I went burial plot shopping last Thursday. I had just been to funeral, but that’s not what put it in my mind. I’ve been thinking about it for some time. I’m sixty-six. My mother died at seventy-three, my dad at seventy-four. I’ve done the math, and the reality is that I need to get some prep work done.
I’ve got three things on my prep list. First is logistical. That’s what put me following a fellow in a four-wheeler down a narrow cemetery road to a block of available spaces. Looking at the older part of the cemetery, I said I wanted to be near some trees, so he obliged, leading me to a newer section that had some saplings that were guyed against the sharp east wind that made me wish I had worn my red knit cap. The unlandscaped addition to the cemetery extended to a section of lower middle class homes, not a great view. But the saplings would grow, I figured, and more trees would be planted. I would be there long enough for the new section to grow as beautiful as the old. I hunched my shoulders against the chill as I jotted down the plot numbers and got the instructions for purchase from the caretaker. Satisfied with progress there, I went home and had a hot cup of spearmint tea.
Next on my prep list is my legacy. I was actually relieved when my publisher rejected the manuscript I sent to them for publication this spring. Had they accepted it, I would have been expected to write another, and that’s a huge bite out of my discretionary time, as I’m still working almost full time. I’m now free to dedicate that time to family history. I have a trunkful and to spare of letters that I want to transcribe and publish for the family. Most of them are letters I have written over a fifty year span (I went away to college when I was still sixteen). My mother saved every one, and I inherited them when she died. My idea is to transcribe them, edit out all the whining, publish with pictures that go with each time period, and leave this to my family. I’ve taken the ANWA 100-words-a-day-for-100-days challenge, and am using it to kick-start the process. (I’ve written about it in the family history blog that Cecily Markland and I have begun at familywriters.blogspot.com.)
Last on my list is divesture. It is my observation that you don’t own things. Rather, things own you, and the more I divest myself of things, the lighter and freer I feel. I don’t want to leave my children with a houseful of junk to contend with.
I think I can accomplish the letter transcription project this year, if I expend the same time on it that I would a novel. If I can do that and get the logistical stuff nailed down, then the rest of my life I can work on divesture as I spin yarns for publication. Makes me smile to think of it, and I wish myself a long, productive life. But if my life doesn’t exceed my mother’s, then that’s all right too. I’ll be ready—after this year, Lord. After this year.