The Final Plan

By Dee Orr

The Final Plan

The moving van had just pulled away from the house when a lady in our new retirement community stopped and cheerfully welcomed us to “God’s little waiting room.” Waiting room? Yes, she explained, it’s just a matter of time before each of us living here is called to that great mansion in the sky. Her departing advice was even more cheery; get your final arrangements made. I just stood there. We had been in town less than 48 hours, and I didn’t know if we were coming or going.

For four years we kept the trip to the mortuary at bay, and then, with the passing of a friend, hubby woke and said, “Let’s get it done.” I knew what he meant. It was time to make the final arrangements for our physical departure. Immediately, I asked what I should wear to the funeral home. “Casual dress,” hubby snapped, “You’re not staying.”

We did not go directly to the mortuary. We sort of worked our way to it. We did a little shopping, took a drive along the ocean, ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant, and as though we were shopping for beach towels, strolled into the funeral home. Naturally, we chose one close to our community, hoping it would be convenient for any friends wishing to bid us farewell.

It was a scary undertaking – no pun intended. It was not like anything we had ever done. We explained our purpose to an older gentleman who met us at the door, and we were escorted to a nicely appointed office where a much younger man joined us. The young man was “in training.” Both were very pleasant, respectful and quite serious.

Amenities were exchanged which helped me to stop the visible shaking of my limbs. I was cold as ice, but by the time the obituaries were finished and the service arrangements were complete, hubby’s color had returned, and I had warmed up – a little.

Things were going well; we were more than half way through their checklist. We had reached the point where we needed to explain that we had burial plots out of state and would need some help getting there. I expressed an interest in flying to my final destination and hubby gave me a look that said, “Whatever you want dear.” So fly we would.

Quietly, the older gentleman took a book from his desk and after some fine print reading, he removed his glasses and told us that currently the charge was $241 each for the flight. “Is that round trip?” my husband asked. For a second I wondered why were we returning, then it dawned on me that hubby was trying to lighten the moment. The older gentleman chuckled, but the young one sat straight-faced and glassy-eyed.

The humor lessened the tension in me which was good, because the casket selection was next. We were in what I call the selection room less than a minute when I saw hubby point, turn and exit. He had made up his mind so quickly; I wondered what he had chosen. It was nice. I could live with it.

It wasn’t that easy for me. Working the room, I held my arm aside the various satin linings and finally realized that only the ecru lining was going to help my appearance once I reached this building. When I gave the gentleman my color choice I asked him to underline it twice, and then said change it if he found it made me look like death warmed over. I couldn’t believe I’d said such a stupid thing. I thought, OK, take me now, but his smile told me he knew exactly what I’d meant.

That evening, we phoned our daughter to tell her of the arrangements. She assured us that she was capable of carrying out our final wishes and thanked us for being so thoughtful of her. Before hanging up, I made sure she would double check the color of the satin lining. I sensed there was something she wanted to say, but she said nothing. I took the hesitation in her voice to be an emotional pause.

In a casual phone conversation a decade later, I mentioned to my daughter that she would never believe what I’d been doing. With fear in her voice she said, “Oh, Mom, please tell me you weren’t at the funeral home checking your skin tone against the latest line of casket fabrics.” I was speechless…so much for that emotional pause years ago.

So, at the risk of giving our daughter further angst, I’m through with all verbal legal chatter, I’m just leaving a note! It’s my final plan on the final arrangements, which at last, are finally made!

About this writer

  • Dee Orr Dee Orr is a native Texan, born in Ft. Worth, and a graduate of Baylor University School of Music. Before retiring to the Myrtle Beach area in 1993, she taught middle school music in upstate New York.

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