Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stuff Me When I'm Dead

Luckily for me, I was raised in a family that does not shy away from atypical or taboo conversational topics.  Even more luckily for me, my family is interesting and full of diverse characters; among others, my family consists of a preacher, various motorcyclists, a bank robber, a drug addict, a blind albino, a paraplegic, a hypochondriac, a schizophrenic, an amateur chef, a dentist, and a former fugitive, as well as many people who probably shouldn’t be allowed access to firearms (I have an uncle who shot himself in the foot).  As for myself, I’m a paramedic.  My family never fails to keep me entertained and grounded.  

A few years ago, there was a rash of rapid fire deaths in the family, giving one particular year a theme.  On the bright side, as a direct result of my gothic stage in high school and college, I had to do very little shopping for funeral attire.  My family is huge, so we’ve got some experience in funerals, and we were really starting to get the hang of this funeral thing after so much exposure in such a short period of time.  We may not have totally put the fun in funeral, but we did have an evening enhanced by White Russians, that led to my aunt yelling “Who’s your daddy?!” complete with a reenactment of some of our lesser seen relatives.  Classy, I know. 

Once the tears dried following the last of four funerals in as many months, the inevitable topic of what we wish to be done with our remains when the time comes was brought up.  My aunt Bo, who has always had a flair for drama, wishes for a full funeral and burial, complete with flowers and weeping friends and family, “and you bitches better not bury me in anything tacky.”  My mom is indifferent to the ceremonial particulars, stating simply that she wants to be cremated, “and don’t you dare put me in a nursing home before it happens.  Just take me in the backyard and shoot me.”  I want any of my viable organs to be donated to anyone who may be able to get a little more use out of them and the remainder of my body to be donated to science, specifically The Body Farm in Knoxville, TN. 

My cousin Morgan, however, does not feel restrained by the pull of society.  Frankly, she never has, and I admire her brazen disregard for practicality or tradition.  My favorite fashion accessory in history was the ever tasteful grill seen in all of her smiling prom photos.  Morgan has a special request: “I want to be stuffed.” Naturally, this unusual remark caught our attention.  She tells us that she wants to be posed like a bear with her arms up and teeth bore in a snarl, frozen mid-attack for eternity.  She appears to have given this topic a fair amount of thought.  She would even like us to record her voice with threats before she dies, so that we can pose her above people while they’re sleeping and really freak them out, but the voice recording was only an added “bonus.” 

Obviously, this is going to take some time and effort to arrange, as this is an atypical request; luckily, she’s young and healthy, so we have plenty of time.  Being the good, loving cousin I am, I put my research skills to use.  I was in college at the time, so I used the campus library to peruse books on taxidermy.  Most of the librarians probably weren’t terribly surprised at this particular subject, as I was frequently there and researching books on death and forensics, but I received more than one raised eyebrow.   The only real fruit of my library research was learning that human taxidermy is not legal in this country, which makes little sense to me seeing as how embalming and plasticization is perfectly legal.   

I made an inquiry to one of my anthropology professors well known for his expertise in animal carcasses; he had confessed to us he was responsible for the “no road kill in the break room refrigerator” rule, as there was a time in which it was not an uncommon sight, and some folks were displeased to see a dead raccoon next to their yogurt.  (He was one of my favorite professors, and not merely because he assigned a project in which I took home a tibia of a deer that led to my roommate questioning my sanity when I walked through the threshold wielding it like a bat over my shoulder.)  Despite my professor’s extensive experience, he was at a loss. 

The internet, not the most highly accredited source in empirical research, proved much more helpful.  Apparently, for an extra fee, you can have a body shipped to Mexico, where they’ll do pretty much anything for tacos and maybe some clean water.  Excellent news, and the conundrum is solved!

It was my turn to write a poem to another member of my family, as per our Christmas tradition, and this seemed the perfect topic.  Some families have elaborate meals; we make fun of each other in sadly prosaic rhyme. 

I present to you Morgan’s Christmas Poem of 2005:

Stuff Me When I’m Dead

I’ve told you once,
I’ve told you twice.
Taxidermy
Is not very nice.

She’s my cousin,
You heard what I said.
Morgan wants
To be stuffed when she’s dead.

Kept in a closet
And saved for a scare.
I’ll be the one
Who fixes her hair.

We’ll record her voice
Before she’s dead,
Then place her over
Someone in a bed.

It’s no wonder
We all think she’s crazy;
Her afterlife plans
Are a bit hazy.

In fact, I think
It’s against the law,
But that’s never
Stopped us at all.

Whatever the cost,
This is her wish.
Morgan will be
Stuffed like a fish.

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