We all die


MORE OFTEN than some would prefer,* the bell in the steeple of this 16th-century church, not far from the Hacienda, begins a special ring. It is ringing at this moment as I write. It was ringing when I woke this morning, and it was ringing in the middle of the night.

What makes it special is its slowness. It gongs about once every 20 seconds and it goes on for hours. It is done by hand, and I often imagine that person, sitting down there in the dark, reaching up every 20 seconds or so to give a tug. Bong! Wait…wait…wait. Bong!

All through the night.

I also imagine a bottle of José Cuervo and perhaps some tacos or cheese and crackers are at his side. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I feel like getting up, dressing and going down there to see first-hand. Who and how. But I’ll never do that because I’m too old and lazy.

Later, during our morning exercise walk around the plaza, the church door was closed, and the bongs were continuing. It was a good time to check it out, and perhaps I would have done so had the door been open. But we just kept on walking. The door in question is that smaller one at the steeple’s base.

We talked about where my child bride will put me when I’m “promoted to Glory.” The neighborhood cemetery is a couple of blocks away from the church, across the highway. I would like to be planted there, the only American-Mexican, I’m sure, the sole, true paleface.

I’d provide a modish, multicultural air.

No, she said. She’ll keep me in an urn in the Hacienda. And that’s okay with me.

* * * *

* Especially those for whom the bell tolls.

(Note: This post was written yesterday. This morning I awoke, and the bedroom window was open. Birds were singing in the fan palm, and the bell was still gonging. Same deceased, or someone new?)

The cedar casket


MY FATHER’S ASHES rest in three places.

One, a mountainside in North Carolina at a Unitarian retreat center. Two, outside his favorite motel room in north Georgia. Three, next to an old cowboy cemetery in West Texas.

I don’t know where my mother’s ashes are. I suppose my sister has them. My only aunt died recently at 88, and she too was cremated. I don’t know where those ashes are either.

But clearly we are people who go up in flames, and that has long been my plan.

Recently, however, I read something that deflected me from that death desire. There was mention of a custom-made casket of cedar. A cedar casket, like a fresh cedar closet, would smell good — to me, the inhabitant, resting inside.

As I pondered the aroma, other aspects, dramatic ones, came to mind. I pictured myself lying inside my cedar casket, dressed in my best and only suit that hangs in the Hacienda closet, my favorite tie with a picture of a happy cow, my arms straight down, one hand atop the other, eyes shut. That end of movement we all reach one day.

It’s a scene as old as the ages, the occupied coffin.

But where would I be planted? Two options: here inside the Hacienda compound with just a small marker that could be removed if necessary to avoid creeping out future homeowners. Or at the neighborhood cemetery beyond the plaza.

I vote for the cemetery. Every 2nd of November, my child bride would sit among our neighbors, there at my marigold-bedecked mound, resplendent with candlelight and incense. And I would be inside my sweet-smelling casket with a barely discernible smile.