DEATH COUNTS ON SIRI TO GET TO THE OTHER SIDE

ANOTHER GUEST BLOG: There’s a bunch of great bloggers out there!!!

I received an email yesterday from a Henry Augustine via Linked In, inviting me to participate in his first “Prose Anthology Challenge” ,  which asked writers to write 500 words on Death and from there, the top submissions would be published in its first Kindle Anthology.

I’m not entirely sure how Henry got my name but I clicked on the link, just like I arbitrarily click on all links because I firmly believe that if God didn’t want us to receive spam and have our bank accounts hacked, he wouldn’t have created the Internet in the first place.

Anyway, I read some of the submissions and they were all pretty heavy.  Writing about heavy topics is not my thing so I thought I would submit 500 words on the lighter side of Death, something that focused on the more whimsical or positive aspects of ceasing to exist like not having to fill out a FASFA application ever again or being removed from the Lands End catalog database once and for all.

Long story short, it was short story long and I blew past the 500 word mark thus throwing myself out of the running in Mr. Augustine’s Kindle death anthology.  But Henry’s loss is also your loss because I am posting my short story entitled, “Death Comes to Hohokus, NJ” right here and if you leave, I’ll find out where you live and provide your address to  the  good people over at Land’s End.

One last thing.  After you read it and  even if you absolutely hated it, please press “like” and leave lots of positive, wildly exuberant comments about how great it was because I had to explain to my wife why I was writing this when I should have been working and she wasn’t buying it.

Here’s the story:

Death Comes to Hohokus, New Jersey

The doorbell rang and I heard my daughter Claire holler, “I’ll get it!” in that sweet, high pitched voice that made my dog Lester’s ears shoot straight up into the air as if he’d been poked with a fork.  Claire’s very responsible for a three-year old.  Loves to chip in, always asking my wife and me if she could make our bed while we were still in it.

I was in the den splayed out on the couch with a blanket pulled up to my chin.

There was more than eight inches of wet snow on the ground outside and still falling but inside a golf match was on and while I don’t play golf or like golf, I watch it religiously during the winter because winter in New Jersey is so miserably cold, grey and depressing, I take great comfort in knowing that somebody somewhere is enjoying 80 degrees of pure sunshine and lush greenery even if it’s not me.

I felt his presence before he entered the room, and when it’s your turn, trust me, you will too. Lester’s hackles were up but instead of growling he whimpered and disappeared behind one of the curtains.

Claire entered the den holding his hand.  “Dad, your friend Denny is here. Came to say hi.”

“It’s Death, sweetie, not Denny,” Death said.

The whole nine yards: skeleton, black hooded cloak that went all the way to the floor, scythe clutched in one bony hand, floated, didn’t walk.

Claire furrowed her brow for an instant, and I knew she was making sure the name revision stuck. Claire has a habit of furrowing her brow when she’s trying to remember something. I watched her silently mouth the word “death”.

“Ok, bye, Death, bye Dad!” she said, sprinting out of the room.

I suddenly realized I was standing now but with no recollection of how I got there. The blanket was still wrapped around my legs which were shaking so hard I started to vibrate across the room until the coffee table stopped me.

“What is this? Is this some sort of a joke?” I asked, knowing full well this wasn’t a joke.

“Depends on your sense of humor. I hear some people think Gilbert Gottfried is a genius. Let’s keep it simple. I’m Death, your time is up and you are coming with me. Also, contrary to what you heard, I don’t play cards. Or board games.”  He raised his hands to make air quotes. “The ‘engaging Death in games of chance and winning your soul back’ business? Sorry. Strictly Hollywood. Got it? Good. Let’s go.”

I fell back on the couch landing on the remote. The channel changed from golf to TCM. Citizen Kane was on. Death and I looked at the screen. Ironically enough, Orson Welles was on his deathbed. “Rosebud,” Orson Welles gasped.

Citizen Kane!” Death said. He sat down next to me, suddenly engrossed. “Rosebud was his sled. Have you seen it?”

“No. Always meant to,” I said.

“Sorry for ruining the ending but where you’re going, it’s really more of a favor than a spoiler alert,” Death said.

“I can’t believe this is happening. I don’t even know what I’m dying from. Am I dying from something?

“Heart attack.”

“That’s impossible! I got a clean bill of health from my cardiologist just last week. Do you have any idea how much I spend a year on fish oil? Are you sure you got the right guy?”

