My Burial Wishes (don’t get scared)

Many years from now, when I die, these are my burial wishes. I’ll make sure they make it into my will but I’m putting them here so you, my friends, can make sure they’re respected. By the end of the story you’ll understand why. 

When Tennessee Williams arrived in what he would thereafter refer to as his “spiritual home,” someone asked him, “Mr. Williams, what brings you to New Orleans?” He responded with his signature droll wit, “St. Louis, a city which I LOATH!” 

Tennessee Williams also made his burial wishes clear; “Bury my bones by the submerged bones of Hart Crane.” Hart Crane was Williams’ favorite poet and ascended master. He was to Tennessee what Tennessee is to me. Hart Crane was also gay and alcoholic. A tortured soul to be sure as to one extent or another we all three are/were. (I need to believe their souls are tortured no more.)

The USS Orizaba made a voyage from Vera Cruz to New York in April of 1932. Depending on the version of the story you read, Hart Crane either made a pass at one of the sailors, was beaten mercilessly and then took his own life by jumping overboard; or was murdered by a group of sailors and disposed of at sea. Either way, Crane would not make it to New York. 

Tennessee said, “I hope to die in my sleep, when the time comes, and I hope it will be in the beautiful big brass bed in my New Orleans apartment, the bed which is associated with so much love.” He didn’t. He died in the Hotel Elysee (which he called the “Hotel Easy Lay”) in New York City, not by choking on a bottle cap as you’ve been told but by Seconal poisoning. He ultimately died of addiction, the disease that had haunted him most of his life. You can still find (more often than not in fact) the bottle cap myth as his cause of death. It was months after his passing that the NYPD changed the cause of death on the police report. You can look it up if you don’t believe me. 

They didn’t respect his burial wishes. Ironically, he is buried in St. Louis, the “city which [he] LOATH[ED].” The only consolation is he’s buried by the person who was one of the true great loves of his life, his sister Rose who had been lobotomized as a young woman and was the prototype for the character Catherine in Suddenly Last Summer and Laura in The Glass Menagerie. Rose’s gravestone reads “Blow out your candles Laura.” 

I too had hoped to die in my big brass bed in New Orleans. But this bed (I’m writing to you from it now) will be sold when the house is. I’ll just have to die somewhere else unless the Almighty decides to take me sooner rather than later. 

For years I thought I wanted just to be cremated, vanishing real estate due to cemeteries is unsustainable unless we start bulldozing them like we do the Native Americans’. But then I realized that the last act I would perform on this earth is to add one more little fart of black carbon to the atmosphere when they torched my corpus so I started exploring “green burials” like when they wrap you in burlap and plant you with a tree so you can go back into the natural world in a more natural way, “dust to dust” and all. That seemed to be a good choice. But after the murder of George Floyd and the continued rise of the Black Lives Matter movement I started to think more about my life and racism and the racism I have demonstrated in my life and the times I’ve tried to speak out against it. I decided since (as of yet) I don’t have a lot of money to leave anybody, I could still do something meaningful to help an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) So I’m donating my body to Moorehouse Medical School in Atlanta to be used as a cadaver for students studying to be doctors. I learned about how this all works while my ex was in medical school. His cadaver actually came with a note from the family. It said something like, “This is our mother. She was a conservationist before that was a thing. Her last wish was that her body might be used for the benefit of others, that nothing be wasted.” I thought that was a beautiful sentiment. When the students are done slicing you into little pieces and learning from you, they do in fact burn the remains and return the ashes to the loved ones. 

I’d like my ashes to be placed at sea, in the Gulf of Mexico where the USS Orizaba would have been on the 27th of April, 1932, realizing of course the craft would have covered several miles that day so anywhere close is fine. “It’s the thought that counts.” This way I can be buried in proxy of my ascended master, Tennessee Williams. He can thank me when I get to heaven. 

My friend Rear Admiral (ret) Alan Stienman will help you find out those coordinates based on nautical records and Josh Thomas will organize the boat to drop me at sea. (Josh, I’ll leave you a little cash in the will to cover the cost. If it comes up short, I’ll just have to owe you, Marine.) 

I hope this talk of death hasn’t bummed you out at all. I just wanted to make sure this was written down somewhere until I get that legal will done. Like I said, I don’t reckon I’m going anywhere anytime soon. “Only the good die young” after all. I’ve thought about suicide at least once a day since I was 12 years old so I imagine if I was going to do it, I would have done it by now. I’m way too codependent to do that anyway. It pains me to think of what it would do to so many people who (God help them) love me and tell me so annoyingly often. If you hear I killed myself, start looking for my murderer or know that I took complete leave of my senses. I did get two calls from the suicide hotline tonight. You heard that right, calls from the suicide hotline.  I recognized the number when it popped up on the screen. 800 275 8255 (“TALK”).  I didn’t even know it worked that way. I had mentioned that I had suicidal thoughts in a couple Zoom meetings lately and someone dimed me out. So much for “what you hear here, let it stay here.” I’m sure they did it out of love, or codependency, or some mixture of the two.  

As I said, as much as I think about it I know I won’t go through with it. I have hope that my current struggles will pass and with the news today that the Supreme Court of the United States has overturned Roe v. Wade (doesn’t even seem real to me yet) it is clear that there is much yet left here to be done and I’ve never been one to stand on the sidelines of a worthy battle. There’s fight in this old Marine yet. 

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