When I die, bury me with my books, so that you will know I am not alone, and that you did all you could. I will have my many memories with me, reflecting bits of me like stones catching the light in a brook, but that seems so little. I remember the padded lid of my grandfather’s casket, lowered carefully closed after his body had been cranked down into the coffin’s depths, first his head and then his feet, the sweating undertaker in his solemn black suit. My soul leapt into my throat and raged at the back of my mouth, threatening to open the cage of my teeth and scream, “Don’t leave him by himself! By himself! By himself! Don’t leave him all by himself and alone!” I believe my tears flowed thickest then.
Bury me with my books, the special ones, which I have just set aside. The Floyd Skloot- I think he signed it- while I’m not entirely sure his story is stunningly inspirational, his memoirs about growing up in New York remind me of my Chada, always.
Tuck my CS Lewis set somewhere by my feet, in case my soul changes its mind about what it believes once I am gone. Even if it does not, The Chronicles of Narnia remains captivating in its simple exposition, rich imagery, and use of device. Plus, then ending. What an ending!
Bury me with my mentor Joe Mackall’s book about the Amish- the front is inscribed with a sweet message that frankly says he believes in me. Such an important thing at such a vulnerable and impressionable time in my life- and signed the day before a birthday of mine– serendipity.
Please don’t leave out either Deb Marquardt book, for though it’s been years since reading, she reminds me of one of the very best and most influential nights of my life- and in one of my very favorite places, to which I can never really go again.
Bury me with Marilyn Chin- my first real taste of a strong female voice and slam poetry both, who called me sister in her signing.
Include Jill Christman, for her work comes from a place I can never visit, and I hope not to see my own version again, but she is a reminder that beauty can come from darkness, strange though that beauty may be.
I know that my coffin will be heavy by this point- add another pallbearer.
Surround me with the voices and characters I love so that my sleep is sweet, perfumed by book pages turning, and is not solitary. Let me have Where the Red Fern Grows, so that I might remember how I first came to love devouring books. Give me Shakespeare, that I might have beautiful words in beautiful order, and the time to digest them all- one never knows when Hamlet’s soliloquy might come in handy after death- even if “to be or not to be” has ceased to be a question.
Let me have The Perks of Being a Wallflower, perhaps the book most freely given to me, and by the person who knew how to love me best, though it bears no inscription. Include Candide, which so often showed me myself, and The Once and Future King, that allowed me to take myself away in a rich, complex whirl of words.
If the casket is bursting, lower it into its hole in the ground and let mourners (if there be any) throw books and pages in after me. A shower of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, all the thousands of pages of Harry Potter, Trainspotting for a bit of colorful language, John Updike for masterful words, Wicked 1-4 for wonder, depth, and a touch of disappointment, and finally (perhaps) Walden, right on top for peace and tranquility.
Perhaps, for all this, there will be more books than flesh and blood people at my funeral. I think that’s quite alright, given the sheer amount of my life spent with my nose in a book. Someone, somewhere, will understand.
Lit & Love,