Making Your Arrangements

By Paul Critchlow and Francis Levy

“At a certain point you’re going to plan that gathering which you won’t be able to attend. You’re going to make your final arrangements.”  — from the blog The Screaming Pope

       Q. Dear Pope, as you know, I’ve been thinking about this for some time, and recently settled on Oakland Cemetery in Sag Harbor, which I’ve been hoping to show you one day soon. Should I select a plot on higher land, so that drainage is good?

       “Everyone is opting for higher land these days, but remember Venice and Amsterdam have survived below sea level for centuries. Not to be overly phobic, but higher land also puts your plot in danger of terrorists and drones.”

       Q. Should I buy four plots instead of two, to give my wife and me more space?

       “I would opt for four plots so you can offer your mourners some amenities. With your extra two plots, you can build a little workout area equipped with, say, a treadmill and elliptical for those who want to get aerobic while they’re paying their respects. I personally can’t remember anyone unless my heart rate has reached a certain level. A normal heart rate is like death to me.”

       Q. Should I put a little mini wall around the plots to show that we are important and make it easier for those coming to pay their respects to find us? Should I put a nice little bench nearby to encourage people to give a little more time to sitting and remembering all that was good about me?

       “Again, affirmative . . . my rule of thumb is bigger than a gravestone, but less than a full-blown mausoleum. Oh, one little point: Your bench should a have a plaque. People have short memories and by the time they get to the bench, they may not be able to remember who you are.”

       Q. I struggle between the cheaper and environmentally preferable option of cremation versus full-body burial. But in the end, does cremation seem too final?

       “I like cremation since it’s sexier. I always wanted my ashes scattered in the women’s locker room at Equinox so that I would be surrounded by naked women for all eternity.”

       Q. Should I write my obit and the farewell remarks that will be made at my send-off? Or should I just trust that whoever writes them is going to know what they are doing?

       “Remember Ashford and Simpson? I think the obit can be written by you and your eulogist with one of those little EMI doodads next to the credit, in case the eulogy itself makes it to the Top 40.”

       Q. Should I engrave on the tombstone a link to a website that will have a robust offering of my history, speeches, awards, achievements, etc.?

       “A no-brainer.”

       Q. What should my epitaph emphasize — my good-heartedness, my veteran’s status, my love of family, my Honorable Mention All-City Football Team recognition in Omaha, the love of my cat, Reed?

       “I wouldn’t go into any of these items. Everyone knows those things. I will share with you what I think to be an extraordinary aspect of your character. It may seem like a small thing, but the way you comb your hair says so much. First of all, you are the only guy I know who still puts a comb through his hair and certainly one of the only ones in our age group who still has something left to put a comb through. But I’m sure even if you were bald you would still pull the old comb out in polite company. It’s a spiritual act, by Jove, and the world needs to know this. Combing and praying are virtually the same thing for you. So your epitaph could read: ‘He combed with the hand of God,’ or ‘At home with the comb of God,’ or ‘God, where did he get that comb?’ We can work on the details. I don’t think we have it quite yet.”

    Paul Critchlow is writing a memoir tentatively titled “Outrunning the Peter Principle: Tips From an Inveterate Corporate Survivor.” He lives part time on North Haven.

    Francis Levy, a Wainscott resident, is the author of the comic novels “Erotomania: A Romance” and “Seven Days in Rio.” He blogs at TheScreamingPope.com and on The Huffington Post.