In the case of my death*:
- I don’t want to die. I love my life, I love both of you, I love my kids and want to be there for them for as long as possible, and I love my people. And also, I have lived a good life. I have time and time again recovered from intense trauma, made a beautiful life for myself in spite of my past hurts, and have somehow turned that into both a life and a career of giving back so that others don’t have to hurt as badly as I have. I can imagine no greater honor and joy than the gift of walking with others through their own darkness, of working on systems and training healers and givers so that others don’t have to be alone in their heartache. My kids know I love them, and I’ve given them the gift of a mom who loves them, trusts them, is excited about them, and is profoundly humbled to have raised such incredible humans. I’ve built 20+ years of partnership, love, and joy with one dear human, built unconditional love and trust with another over the past few years, and have a beautiful circle of very special, intimate relationships with friends over the years. If I go, I leave behind a lot of love and memories and hilarious stories, and having touched many lives. More than that, I go having learned how to allow myself to be loved and cared for, having learned how to allow myself to trust, and having been loved fully in ways my childhood self couldn’t have imagined. I’m okay with that, even though there would be regrets and sadness.
- I want to be cremated when I die. Don’t you dare under any circumstances pay some stupid amount of money for a dumbass box to put me in as a decoration. A: that’s some wasteful nonsense, and B: my ashes in a box? Where? On the piano? Weird. And C: between our dumbass pets and rowdy kids, you know you’d be sweeping that shit off the floor on the regular over the next however long. Nope nope nope. Get me back in a cardboard box. And then, once this pandemic bullshit eases up, let anyone who loved me have a scoop to take somewhere special, maybe somewhere they shared a memory with me, ideally near the ocean, or woods, or a river, or mountains, or some combination thereof. Let them take me somewhere they would have loved to have shown me in person if they’d had the chance — another country, their childhood home, somewhere that they feel/felt safe and loved and inspired and magical. Scatter me all over the place, in sacred places and beautiful places and mundane places that are only magical to someone who knows. If you want to put a marker somewhere to remember me, feel free. But for you two, and for anyone else who wants to know where to go to find me when they are feeling the loss of me tell them this: Be near water or mountains. Stand by the sea at night, toes in the sand, knowing that when I was young, going to the beach in the evening was a respite and getaway. Lean against the trunk of a big magnolia, as if the shade of its branches and leaves protects you from every harsh reality haunting your quiet moments. Walk a trail to a creek or river, and sit for a while listening to the water, letting the sound of it wash through your being and carry off your worries to be cleansed and repaired and returned to you as healing, as restoration. Go to the mountains, possibly along the Blue Ridge Parkway or on my rock in the Swannanoa on Warren Wilson’s campus, and look at the earth’s curves, arching up out of the horizon, each curve and dip reminding you of my body, of love’s body, of how much I loved your bodies, of love — lush, delicious, and a wonder to behold. Take it in, take in pleasure, take in the way nature feels until you start to blush from how lovely it is, and then push through the shyness and into full embrace and take it in some more. Love your own body like I’ve loved your body; love your own heart and mind and brain and brilliance and fears and flaws like I’ve loved them. In doing those things, you’ll feel me. But no box or urn. Weird.
- If I croak during isolation, feel free to do some kind of online memorial for me for now, through whatever online format makes sense and can hold an assload of people. Later on, y’all can have more than one memorial, if that makes sense. I don’t want any memorials in a church. I want them ideally outside, or maybe in a giant barn, or on a farm — somewhere lovely. Maybe a weird one in a karaoke bar or dance club, or at a dance studio for a celebratory dance! I have a very deep and special love for roots music, slower and easier than actual bluegrass, but with the same not-entirely-refined vibe. Front porch music. Let people sing/perform who loved me. Let children sing off-key. Read poetry, including erotic poetry. Make people uncomfortable reminding them who I’ve always been. If you read a scripture or sacred writing from any one tradition, include scripture or sacred writings from other traditions. I love chanting (the Convent of St. Helena would be welcomed to sing a prayer via online video, maybe?). I love movement, dance, and fire. If there is a nighttime outdoor gathering, I’d love for friends to offer a sacred fire performance for me. Remind people of my lifelong wishes and that simple ways they can honor my memory are to continue fucking shit up (oppressive structures, capitalism, the patriarchy, prudish norms) on my behalf, continue being silly and spontaneous and goofy on my behalf, and continue to practice being fully present in their bodies, experiencing pleasure and learning what safety feels like, so they can take good care of themselves. End any and every memorial service with a mini dance party to one of my favorite jams (see my Spotify lists); tell everyone that I knew they might be a bit awkward about it but they know it would make me happy so play along.
- I worry about all of you if I’m not here, even though I know I’m powerless over what happens next. I guess I want to remind you that I’ve built a pretty strong network of community, and hope you won’t hesitate to reach out to that community for support on a regular basis. Let the people who loved me take care of you both and the kids. Tell them what you need when there are needs. Take care of each other for me. Let others take care of you, too. Make sure the kids always know how much I love them, that they always keep being ridiculous, and that they always are encouraged to take care of themselves. I know I have no control over this, but I hope the sweetness between you two and the kids would continue indefinitely; y’all are my family.
- Things… I don’t have that many. Honestly, let the kids and y’all take what they want and thrift shop the rest. Jars of dirt on my altar are dirt from the garden space of my grandparent’s property; y’all and the kids should each feel free to take a portion to sprinkle around the property where you live or any time you move to have a little bit of little kid me around to connect with.
Alright, that might be about it for now. I’m guessing I’ll keep updating this doc as I think of things between now and the time it’s needed, if that happens, which I hope it doesn’t. I love you both and the kids so much, and am so grateful to have you all in my life, especially during tough times. Thank you for loving me.
* I was going through my Google Drive yesterday, and found a letter I’d written to my now-spouse and ex-spouse in March of 2020, a few weeks into the pandemic. While the full letter is long (and entitled “Do Not Open Unless Chris is Hospitalized” and has many more details, this excerpt was especially sweet and I wanted to share.