My mother and I live in the same town that she grew up in, and the owners of my grandmother's house contact her every once in awhile (Nana died in '86) to ask if she'd like this one more thing they found stuffed away under the floorboards in the attic or behind one of the kitchen cupboards.

One of the boxes they brought over were letters from Mom's uncle, written during World War I. That was fascinating.

This winter, Mom and I are tackling the attic, which hasn't been decluttered since the family moved there in 1979. Lots and lots of things that we saved for...some reason...will be thrown away. I'm very grateful that she's taking these steps, but it's heartbreaking to know why.
posted by xingcat at 8:00 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Me? No, the insurance company." "What kind of insurance is that," I asked. "Fire insurance" he deadpanned. I am still not sure if he was joking

Half joking. Quarter joking, if your pal is like me.
posted by Pardon Our Dust at 8:03 AM on August 22


I lost both my parents... I guess it was in the 90s.

I love this article, and I found the humor quite appropriate. Of all the things you should at least try to laugh at, death in your own family is right up there. You can't sit around wailing in grief - if no one else, my parents would have hated that.

It does make me morbid - I'd say that I think about my own mortality 3 days in 4 - but it also makes me desperately appreciate what I have (which is a lot - I don't have a car or a flashy TV or a house but I have a great little family, a nice little apartment with a garden, and more interesting things that people want me to do than I have time to finish!)

My father wrote up his own obituary and that's one of many things I'm thankful to him for - because I wouldn't have done it, it wouldn't have gotten done and I'd still feel guilty. He was even going to arrange a burial society but, well, he died before he got to that.

My father did make it totally clear that we were to spend as little as possible on disposing of him - he specifically said he'd come back and haunt us if we didn't (he was joking about the haunting of course but his intention was clear). So I was able to tell the funeral director this in good conscience, but then I asked him for the full tour anyway, it was actually a lot of fun. At one point we got to some five-figure casket and he said, "This... is the Cadillac of coffins."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:42 AM on August 22


you need a limited power of attorney,

A thousand times this.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:54 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


I'm 29 and my entire immediate family died over the course of the last five years. I have no living blood relatives left that aren't at least four or five generations removed, which is a strange way to be.

I found this pretty funny and endearing.
posted by griphus at 8:56 AM on August 22 [5 favorites]


Also, there's a scene in Prometheus where David the android asks Shaw "Doesn't everyone want their parents dead?" and she just shoots him a look of utter confusion and disgust and goddamn if that wasn't a picture-perfect take of the inside of my brain for about five straight years.
posted by griphus at 8:59 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


I have no living blood relatives left that aren't at least four or five generations removed

YES THIS. Also it is super weird having to now be the one who keeps in touch with the distant relatives, all of whom have not seen/known me since I was a teenager and who will thus assume that I will show up to cousin Rivka's black tie wedding in a ratty old Bon Jovi t-shirt and cutoff jeans.
posted by elizardbits at 9:08 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]


My father did make it totally clear that we were to spend as little as possible on disposing of him

My father's will reads "My body will be cremated, in whatever vessel is typically used for the indigent, the unidentified, or wards of the state." Although I hope not to have to lean on that for some time, I . . . kind of appreciate the specificity. Like, "What would you use for a hobo who was found frozen to death with no ID? Yes, I'd like that one please. See, it says right here in the will."
posted by KathrynT at 9:14 AM on August 22 [14 favorites]


"Is there a Ralph's around here?"
posted by griphus at 9:20 AM on August 22 [5 favorites]


they found your mother's corpse dead in a pile?
Er...pile of what? Other corpses?
posted by yoink at 9:50 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


You know, I was going to read this article before posting, and then I realized that it was a Vice article. I'm so behind: is Vice okay to read now, or is it still full of terrible people writing about terrible things? Maybe I'll just imagine the article based on these comments.
posted by TrishaLynn at 9:56 AM on August 22


My dad died three months ago (Jesus, three months? I was about to write six when I checked the date.) One thing for those who have parents for which this is true- tell them you love them when you talk to them on the phone. Maybe not every time. But try to get in the habit. It made things easier for me, and I know for my friend who's dad died when she was 18, she had fought with him in her last phone call. It still gets to her at times.

Write a fucking will. Probate is a mess, especially if you leave debts. I am speaking from experience here.

Funerals, wakes, memorials, what have you, are more for the living than the dead. In fact, with the exception of things like last rights, they are for the living and not the dead. Do what makes you and those you are close to feel some closure and then don't worry about it.

There is no right way to grieve. The stages of mourning are bullshit.

Getting people together for scattering ashes is a pain in the ass. If you're not doing right after the service, it can cause a falling out between relatives.

You can get away with telling some off color jokes, like inviting my friends who had lost one parent to form the "semi-orphan" club with me. However, it generally is best to avoid them at the service, unless the person was known for that sense of humor.
posted by Hactar at 10:06 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


I also find the article annoying and a little strange; which I attribute to the author's youthful age and culture. I find the yucks more spot-on in Roz Chast's new Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? which I recommend to anyone whose parents are in the end-stage.
posted by Rash at 10:10 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm sorry for everyone who felt bad from this? Because I thought it was fucking hilarious and perfect and it makes me so fucking relieved that there are other family-less people out there who find it a neverending carnival of terrible hilarity and biting back awkward cackles of "oh god what now" every time something else goes wrong

I had the same reaction... except maybe with less cackling.
posted by zennie at 10:41 AM on August 22


When your parents are gone, there's nobody left (symbolically) between you and death itself.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:15 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


If you’re planning to do this: ask your parents now, while they are vital and healthy, where they want to be scattered.

