I first posted a version of this in 2009. A year ago Toad died. He was prepared; he even left a list of people to be contacted, poems to be read, and songs to be song. This posting has been edited and updated a little. This one is for Todd Omer Peterson.
My friend, Toad told me I should plan for my demise, so I've been giving it some thought. It all kind of fell into place this afternoon as I was painting door trim. What I really want is a pyre; you know, a big bonfire to burn my body. It just seems to have more theater than just being shoved into a furnace and coming out ashes cooling down for a cremation urn.
Some of the Native Americans added a nice wrinkle. They would let the body decompose up on a rack away from critters, then later collect the bones and burn them. Oakwood is a close knit and pretty laid back community, but off hand, I think some of the downwind neighbors might complain about a decomposing body in Oakwood Park.
But I'm thinking the Viking tradition would be really great - a Snekke, a longship, carrying the deceased atop of a boatload of firewood. A night time service with some Willemoes Stout, Akvavit, some strong cheese and pickled herring, all the folks gathered around a big fire in the center of Oakwood Park.
The crowd is weeping, singing those old songs of joy and grief, laughing at past life stories until they cannot stand - sad from the loss, happy with the memory ... and the Akvavit - "the water of life". Then deep in the Akvavit night, just before dawn kisses the horizon, a cry rises from the dark edges - The Judge calls out, "Time! Time! Time to light'em up!" Then all of Oakwood rises as one to their feet and stumble, fall and crawl to the boat. Those still able, grasp the gunwales. "Heave! Heave! Ho!", calls The Judge, and the snekke begins to inch along on it's last slip-slide down the flowery slope of 1410. As the longship passes, the designated Sober Man lays torch to the snekke, now captained only by the shell of Gunnar, armed with his Bulldog Forge spade and fork, riding atop a burning cord of fine Oakwood Bur Oak. It picks up speed, clears the walking path and splashes into the quiet waters of Edgewater Bay. Drifting to the center of the bay, the blazing boat lights up the morning sky, covering the water with a thin skim of Gunnar ash.
Permits! Man am I going to need permits and variances for this one. I got to get me a good lawyer. A good Nordic lawyer (man, now that's an oxymoron). I'll get The Judge, Ol' Chesterman; he always likes to challenge the establishment.
Akvavit! Vestfyen Willemoes Stout! I'll need cases of Akvavit! This shouldn't be a BYOB event (although that would lend a certain local Scandinavian touch). Aalborg was the birthplace of my grandfather, my namesake, so that would be appropriate. But not the regular Aalborg Taffel Akvavit, it should be the Aalborg Jubilaeums, the good stuff.
A Snekke? Where can I get a proper Snekke? Maybe the North House Folk School in Grand Marais?
Blogger Todd replied ...
Great to see that you're making such fine pyro plans so early in your life, Gunnar. The old "Toad" always recommends an early start, especially for old guys who require lots of preparation for their demise (fire permits, alcohol, cigars, Mooney's, and a good "reverend" to conduct a service worthy of the deceased). Keep me posted on the status of your legal hassles for the many permits you'll be requesting. And please allow me to "pass on" before you do so I don't get blamed by your Oakwood neighbors for getting you started on this grand blazing plan for making an ash out of yourself!
April 4, 2009 at 11:53 AM