Posthumous Preferences

Close your eyes. Imagine you’re dead. You’ve been privileged to receive a green burial. A tree has been planted above you, and it’s already taken you up and grown large enough to be of interest to squirrel, birds, and people in need of shade. Your spirit hovers nearby, waiting to see your family and friends come around to visit, remember, and celebrate. 

But you know how some of your friends are. And some of your extended family, too. They’re all visiting with the best of intentions and the fondest of memories, but some of them could probably use a list of rules—the dos and don’ts of graveside behavior.

So which of these (subject to sexton approval) would go on the Please Do side of your list, which on the Please Don’t

• Carve your name in my bark.

• Scatter native wildflower seeds all around me. 

• Pick one wildflower and take it home. 

• Yank up any bittersweet, loosestrife or poison ivy that arises. 

• Burn a tire right here over my dead body. 

• Pour a libation of decent wine into the ground. 

• Leave a tidy pile of litter for somebody else to pick up. 

• Take home a nut, fruit, or leaf that fell from me. 

• Make love, right here. 

• Leave a pile of peanuts for the squirrels. 

• Lean against me and take a selfie. 

• Take a group picture with everybody in it. 

• Spend the night. 

• Remain totally sober. 

• Talk to me. 

• Climb me. 

• Eat my toadstools.

• Ask the sexton if you can hang a bird house on me. 

• Detonate thunderous fireworks. 

• Take pictures of me in summer, fall, winter, spring. 

• Slow-dance on my grave. 

• Bury something small, biodegradable and symbolic under an inch of soil. 

• Leave a bouquet of plastic flowers in a styrofoam pot.

• Do that special thing you do: paint, knit, sing, write, sculpt, tinker, whatever…

• Park right here next to me and change your oil. 

• Do something illegal that doesn’t hurt anybody. 

• Write me a letter. 

• Read a poem with my eyes. 

• Listen to a bird and imagine that’s me reminding you of something. 

• Spread out a blanket and have a picnic with your friends.

• Get to know my neighbors.

• Spray pesticides all over the place. 

• Smell my soil. 

• Forgive yourself. 

• Forgive me. 

• Pray. 

• Laugh.

• Cry.

• Whine. 

• Try to explain this to a small child.