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Living to make the best of the end

At the end - My writing prompt for today from

I don't often consider what happens at the end before I get to it.  I've got a lot of things on my to-do list and a burning need to cross them off, and take my time doing it.

Charlotte, though not ruminating on her own demise either, has set her mind on exactly what she desires at the end.  She says she wants her modest services arranged at the smallest funeral home in town.  Since she's lived here the scope of her entire life and knows everybody and their mama, I questioned the reasonableness of her directive. 

"Charlotte," I said, "everybody within a 30-mile radius will turn out for your funeral.  They'll never fit into the smallest funeral parlor, much less find adequate parking."

Charlotte smiled, picturing the mob scene. 

"That's the key, the beautiful part of my plan," she said.  "Cars will pile up in the parking lot and line up around the block.  During my visitation, mourners will squeeze into every crack and corner of the parlor and pour out the door onto the porch and down the steps." 

She pauses to allow me to soak up the panoramic view in my mind's eye, then adds, "It's all about appearances."

My mama agrees with Charlotte.  We live in the south where keeping up appearances is a daily way of life, and death.  My mama believes in being death ready, not just at the end, but at all times, since none of us never can predict when the end will announce itself.  Periodically she checks on my preparedness. 

To be clear, she does not mean spiritually primed for the hereafter, both heart and debts settled, right with God and the neighbors.  Death ready refers to a kitchen sink shining and empty, closets orderly and organized, toilets scrubbed, floors mopped, beds made, rugs vacuumed, furniture dusted, and everything put in its place. 

If I go first, I'll mortify her to no end.  Because, for me, death ready means I'm wearing lipstick and a becoming outfit that gives my complexion a healthy glow.  That's why Charlotte and I made a pact that at the end, either hers or mine, the survivor will beat the crowd, and our mothers, to the deceased's home and clear the dining room table for casseroles, pick up the shoes off the living room floor, sort the forks, spoons and knives in the silverware drawer, and make sure the kids flushed the toilets. 

Ideally, at the end, I'll be wretchedly old and withered, hostessing, by proxy, but with considerable postmortem panache, the great social event of the year.  And I want guests to walk by my casket at the visitation and say, "They did a wonderful job with her.  She looks better than she did yesterday," and really mean it.

At the end I want people to stand around with drinks in their hands, telling jokes, laughing louder than they should.  I want them to say, "Heavens, such a character.  I fell in love and I got angry and I giggled and I cried and I thought she made some incredibly stupid choices, but the twists and turns always seemed to work out.  I can't believe it's over already.  It went so fast.  Half-way through I thought she would go on ad nauseum.  Now I'll never know what happens next.  It's like the last page is torn out and missing."

Most of all, at the end, I want to get in the last word.  

(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny.  She lives in Thomson.  Lucy invites readers to e-mail her at and visit her web site,

Web posted on Thursday, July 09, 2009

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