I spoke to my father recently-ish about his desires for end-of-life care and burial/cremation. He was very adamant that he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered.

"Where?" I asked.

He looked at me like I had two heads. "I don't care. Wherever you want."

It seemed odd that the scattering was important but not the location. It'll certainly make it easier to accomplish, though.
posted by jaguar at 11:19 AM on August 22


I want to do whole body donation when I die. I've heard it's free, and they cremate the remains and deliver them in an urn after a year.
posted by Ambient Echo at 11:55 AM on August 22


"assume that I will show up to cousin Rivka's black tie wedding in a ratty old Bon Jovi t-shirt and cutoff jeans."

WELL, YOU MIGHT, ELIZARDBITS.

Also, wtf is a "huggable urn"? I am scared now.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:59 AM on August 22


Also, this is how my cousins and I paid tribute to our great (and great-great) grandparents last week while our parents were out on the lake scattering their parents' ashes. I'm told Mom got some Grandpa on her, and that they only poured out ONE bottle of beer for him because he wouldn't have been pleased about us wasting perfectly good beer.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:03 PM on August 22


My dad died in '95 and my mom just died in May after a long decline from dementia. She was 89 and I am almost 55. I'm going through a minor medical thing right now and really missing my mom. Of course, not the mom of a few months ago, but the one who took such exquisite care of me after my car accident in 2006. I guess it is never easy to become an orphan. I am lucky in that I have family close by who are helping, but it isn't the same.
posted by agatha_magatha at 12:08 PM on August 22 [2 favorites]


This really resonated with me on so many levels. After my mom died fifteen years ago (twenty years after my dad), I was shocked at how much stuff she had in the house, and how much cash it represented. All I could think was how glad I was that she had never been concerned about impressing anyone else with her stuff, and that everything in the place was something that she found personally useful, beautiful, or comforting during her lifetime.

At the end of the day, the majority of whatever you accumulate is just crap to those left behind.
posted by rpfields at 12:41 PM on August 22


The ashes thing reminds me of that scene from The Big Lebowski
posted by Renoroc at 1:42 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


So I found this a kind of awful read, but it did remind me that I probably ought to tell someone, probably my sister, that I would like to be an organ donor and I would like to be cremated and I would like my ashes spread near some family graves in the quiet northern Vermont graveyards of my funeral-filled youth.
posted by maryr at 2:14 PM on August 22


Also, wtf is a "huggable urn"?

The My Little Pony Cinnerarium (tm).
posted by yoink at 2:41 PM on August 22 [4 favorites]


I found it hilarious, and also a good reminder that I need to get in touch with my friend who is an attorney so that I can make out a living will. Also, I am pleasantly surprised, between this and their live feed in Ferguson, to learn that Vice can not suck.
posted by kalimac at 3:14 PM on August 22


it did remind me that I probably ought to tell someone, probably my sister

This is what your will is for! Just telling someone won't make it happen if there is anyone else in your family who might be against this sort of thing.
posted by elizardbits at 5:58 PM on August 22


Both of my parents are dead. Living dead, lost to dementia. For five years I was their primary caregiver and house manager.
I don't know how to describe those years, except they were difficult.
When their dementia progressed beyond my capabilities to care for them, even with assistants, I decided to move them into an Adult Family Home.
Then I had to clean nearly 50 years of accumulated belongings from their house and sell the place.

Home is the place they have to take you back. That doesn't exist for me or my sisters any longer and it never will ever again.

My parents recognize me when we meet, but they're not the people I remember my parents as.

For all practical purposes, both of my parents are dead.
posted by Pudhoho at 11:17 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


I usually have a very morbid, twisted sense of humor but I guess I lost that reading this article. It's just horrible and not even in a sarcastic tone. I lost both of my parents in a year and a half. One from breast cancer the other from CHF. I saw how age and disease slowly kill your body, it slowly takes things away from you like your memory (vascular dementia), vision (that's glaucoma due to chemo), and even walking (one day my mom could walk into the store, the next moment she collapsed in the parking lot and couldn't get up).

Death of my parents has taught me many things---that life is short, that getting old sucks--REALLY SUCKS. In fact, it sucks so much that now I"m a jaded shit. You're yelling at me at work because we have three hours until a letter goes out and it still has errors in it (that you wrote) and you're yelling at me? Fuck you, I've seen people slowly die, man, now that's a reason to yell and freak out. I'm 42 and you're telling me that the mammorgram shows suspected DCIS? So...breast cancer and all of the wonderful memories it brought up in witnessing my mom suffer for 7 years and hey, I have a 5 1/2 year old so I can't fucking just slowly die and have him witness it. And you won't promote me because I won't put in 60 hours of week in for free. Yea I have shit to do like...live my life.

So for me, this article doesn't even scratch the surface of reality and the issues you face and feel whether you're 27 or 42. The last two impressions it leaves are you're an alone and you're an adult. Now I have to figure out life all by myself and it sucks.
posted by stormpooper at 7:56 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


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