Some things I do have in place already. I pre-paid my funeral about fifteen years ago. The thing to understand about funerals is they are very labour intensive, and involve a number of different skills and departments, all with their own plant. You'll need two people to collect your body (possibly at an hour when overtime pay applies), a mortician to prepare it for burial, a driver for your hearse, and another for a limousine if your mourners need one. There'll be a crematorium attendant and crematorium office staff, a funeral director and usually four bearers for your coffin (six if you're tall and heavy), an officiant for your service and an organist if you want an accompanist for hymns (do; it's way better than singing to a tape). Then if you want a church service as well there'll be further clergy fees and possibly other staff. The funeral director will also have a receptionist and a cleaner. And then there'll be a florist, and a coffin-maker. Plus of course the church and the crematorium and the interment plot, the flowers and the coffin all have to be paid for — and all these separate costs increase annually, as do the hidden costs of buying and maintaining vehicles, garages, fridges, offices, coffin-shops etc. This all adds up to a lot, and there's no getting round that because of its complexity. When you breakdown and analyse the total, you'll find nobody's being greedy. Pegging the cost by paying early is a great kindness to your family. I did mine through Golden Charter, who work with independent family funeral directors, but there are plenty of alternatives.
Something else I've addressed in recent years is the paring down of my possessions to a very small amount. I hope that in the next couple of years I can do a further cull. On the day I die, I hope to leave behind earthly possessions that can be sorted through in a morning, packed up and taken to the charity shop in one trip, with all paperwork clearly filed and handy.
I've taken in hand a number of health issues, addressing the creeping accumulation of problems and dispersing them.
So far, so good. I have a number of things still to address, that I'd like to post about and I'll be interested in your opinions and input as I go along.
But today, I was asking myself the questions, "How do I make the time count, that remains to me of this life? How do I make it purposeful and useful? How do I make the best of it?"
It was evening as I was turning this over in my mind, and the sun had just set but still lit the sky from below the horizon.
I'd been out in the garden putting down food for the fox. We saw him earlier in the day, when we'd been walking in the park. As we climbed back up the track to our house at the top of the hill, he slipped out from a garden bordering the path, and looked down the slope towards us. I called him, "Foxy! Foxy! Foxy!" and we stood where we were doing the slow blink and head tip that animals recognise as a reassuring welcome sign. He stopped, and walked towards us a little way, and I called him again. So we stood and looked at each other, until, quite relaxed, he continued on his way, and we carried on homeward. And now it was time to put out his bowl of food at the bottom of the garden, on the verandah of Komorebi.
I cannot walk through our garden without being overwhelmed by its beauty and joy. I came back to the house through the trees, saying "Thank you . . . thank you . . . thank you . . . you are so beautiful . . . " to each one. Oh, I love our garden. The evening was cool and the air so fresh; it had rained on and off through the day, and a breeze stirred the air. The sky still shone with silver and pale gold where the sun had gone down, but when I reached the house and looked back, I had to marvel at the wonder of the moon. A slender sickle of light, so luminous, resplendent, beyond describing.
I wanted to photograph it to show you, and I rushed into the house for my camera, but by the time I came back the cloud bank had drifted across, obscuring the moon.
When I'd had my supper, I looked out again, and the moon now shone clear but the last light of the sun had gone so the sky was dark. When I photographed it, the contrast was too great so the lovely slender sickle shape was blurred by the brightness in the photo.
I wish you could have stood with me, to see the beauty of the moon.
It made me think. So much in my life feels alarming and difficult. I find church hard, and personal relationships. I worry about money and about offending people. I get tired and anxious and lonely. I worry about disappointing God. I typically don't live up to the expectations of others.
But when I stand in the garden, or by the sea, or walk alongside the stream or the lake in the park, all that falls away. I love the light and the clouds, the sun and the rain, the stars and the trees, the flowers and birds, the sparkle of the sun on the waves of the ocean. I love it so much. When I looked at the moon this evening, it called my soul right out of my body, it was so beautiful.
And the thing is, there is no point to the moon. It's not for anything. It's just the moon, and that's enough — and that's the place where beauty is.
So I think one of the tasks ahead, one of the wisdom areas into which I must look deeply, is developing the art of pointlessness. If I ever made a difference to anyone, if anything I did ever counted, well, less and less will that be true. In the time left to me on this earth I will become steadily less useful. Less and less like a potato peeler or a vacuum cleaner and more and more like the moon.
Even though that will happen anyway, I think I will enjoy it more if I do it on purpose. So something I'm going to work on is the divesting of my potato peeler self little by little so that my inner moon shines more clearly.
Like the seventeenth century poem by the samurai Mizuta Masahide (art by Figren, linked),
("Since my house burned down, I can see the moon more clearly.")
The task of growing old is the slow burning down of the house of my earthly body, to give me a better view of the moon. What was once useful — to bear children, to write stories, to cook stews and sweep floors and grow a garden — is now merely in the way. So the purposeful must now give way to what has no point that I can discern, but is purely beautiful.
I think this is my first lesson in the course of study I have set myself. I'm thinking about that, and about what it might mean in practical terms — not as a notion, but as a way.
Oh — my thanks to Jill, who, having read my earlier post sent me a copy of this excellent booklet (image is linked):