The Last Word: Skull & Bones

A Corrugated Paperboard Casket with a $60 Urn

Some time ago I made plans for my death, also called Preneed Funeral Planning. My “advanced planning counselor” and I sat down over a cup of tea in my dining room and began to discuss the inevitable. This was shortly after I had had a heart bypass operation, so I must have felt more than ever before intimations of mortality. I know I wasn’t feeling as desperate as Melville’s Ishmael: “Whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet...then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.” But for the first time in my life I must have glimpsed a black ship on the horizon and guessed it was time to begin arranging my steamer trunk.

“Why are you doing this now?” my advanced planning counselor asked me after I had signed the contract.

I thought that was obvious, yet I was at a loss for words. Faced with my silence, he helped me along.

“You probably want to spare others at a difficult time.”

In fact, I had been thinking that I really was sparing myself at a difficult time. On reflection, of course, I realized that this was silly—I would not be there for any “difficulties.”

“Yes, of course,” I said, though to be honest I had also been influenced by the fact that, if what I had heard was true, I would be saving money. Hadn’t I read somewhere that funeral costs were on the rise and that they...

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About the Author

Harold Bordwell is a retired editor living in Evanston, Illinois.