20 Feb 19
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
So, I got a postcard from Forest Lawn the other day in my mailbox inviting me to a free lunch to talk about my funeral.
Now, if you know me, you’re aware this is completely ridiculous, because I’m actually only 17 years old and, furthermore, I never intend to die.
And, even if I were to someday shuffle off this mortal coil, I wouldn’t want to talk about it over a lunch sponsored by a cemetery company. Now, let me say that I love Forest Lawn. I used to go to the original one in Glendale, just because I thought it was so ridiculous and kitschy that a graveyard should have replicas of famous art around the world.
If you can’t get to Europe, not to worry. Because all you have to do is drive to one of Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks, and you can see its art there. For free. Can’t get to Italy? Not to worry. You can see a replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper in Glendale. The various parks in this chain have hundreds of statues and art objects everywhere.
Forest Lawn was the first cemetery to ban any depictions of death on its grounds. Because you’re not supposed to think about death while you’re there, you’re supposed to think about life. Or your tax refund. Or whether your kid will ever get a job. Or anything else, just not death, because why would that subject come up in a graveyard?
I’m pretty sure the folks at Forest Lawn don’t want me calling it a graveyard, either. They call it a “memorial park” in case you’d go and accidentally forget dead people were buried there.
I love graveyards and make a habit of visiting interesting ones when I travel. Forest Lawn is actually a tourist attraction in its own right, visited by scads of people every year. Author Evelyn Waugh was so fascinated with it when he came over from England that he used to have his driver take him there every day, instead of to the studio where he was supposed to be discussing turning his book, “Brideshead Revisited” into a movie. He ended up writing a book about the place, fictionalized as Whispering Glades, entitled “The Loved One” that was later made into a movie.
Another former Brit, Aldous Huxley, wrote a black comedy entitled “After Many a Summer Dies the Swan” that included a fictional place he called “Beverly Pantheon: The Personality Cemetery” that had a “full-scale reproduction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa — only this one didn’t lean.”
But, that’s not what I came to talk to you about. I am here to talk about the weird idea of going to lunch paid for by a cemetery to talk about my death. I’m not saying lots of people wouldn’t like to talk about my death. My kids, for example. They often sit around and ask me how I’m going to divide up my possessions after I’m gone.
Now, let me say that, as I mentioned, I’m only 17 years old and do not intend to die. But my young adult children insist on determining which items they will inherit someday though, if they keep eating In-N-Out burgers instead of real food, they might be the ones to go first.
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“Mom, can I have your house when you die?” my son, Cheetah Boy, asks me occasionally. I keep explaining to him that he doesn’t want my house because it’s so heavily mortgaged that even I can’t afford it on my paltry journalist’s salary. He certainly can’t afford it at age 22.
Still, I might go to one of those lunches one of these days and look into “pre-need planning,” or whatever euphemism is used now for getting everything ready for your eventual demise. But, if you’re sending me a postcard, better include the menu on there first. If you’re offering a lunch with a lot of meat, you clearly want to kill me off early.
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