…reaching age 82

A reflection upon reaching age 82

I am a Planner: 

I have already purchased for $39…a beautiful urn

Rev. Rhett Baird's Rosewood Urn Carved with the Tree of Life design
Rosewood Urn Carved with Tree of Life Design

I Was Not Expected to Live

I was born on May 16, 1941 in Charleston, South Carolina. I was named after my two grandfathers, David and Benjamin, two names right out of the Bible. I weighed a little over three pounds, about the size of a chicken. The family story, told to me when I was four years old, is that I was not expected to live. My grandmother had planned my funeral. When it became clear that I just might survive, my family was so grateful that they changed my name to name me after the two doctors who saved my life: Dr. Rhett and Dr. deSaussure. I am told that the doctors were pleased with that gesture.

Gratitude gets embedded in your bones

When a little boy is told that survival story, do you know what happens? Gratitude gets embedded in your bones. A sense of thanksgiving just to be here, to be alive, to experience life and the world around me, to love and be loved, to know that I am a critical part of the procession of generations. As I got older, and challenges, failures, disappointments, pain and sadness began to come into my life, as it does for everyone, poetically, I found myself raising my hand, like I did in the third grade when the teacher called the roll, and I raised my hand and said “present.” How blessed, how fortunate, how lucky am I just to be able to say “present.” That childhood story has given me the strength and resilience to embrace and persevere through all of the challenges that have come my way in 82 years of living.

awareness of the certainty of our own death 

I am astounded just to be here. But I also have a deep awareness that death could come at any time. I believe that we humans may be the only animals who have an awareness of the certainty of our own death. Even though I survived a premature birth and scarlet fever when I was in the fourth grade, even though I survived bladder cancer, chronic kidney disease, the removal of twelve inches of my colon, carotid artery surgery, peripheral arterial disease, my days are numbered.

Psalm 90 verse 12

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

In my effort to gain a heart of wisdom, I am trying to make plans for the conclusion of my life in a manner that will be appropriate for the occasion for both family grieving and celebrating my life, but also will have the smallest possible financial impact and demand on our family’s shrinking financial resources.

I am choosing to be cremated 

Over my lifetime I have seen families, my own larger family, spend thousands of dollars on funerals, caskets, hearses, cemetery plots, headstones, footstones, cost of digging the grave, of covering it up. I decided that I did not want that kind of financial drain on my immediate family.

I am choosing to be cremated. I am a planner. I have already purchased for $39. on line, a beautiful urn for my ashes. It is made of rosewood and has a Tree of Life design carved into the front of it. My urn and my wife’s urn both sit prominently in our living room so that we might see them every day and know that they will remind us how important it is to cherish today, to be filled with gladness and thanksgiving for this day, this one precious day and for all the people, family and friends who are a part of our lives.