The next time you are stuck in the Billings, Mont., airport between flights for six hours, letís see where your mind wanders. Mine sauntered over to thoughts of dying and didnít come back for a while. There in the Delta loading area I decided that when I die (not if, unfortunately, but when) I want to be cremated. I believe the biggest wastes of real estate are cemeteries and golf courses. After that would come ice hockey rinks below the Mason-Dixon line and the entire acreage of Browning, Mont.
I would also ask that no one receive the ashes. Ashes serve no good function that I can think of. People are always looking for creative ways to get rid of their fireplace ashes and since no one makes soap anymore, they just get in the way. Just let the crematorium dispose of them. This way neither of my kids will have to design a decorating scheme around ďDadís urn.Ē Neither will have to take possession, then later try to foist ďdadĒ on the other claiming ďmy new apartment just isnít big enough for that can.Ē
I tried to think what would be a fitting memorial and I keep coming up dry. If I ever finish my ďGreat AmericanĒ novel, a ďbornĒ and ďdiedĒ and a paragraph on the dust cover would suffice. But I kid myself.
So I guess an obituary in some newspaper, maybe a notation in a family Bible will be just fine. Maybe the crematorium will make a personal PowerPoint presentation and put it on a memory stick that you can carry on your keyring. Then you can plug it into your hand-held device whenever you are stuck in some airport and see me come to life once more.
As for the get-together, something like what my friend and mentor, the late Dr. Jack Wells, had would be nice. It was several days later. It gave people a chance to come by informally. I like the idea that if there is anyone who wants to say goodbye, they would have a place to go. This is my one nod to the ritual that has become the funeral industry.
Donít feel that it has to be held at any specific place. It will not be at a funeral home. It does not have to be at a church or wherever I was last living. Donít go looking for a pastor/preacher/priest/reverend ó there wonít be one that knows me well enough to say anything meaningful. If some friends want to spontaneously swap stories, I would like that.
I donít know if you should have food, but if you do, serve ribs ó good ribs. I would like that, too.
Living and dying in a world with 7 billion people makes me realize how unspecial I am. I donít mean that I didnít do a few good things in my life. Itís just that the numerator is really small and that denominator is really, really big ó 1/7,000,000,000. Letís keep things in perspective.
I purposely never got involved in lots of community/church/civic/hospital organizations because I wanted to spend my time off the way I wanted. I always figured if you used your brain, used your heart, used your muscles and used your time wisely, you would take care of yourself and your family successfully. That way, lots of those groups are unnecessary. So donít expect a great stream of humanity to come by when Iím gone.
My goal when I performed surgery was always: ďI want them to get complete return of function and then ultimately forget who did the surgery.Ē
Donít be concerned if I finally get my wish.
Dr. David R. Hardin is an orthopedic surgeon living in Carter County.