Learning To Love You More




Assignment #51
Describe what to do with your body when you die.

Tiffany Lee Brown
Portland, Oregon USA



I sort of doubt there will be many good organs in my body, but if someone can use them for a transplant or something, that would be great. It says "organ donor" on my driver's license. If I can be allowed to have my skull and one of my leg bones removed and given to friends, I'd really like that, but I think it's illegal. Enrique should have the skull. Sean O should have the leg bone. Both of these items should make at least one appearance at Drowning Rat. They'll know what that means.
Next, please put me in a pine or fir box, a little coffin like the one we built for Grandma Gee Gee when she died. If people want to paint flowers on it like we did for her, that would be great, or it could be plain. I'm sure you'll know what to paint on the box (if anything). Please don't put chemicals in my body.
Fill up the box with my remains and also all my old notebooks, an activity I leave in the care of Jessica. (Sorry, Jess.) No one else should even touch them. The diaries, the journals, the workbooks, all that stuff; it makes me nervous to think of it still lurking around after I'm dead. I've gone back and read a great deal of it, and there are some very delusional passages. Some bits are also written in a kind of code, so that I, years later, can read the story and can tell it isn't true. It happened long enough ago that I can't remember the *real* truth, the true story the code was supposed to remind me of, but I can recognise that I was writing a layer of mystery over what I truly believed. The net effect is of a very strange reality, one peopled with my friends. If you were in someone else's notebook and they had written something skewed or downright untrue about you, wouldn't you want that notebook burned?
So put 'em all around my body, in the box, along with my many cassette tapes that have spoken word, recorded diary, or songwriting stuff on them (most are labelled "Writesongs"). Cremate the whole mess in one go. The "cremains" (ahhh ha ha, I love that word) shouldn't be filtered or crushed or smushed through a sieve. They should be nice and chunky and old-fashioned, with bits of bone and remnants of notebook bindings and coils of tape. At least, that's how I picture them.
Then find a bunch of little vials, like you might put essential oils in, or drugs, depending what kind of person you are and what kinds of drugs you like. Take the cremains and divide them up into the vials, and distribute among my friends and loved ones. Some places I'd like to have my ashes end up: On Easter Island. Floating down the Willamette River. On top of Slieve League, the mountain, in County Donegal, Ireland. In the Temple at Burning Man. In Antarctica. On a certain beach in Mexico. In a cupcake. In Piedmont Cemetery in Oakland. On the Oregon Coast. Beneath the Leaf Goddess tree in the Red Park, in Southeast Portland. At the base of the stone bench by the Andersons' grave at the top of the Masonic Cemetery in Eugene. But those are just suggestions.
I'd like my parents to bury some of my ashes in the family cemetery on the land where I grew up. I think so far it's just my grandma and some dogs. I want my uncle Christopher to officiate the ceremony, like he did with my grandma. An over-the-top, spectacular headstone (angels of doom, Celtic knotwork, philosophical quotations, etc.) would be awesome but not necessary. However, my death and my body should not be used as an excuse for Christian prosletyzing; I want my body and my ashes kept away from churches and ministers. Maybe Enrique could lead a ceremony sometime, somewhere, with my friends and close, non-Christian family members. If there's a regular wake or funeral reception, songs about death should be played, especially funny ones. They Might Be Giants' "Death" should be played once an hour and everyone should dance. It would be grand if Jessica would readĘ aloud "Resume" by Dorothy Parker, which would make a fine epitaph now that I think of it.
I used to want to leave "assignments" for each person and each vial of cremains -- I even used that word for it, long before this website existed -- maybe just to annoy everybody one last time. Ask a friend who never leaves his hometown to sprinkle a vial over Fiji. Send my boyfriend back to our secret beach in Oaxaca. But now I think everyone will know what to do. Some will sprinkle ashes on altars. Some will stir it into paint. Some will mix it with soil under a particular plant, glue it on the cover of a zine, or rub it into their skin. Some will throw the vial in their top drawer next to the dried-out pens and torn seed packets and never find it again. It all sounds good to me.