‘We’re having a meeting later tonight. I think we’ll have enough bodies for the cremation,’ says Wartika with a big smile.
I’m with the Wife (yes, upper caps W) and we’re having breakfast. Wartika works here, and from the way he instructs a few of the other waiters, I suspect he’s middle management. ‘I think we can get 30 bodies. It should be enough.’ Group cremations are how the Balinese send their dearly departed off into the afterlife. It’s not cheap, and some Balinese have been waiting for years to make this final journey.
The Chinese (don’t get all uppity, I’m one) don’t mind cremations. You can go into the ground or into the stove, but with all the offerings that get burnt to make you comfortable in the afterlife, our relationship with fire is well documented. More accurately, our relationship with suffering. Loss mustn’t just be felt, it should be displayed. Draw it out, make it public, and if you can, allow the whole funeral to deepen the hurt.
Just a week before flying to Bali, I was in Korea for the annual company trip (awful food, good company, and perhaps the first I’ve been on where people didn’t immediately want to fuck each other). I was in Group A. Sizeable companies tend to split employees into groups ensuring two things: that someone is left behind to carry on work; and the two groups almost never see each other, throwing a spanner into the esprit de corp machinery.
As I’m not part of upper management, a mid-air collision would only rob the company of one fairly dispensable writer. Upper management – CFOs, COOs, anything with a C in front – are also encouraged to take separate flights to ensure that the company does not go down with the Airbus A380 you’re on.
But when you travel with your family, you don’t make your wife and kids take a separate flight do you? And Wife and Kids trumps Chairman of the Board.
If we suddenly get into a we-have-lost-cabin-pressure type situation and we get sucked out of the window somewhere over the…wherever, there isn’t a succession plan.
Well, I don’t have one.
And I’ll venture most normal people don’t have one either.
We’re more prepared for what happens if 150 staff buy the farm than a family of four.
Wartika and his family, his fellow villagers have been waiting for this day. It’s something he slipped in between dressing for work and serving newlyweds banana pancakes and coffee.
On November 4, the first black man to become President of the United States won 297 seats when he only needed 270. And the first writer that made me want to become one died. Michael Crichton passed away at 66 of cancer. A week later, the husband of a former colleague crashed his car on the highway. He had a blood clot in his brain, they got it out, he went into a coma, and didn’t come out.
I still don’t have a game plan. At a point in my life where I have a lot more to live for. A friend tells me you tend to get down to it when you have kids.
So then. The first draft of my final will and testament, subject to revision:
- If I get into something where a machine has to breathe for me, unplug it. It’s ok. Let me go down.
- Call the Wife and (insert names of kids here). Call my folks, then my brother. Call my boss and tell him I won’t be showing up for work and apologise.
- Please keep it quiet, keep it small. Don’t try and religion it up. I worshiped my parents, my wife, and money.
- Find AT. He knows what song to play. And trust me – it’s a happy song. Listen to the bridge and the last verse.
- Cremation. Buy a tin of whatever house blend Starbucks is serving that week. Mix me in. Don’t bother spreading my ashes over some river or from a cliff. Give it to the Wife. At any point, I would’ve been happiest with her.
And somewhere – on the coffee tin in marker pen, I don’t care – have it said:
‘He was an asshole mostly. But he was a good father and he loved his wife. And Jesus, he was awesome in bed.’