Off the Record

A positive outlook on matters of death

Death is one of those things; it's inevitable. You can't escape it and most people don't fully understand it.

To this day, I'm not sure how to deal with death. It's confusing and that's probably the scariest part.

Whether or not you believe there is an afterlife place where you will once again reunite with your loved ones, it's not easy to lose them. I guess all you can really do is spend the life you have to its fullest.

That is, until I met Margaret Keys, also known as the 'hat lady'. She gave me a new perspective on that thing called death.

At 100 years old she is still alive and well, and by the looks of it, has many years ahead. But when she was 90 years old, she decided to celebrate her life by holding a wake for herself. She invited all her friends and even had someone make her casket.

She says the casket was a protest of sorts to the rising funeral costs, but it was also a bit about celebrating her life and staring death in the face; she's not afraid.

In the particular career I've chosen, I see death on a daily basis.

Several months back, I met a wonderful man who really struck me, Yosh Uchida. He did many great things for his church community and, seemingly, everything he did, he did it with his whole heart and attention.

I had planned to visit with him more, learn more about the Buddhist church in which he was the president and hopefully gain some well-sought life wisdom from him.

Then, while editing the paper one day, I was proof reading the obituaries, and there he was. Grief and regret filled my heart. I didn't get the chance to spend more time with him and really get to know who he was. It was an unexpected death that came suddenly and took him from us. But I imagine even the expected deaths aren't easy.

Many people have come and gone in my short lifetime, and I'm still not sure what to make of it.

For now, I just hold dear to the good memories and continue to make my own mark on this earth.

But Margaret Keys gave me an interesting outlook. She told everyone at last week's Nouvella luncheon to go out and buy a casket, she keeps hers in her living room filled with books.

"When I go, take the books out, put them in a box, put me in and I'm ready to go," she said.

I can only hope one day I can achieve that amount of joy and such a positive outlook on life... and death.


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