Advanced Directives

Writers’ Trigger:

The following quote is from “Savannah Eclipse” by Pauline Melville.

“Her father had died two years earlier. His bones hung in a gaily beaded and feathered basket from one of the rafters. She took them down. His spirit, she reckoned, must be almost gone from them by now. Still, she took them out carefully and threw them on the dried-dearth floor to study the pattern.

Several things happened almost simultaneously. A cloud crossed the sun, throwing the room into darkness and making the bones invisible. The house filled with the oily, bitter sweet smell of citrus trees and Mamai Maba heard a sort of groan rolling about the room. She grabbed a brush and tried to sweep it out. But the noise grew and got inside her ears.”

Even if we do not follow a traditional belief-system, we have our rituals. Some might call them superstitions.

  • Write about a ritual that you follow.
  • Imagine that you have taken your mother’s or father’s bones out and scattered them on the ground. What is the outcome?
  • Brainstorm common superstitions and write about a person who believes in one of them.
  • There’s a saying, “There are no atheists when the plane is going down.” Imagine that the plane is going down. Who are the seatmates, and what are they thinking/saying?



 Tomorrow I fly. I am not afraid to fly. I don’t carry a rabbit’s foot, my grandmothers book of daily devotions, or a religious medal blessed by the Pope. Statistically, I know that I am safer in the air than on the highway.

And yet… I always issue advanced directives. I call my eldest daughter and remind her where we’ve put the safety deposit keys. And I worry a lot about the cleanliness of my house. If I were to die in a plane crash and if the children and the neighbors were to gather at the family home, would they tsk-tsk if the house wasn’t up to snuff?

It usually isn’t. (One of my favorite memories of my mother-in-law was her saying, “Thank God you’re a good cook. You’re not much of a housekeeper.” I wasn’t offended – how could I be? She had hit the nail on the head.) In my inner ear, I hear the neighbors commenting as they go from room to room. I can see them shaking their heads and sighing.

To the causual observer, I left the house picked up and moderately clean, but those who come to settle things won’t be casual. They’ll see the withered scallions in the bottom of the vegetable tray; they may see some mold. They’ll see dust for sure. And I should have washed the curtains.

And hence the need for an advanced directive that holds equal weight with my Living Will. Planning for the worst, I’ve asked my dearest friend, on hearing of my death, to rush to my house and clean it.

Monica Currie has agreed to clean my house before the neighbors arrive. I am so lucky to have such a friend. Unfinished business. We should all be thinking of unfinished business.

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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2 Responses to Advanced Directives

  1. Doris, first I just shook my head and thought of the white picket fence but when I came to the end I erupted with laughter. My laughter was cut short by the last paragraph; if it hadn’t been there I could have laughed longer and I am cross with you that you took away that pleasure from me.

  2. timeout2 says:

    Sorry to disappoint. Should I have called you to clean my house?

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