When I Die
When I die in that car crash, I want you to erect one of those roadside memorials with the white cross and flowers, making people wonder if perhaps the coroner came on the scene and found me in such bad shape that he gave instructions just to bury me right there. And use the good PVC; don’t be a cheapskate.
When I die and you have my funeral, I want you to invite Samantha Flynn, the first crush I ever had. She was my secret love from kindergarten until second grade when my parents got divorced and I switched schools and love became an impossibility. I saw her again in a grocery store when we were in junior high, and I never knew if her averted glance and slight smile meant that my unrequited love had reason to hope or if she could barely contain her contempt at how stupid I looked in cotton shorts.
When I die and you invite Samantha Flynn to my funeral and she gets to the church, if no one has come yet, I want you to tell her that the service has been postponed a couple hours. Then, for crying out loud, go rent some people to mourn my passing and welcome her into the sorrowful procession.
When I die and you see Samantha Flynn sitting three quarters of the way back in the church where you’re giving my eulogy, her eyes averted from your solemnizing and a slight smile upon her face as if to say she can’t believe all these people would come bid farewell to such a loser, I want you to tell the whole rented assembly about the time in second grade when we were in Sunday School, when the teacher asked us all to sit under the table for a stupid reason and I refused while everyone else obeyed, and when the teacher asked everyone to sit back in their chairs and I sat under the table. Samantha may look up at you surprised, as she looked at me that morning, perhaps fearful that the social fabric of the Sunday School class would come unwound if I openly disobeyed the teacher, perhaps wildly excited that someone so bold as I held out hope that we all have the freedom to choose not to bow to tyrants, be they generalized existential anxieties or Sunday school teachers with poor classroom management skills–the message is the same for all of them.
When I die and you tell the story of my heroic stance for religious liberty, I want you to observe carefully if a knowing tear forms in Samantha Flynn’s eye. And if not, then I want you to tell the church-for-hire so gathered in my memory that it was not only my stubborn and principled rebellion that kept me under the table long past the time I heard the teacher whisper she would ignore me so that I would stop trying to get attention. I was also held there–captivated, really–by the sight of Samantha Flynn’s underpants.
When I die and you tell the story of Samantha Flynn’s underpants during my eulogy and in tears she runs out of the church and you’re paying the leased congregation for their services, I want you to hurry out to the parking lot before she leaves and discern whether the tears are a sign of unrequited love that she held also for me, a churning tumult of sorrow at love having been so close yet veiled, and also thankfulness at having been so loved even if unperceived. And if so, tell her that I am in heaven smiling and content to be so fondly remembered and that with the angels and the saints we’ll all bask together in the warmth of pure love remembering how childish all our love used to be, when she gets there.
But if this is not why she cries, yet for some other reason, perhaps that she was portrayed in an unfavorable light in the eulogy, and so by her outburst making herself the center of attention at my own funeral, tell her that I am in heaven telling the angels and the saints the same story about her underpants and that we’re all going to laugh at her, when she gets there.