Death suddenly stood up, raising his scythe menacingly over his head and in an instant his eyes flashed from black to fiery red coals. Remember when you were a kid and you said or did that one thing that pushed your parents over the edge and you could actually see how someone who loved you unconditionally could also be capable of murdering you in cold blood? That’s how this felt when I crossed the line with Death. I pressed my back as deep as I could into the couch in a futile attempt to evade the heat emanating from his eye sockets as his stare bored into me.

“Do you dare mock me? I have the power to make you suffer great pain if that’s your preference.”

“No, that is definitely not my preference,” I said. “I’m sorry and I wasn’t mocking you.  Could you just do me one small favor and show me the work order or whatever it is you people, or if it’s just you, you use to keep track of everything? Just do that and I’ll go with you peacefully, I swear.”

“A work order? You’d like to see some documentation, is that it?”

“Yes, if it’s not too much trouble.”

Death’s eyes returned to their original, and now surprisingly reassuring, black eternal void state. He laid his scythe across my coffee table, gently sliding the last glass of Glenfiddich I’d ever have out of its way. “You’re what we in the death collection business call ‘high maintenance’. Have you ever been called that before? High maintenance?”

I watched as Death reached deep inside his cloak and produced an iPhone 6. He opened an app with a tap of his bony finger.

“You have an iPhone?” I asked.

“Who do you think invents technology, Einstein? I’ll give you a hint. Same person that invented Einstein.”

Death clicked anddeath swiped for several seconds while unconsciously singing the chorus to “Who Are You?” by The Who.

“Alright, Mr. Skeptic, here we go. You are Edward Gaines. Age 61. 27 Canterbury Court, Hohokus, New Jersey. Ring a bell? Satisfied? Let’s go.”

Death snatched the scythe off the table and stood up, motioning me toward the door. “After you, Eddie,” he said.

I couldn’t believe it. “That’s not me,” I said. “You got the wrong guy! My name is Michael Carmody. I’m 42 years old, not 61 and this is 27 Canterbury Place! Not Court!”

“Impossible,” Death said.

“Claire!” I shouted. “Can you come here?”

I watched Death pull out his phone and begin retracing whatever iPhone steps he took to end up in my den in Hohokus, New Jersey. Claire trotted into the room and suddenly stopped short.

“Dad, the curtain’s shaking.”

“It’s Lester. Claire, tell Death what your full name is and our address.”

“Claire Augusta Carmody, I’m three and I live on 27 Canterbury Place, Hohokus, New Jersey. Wait. Did you ask me to say how old?”

“It’s fine. And what’s my name?”

“Michael Carmody,” she said. “Need me to vacuum anything?”

“No. We’re good,” I said, watching as she ran her finger across one of the windowsills checking for dust and being somewhat disappointed in not finding any before leaving the room.

Death held his phone in front of his face. The fiery red coal eyes were back. Suddenly, I could sense there was another presence in the room. Disembodied but palpable just the same.

“What can I help you with,” the voice asked. I recognized it. It was Siri! Even people in the afterlife use her, I thought to myself. No wonder Apple stock is up to $127 already after the split.

“Directions to 27 Canterbury Court, Hohokus, New Jersey,” Death said.

“Sorry Death, I didn’t quite get that,” Siri said.

“I’m shocked,” Death muttered sarcastically. “Directions to 27 Canterbury Court, Hohokus New Jersey.”

“Sorry, I couldn’t find 27 Canterbury Court, Hocus, New Jersey,” Siri said.

“Not Hocus, Hohokus! Hohokus,” Death screamed into his phone. He glared at me. “Why don’t you people have normal town names in this state like Sacramento or Buffalo?”

“Maybe you should direct your anger at Siri,” I said. “She’s the one that screwed up your directions and now my afternoon.”

Death removed the hood of his cloak and scratched the back of his head using the tip of his scythe.  I had the feeling he was in uncharted territory.

I went back to the couch, got under the blanket and flipped the channel back to the golf match. Scottsdale, Arizona. Not a cloud in the sky. All the spectators in short pants. I was already feeling warmer. Death approached.

“Look, I’m really sorry. This was a whole lot easier when we just used index cards. But nowadays everything is iCloud this and iCloud that. Would you believe I got an app on here that tells me what time low tide is on the Styx? I know I put you through a terrible ordeal. Is there any way I can make it up to you?’

I reached for my Glenfiddich, drained the glass and calmly set it back on the table. I looked Death right in the eye. “I don’t know,” I said. “You seem pretty good with that scythe. How are you with a snow shovel?”

