Thursday, February 25, 2010

Don't be in too big a rush to declare somebody dead

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

To his utter surprise, Canadian singing legend Gordon Lightfoot found out he was dead last week. Thanks to a prank that began on Twitter, tributes started pouring in from fans and even very credible media outlets ran heartfelt obituaries.

A few hours into the prank -- that spread like wildfire thanks to the lightning speed of the Internet rumour mill -- Lightfoot's staff confirmed that he was very much alive and well, much to the relief of fans and much to the chagrin of some red-faced media outlets, bloggers and social media enthusiasts who rushed to be the first to announce the news.

I think it would be interesting to see how people would react if they thought you were dead when you really weren't, don't you? Well, I guess it would only be interesting if you were pretty sure there wouldn't be cheering in the streets and the immediate declaration of a worldwide holiday by the United Nations to celebrate the fact that you were no longer alive. That wouldn't be terribly good for the self-esteem, I think.

I fully expect people to completely freak out when I die. (Take notes, I will be checking from beyond the grave. Anyone who doesn't react strongly enough to my death will be severely haunted.)

No, I don't want any of this, "Oh, it was his time," or "It was a blessing," or "He lived a good life." Nope. I want fall-on-your-knees screaming and banging your head against the floor... and hopefully because you'll actually miss me and not because I owe you a boat-load of money and died before I could repay you.

In all seriousness, I don't hope that happens. Of course, I suppose there would be a bit of that if I die young and unexpectedly, but if I'm 110 years old and have been bedridden for 20 years, I would hope there's a bit of relief. I know there would be from me. And at 110 years old, it's pretty much time for someone to put a pillow over your head until you stop squirming, anyway -- especially if you haven't gotten out of bed for 20 years.

If not a pillow, then give me a plugged-in toaster to play with during my next bath. When the lights stop flickering and the frantic splashing sounds stop, you'll know it's time to call the funeral home for a pick-up. Not exactly a beautiful death surrounded by friends and family like in the movies, but it's quick and cheap. Toasters are inexpensive. Just make sure you scrub the tub well afterwards. Dying can be messy.

I can just imagine the screaming next Christmas when some of you find bath salts and a toaster under the tree. "Those salts smell like lavender, Mom. Why don't you try them out now? I'll run the bath for you and set up the toaster on a wobbly stool next to the tub so you can have some delicious toast while you're soaking. By the way, you have a will, right?" If that happens, best to drive those brats right over to the orphanage, even if they're in their 40s.

I wonder what the headlines will say when I die? "Man found dead in home. Eaten by cats after not showing up at work for two weeks." "Beloved columnist dies. Queen Elizabeth cries in public upon hearing news. Has Prince Philip beheaded for asking, 'Brian Who?'" "Newspaper sales collapse after Hump Day columnist found dead in bathtub. Tragically mistook plugged-in toaster for bar of soap."

I'm still not sure what I want to happen to my body after I die. After the hospital declares you dead and the funeral home embalms you, the chances of waking up in the casket are pretty slim, but I keep remembering these horror comics from when I was a kid. They would dig up some poor guy and find bloody scratch marks on the inside lid of the casket and a look of horror on his now-dead face after he was mistakenly buried alive.

I don't like the heat, so getting cremated isn't an option. I've seen videos of the cremation process, and let's just say that it's pretty final. Even coming back as a zombie is out of the question after that. At least if you're only buried, there's hope that a mad scientist will bring you back to life as some sort of evil monster. "Honey, I think I just saw that nice man who we used to read in the newspaper -- you know, the one who died a couple of months ago... Well, he just bit the head off the mailman and is running after the paperboy yelling, 'More brains! I want more brains!' Should we call 911?"

There's always donating my body to science. I have a friend who wants to do that, actually. However, there's something about lying on a cold metal table dead and buck naked in front of a bunch of strangers. If I was a handsome athlete, I don't think I'd mind, however I'm not. I just know I'd end up being stared at and cut apart during the lesson called "People who let themselves go to pot. The tragic consequences of a wasted life."

"Now, class," the professor would say, "let's take a look at this poor sot in front you. Try not to be sick. Try to hold it together. Someone pick Becky off the floor. She fainted. Tyler, stop throwing up inside the corpse. I'd give you a failing mark, but in this case, it's understandable."

Maybe I'll just jump into a running wood chipper and get it over with quickly. No, with my luck it would probably jam half-way through. Then, I'd have to spend the rest of my life with children pointing at me and saying, "Mommy, who's that half-mangled, half-gorgeous man?"

All I know is that if I ever wake up in the casket, there's going to be hell to pay. If anyone hears muffled screams coming from deep inside my grave, just ignore them because I'll be stocking up on toasters and wobbly stools if I ever dig myself out.

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