Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Of death, last wills & testaments

Last night, I found myself at a chapel witnessing a necrological service for one my mentors. The mass was solemn, as I supposes masses should go and the speeches were many and long ... really long. I am unacustomed to long necrological services. The necrological services of our family are usually concise. Maybe, its the speakers way of showing respect. Although it was not hard to miss that a number of mourners were beginning to talk after the third or fourth speaker. One person beside was complaining that he was getting hungry. I just smiled and we also began to chat in whispered voices. Unfortunately, when a number of people began to talk in wisphered voices you begin to hear a form of buzzing. Perhaps that is why you have to keep speeches concise and at least interesting. My mentor was a good woman. A patient and informal teacher who knew the value of teaching and the use of subtlety. She was my professor in more than one subject at the institute. She will be missed and I am quite sure she is in a better place now. The service not only tested my patience in listening to a long queue of speeches but it also brought about an epiphany, all of us have a need to put things in order, just in case. Death like all things in life comes like a thief in the night and when that happens we need a set of instructions to put things in order after we have left the waking world and cross over to the undiscovered country. The Last Will and Testament is a fascinating set of documents. In the event of our deaths this set of documents gives instruction as to how we are to be interred and how are remaining possessions are to be given away. A few people in history have used the last will and testament to control events after their death. The Iron Chancellor Otto von Bismark specified that during his funeral there would be no speeches at all. A prudent move since a few years before he was unceremoniouslt dismissed by his ruler Kaiser Willhelm II, who so like most politicians had a penchant to make speeches during funerals in aid of their cause. Then there was the scientist who requested that he be buried naked, as nature had intended. It was unfortunate though that his wife though thought otherwise and had him dressed and embalmed. I thought at first that the scientist was Mendel, until my friend reminded me that Mendel was a monk and had no wife. It may be Linnaeus. It is interesting though that last wills and testaments are the last thing on people's mind. Perhaps, its something we approach with caution, since it deals with our own mortality. Similar to the dreaded trip to the dentist's office or surgery. Apologies to dentists of course. After reading Pope John Paul II 's last will it dawned on me that last wills and testaments can also be an instrument of reflection. Before writing out a will a person takes stock of his life and his riches, both material and spiritual. In a sense, it is a kind of confessions - what have I done right or wrong? Did I achieve anything?, Was my life worth it. You could see this in the last will and testament of Pope John Paul II. In his will he was not only preoccupied with his last wishes but also about his life - the effects of the assasination, the fate of world and other spiritual matters. This week, I will start to write a will. But how can you write a will for a person of with no significant material possessions? Maybe it will be full of thank yous, I am sorries, and well-wishes. Somewhere it between a giving out of gifts. At least with a will there will be no intramurals over the mundane. Rizal's family fought with Josephine over Rizal's books. You never know what will happen five minutes from where you are at present. A renegade truck might be going your way or an extremist decides to go to heaven and bringing you along with him. Or after years of eating isaw and lechon you succumb to a myocardial infarction. Its better to be prepared. Anyway most wills have a way of becoming introspective and reflective. First set of things that come to mind when I make out my will:no formalin only cremation for me before the wake, no long speeches, no playing of Don't Cry for Me Argentina instead A Funeral March for a Marionette would be preferred, and a sumptuous repast for the guests after the ceremony. An additional post The front and different bits of...

2 Comments:

Blogger blackshama said...

Ah! mid-life... when we take stock of our own mortality

Of course you have material possessions.

Make sure you leave all your nice books to me. :)

10/07/2005 12:33:00 AM  
Blogger juned said...

Mortality is fact you have to live with.

Sorry my books goes to my family. Wealthy old friends have the capability to build up their collection. As to what they stock it, well it is a matter of taste. To each his own. :)

10/07/2005 07:46:00 AM  

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