© 2015 The Monkey Bellhop and John Hartnett

Death with Dignity or Sucide?

I’m sure you’ve heard the debate over whether or not Brittany Manard’s decision to end her life when she decides that she no longer has any quality of life, is a burden, etc.

The debate online has my head spinning.

“When people criticize me for not waiting longer, or, you know, whatever they’ve decided is best for me, it hurts,” she says, “because really, I risk it every day, every day that I wake up.”

I honestly don’t know how I’d feel or what I would do if I had received medical news similar to hers.

I do know this:

  • my thoughts and prayers are with her and her family as they all go through this unimaginably difficult time
  • her story has me celebrating each day and I appreciate her brave reminder to treasure each and every day
  • my heart breaks for what people are saying about her instead of just loving her, and hurting along side her and praying for her

Brittany Maynard’s right to die  video

Brittany Maynard, terminally ill woman on decision to die: Now ‘doesn’t seem like the right time’

By Catherine E. Shoichet
(CNN) — Brittany Maynard says she hasn’t decided yet when she’ll end her life, but it’s a decision she’s still determined to make.

“I still feel good enough and I still have enough joy and I still laugh and smile with my family and friends enough that it doesn’t seem like the right time right now,” Maynard says in a video released to CNN on Wednesday. “But it will come, because I feel myself getting sicker. It’s happening each week.”

Courtesy: Brittany Maynard

Maynard says she has stage IV glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of terminal brain cancer. In April, she says, doctors gave her six months to live.

The 29-year-old Oregon woman’s story spread rapidly on social media after she revealed her plans to take medication to end her life. A video explaining her choice has garnered more than 8.8 million views on YouTube. And she’s become a prominent spokeswoman for the “death with dignity” movement, which advocates that terminally ill patients be allowed to receive medication that will let them die on their own terms. She’s also become a lightning rod for criticism from people who oppose that approach.

In her latest statement, a nearly six-minute video produced and released by end-of-life choice advocacy group Compassion & Choices, Maynard acknowledges that some have been skeptical about her story.

“When people criticize me for not waiting longer, or, you know, whatever they’ve decided is best for me, it hurts,” she says, “because really, I risk it every day, every day that I wake up.”

Compassion & Choices spokesman Sean Crowley declined CNN’s request to speak with Maynard’s doctors, saying they “prefer to remain anonymous for now because opponents of death with dignity sometimes harass doctors who write aid-in-dying prescriptions.”

Maynard says her health has been getting worse. She describes a recent “terrifying” day when she had two seizures and found herself unable to say her husband’s name.

“I think sometimes people look at me and they think. ‘Well you don’t look as sick as you say you are,’ which hurts to hear, because when I’m having a seizure and I can’t speak afterwards, I certainly feel as sick as I am,” she says, her voice cracking as she tears up.

When she first started speaking out about her decision, Maynard said she planned to take the medication she’d been prescribed in early November. In her latest video, she says she’s still waiting to see how her symptoms progress before deciding on a date.

But taking too long to make that choice is now one of her greatest fears, Maynard says in the video.

“The worst thing that could happen to me is that I wait too long because I’m trying to seize each day,” she says, “but I somehow have my autonomy taken away from me by my disease because of the nature of my cancer.”

National campaign

Compassion & Choices says the latest video, which was recorded on October 13 and 14, is part of a campaign “to expand access to death with dignity in California and other states nationwide.”

Maynard was living in California when doctors diagnosed her with brain cancer.

“We had to uproot from California to Oregon, because Oregon is one of only five states where death with dignity is authorized,” she said in an opinion column she wrote for CNN earlier this month.

Oregon, Washington and Vermont have “death with dignity” laws that allow terminally ill, mentally competent residents to voluntarily request and receive prescription drugs to hasten their death. Judicial decisions in Montana and New Mexico authorize doctors to prescribe fatal drug doses in such circumstances, although the rulings haven’t become state law.

Now, changing that has become part of Maynard’s mission.

“My goal, of course, is to influence this policy for positive change. And I would like to see all Americans have access to the same health care rights,” she says in her latest video.

But she says she’s also focused on simpler goals.

“They mostly do boil down to my family and friends and making sure they all know how important they are to me and how much I love them,” she says.

Family supports her decision

The video also includes statements from Maynard’s family. Her mother, Debbie Ziegler, says she supports her daughter.

“It’s not my job to tell her how to live, and it’s not my job to tell her how to die,” she says. “It’s my job to love her through it.”

Her husband, Dan Diaz, says they’re taking things day by day.

“That’s the only way to get through this. You take away all of the material stuff, all the nonsense that we all seem to latch onto as a society,” he says, “and you realize that those moments are really what matter.”

Last week, Maynard visited the Grand Canyon — a trip she described as the last item on her bucket list.

Photos on her website showed her and her husband standing on the edge of the canyon, hugging and kissing. In the video, Maynard says she’s hoping her mother and husband will be able to bounce back after her death.

“I understand everyone needs to grieve, but I want him to be happy, so I want him to have a family,” she says. “And I know that might sound weird, but there’s no part of me that wants him to live out the rest of his life just missing his wife, so I hope he moves on and becomes a father.”

Debate over ‘death with dignity’

The so-called “death with dignity” movement is opposed by many religious and right-to-life groups, which consider it assisted suicide.

And Maynard’s decision has drawn criticism from some religious leaders.

“We believe she’s made in the image of God, we believe that God determined when she would be born and God should determine when she’s going to die,” Dave Watson, pastor of Calvary Chapel of Staten Island, told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin earlier this month. “I certainly sympathize. And when I read the story, I prayed for the woman and her family. I can’t imagine the agony for a decision like this. But I don’t think that necessarily we’re saying the right things about death.”

What if Maynard had showed a gun in her video, instead of a pill bottle, he asked.

Philip Johnson, a Catholic seminarian who says he was also diagnosed with incurable brain cancer, criticized Maynard’s choice.

“A diagnosis of terminal cancer uproots one’s whole life, and the decision to pursue physician-assisted suicide seeks to grasp at an ounce of control in the midst of turmoil,” he wrote in a column posted on the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh’s website. “It is an understandable temptation to take this course of action, but that is all that it is — a temptation to avoid an important reality of life.”

But polls have shown that most Americans support having a say in how they die, especially if the process is described not as doctors helping a patient “commit suicide” but as ending a patient’s life “by some painless means.”

“I think there is something of a movement here,” Arthur Caplan, professor of bioethics at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, told CNN’s Don Lemon earlier this month. “When you push Americans to say, ‘Do you want choice on this matter?’ I think a lot of them are going to say yes.”

Caplan said Maynard’s first video speaking out about her decision raised some concerns.

“I wouldn’t want her to feel pressure that she had to do it because she just told us all she was going to,” he said.

Maynard has stressed that she isn’t suicidal.

“If all my dreams came true, I would somehow survive this,” she says in her latest video, “but most likely, I won’t.”

CNN’s Brandon Griggs and Ralph Ellis contributed to this report.

Trademark and Copyright 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved

You can’t take it with you!

A man, told his wife, “When I die, I want all my money put it my casket. I wanna take my money with me.”

She promised she would.

The man died and at the funeral, her friend said, “I hope you weren’t crazy enough to put all that money in the casket.”

“I sure did,” the wife said.

The friend, in shock, said “You mean to tell me you put every cent of his money in the casket with him?”

“I sure did,” said the wife. “I got it all together, put it into my account and I wrote him a check!!”

What are they going to say about me after I’m gone?

Funerals don’t have to be boring. They should reflect the personality of the deceased.

A funeral should be a celebration of the life that was lived. There should be stories shared, memories and lots of laughter remembering the good times you had with someone you loved. RIP to the decedents, and many thanks to the families for sharing. I hope my family does the same for me. I am proud to say that is what we managed to do for my mother.

I did a You Tube search on funerals. Here are a few that I liked. Some are funny, others are touching, some are merely class projects, and one is a “how to” video.  I’ve also included the trailer from the movie Eulogy. CAUTION: some contain language not appropriate for children.

I hope you laugh, but mostly I hope you start thinking, “What are they going to say about me after I’m gone?” and live your life accordingly.

Funny and Wise Eulogy I love this one. What a wonderful tribute. What a strong daughter.

Funerals in Black and White Amen…

Very unusual but moving eulogy I laughed out loud with this one! I hope people are laughing at my funeral.

A teen’s personal project just for laughs. Based on Death and Funerals.

When I think of my Grandma Rosie

Labor of Love: A Video Eulogy

Eulogy for Grandpa

Tribute for a best friend

Graham Chapman’s funeral – John’s Cleese’s speech at Grahan Chapman’s funeral.

Cher’s eulogy for Sonny

Eulogy

Little girl giving a Eulogy for her fish, Lucky

Best Funeral EVER (note: this is faked for April Fools Day)