Friday, February 27, 2015

Dying to Stay Home

Give Aways
Twice a year, I look through the more than twenty-two hundred books on my shelves, and select those that I either have read, or haven’t read and would never read.

This endeavor helps me decide which books to donate to the local library for their semi-annual sale, or to organizations that could possibly use them.

When I taught a class on the Holocaust and the illegal Japanese American Internment, I bought as many books as I could on both of those subjects, including dozens on WWII. I will hold on to some but donate others to the Japanese American Museum in San Jose, and to the Northern California or Michigan Holocaust Centers.

Then I came across a 122-page research study put out by the Commonweal Institute entitled, “Responding to the Attack on Public Education & Teacher Unions.” Although I never truly read it, the book was written by a good friend of mine Leonard M. Salle, whom I had known since we were fraternity brothers at Wayne State University in the mid-1950s.

Another Point of View
He, and his wife Kate Forrest, founded the Commonweal Institute as a think tank. It was an unabashedly liberal organization where its members actually spent time to think, offer solutions to problems, and help the uninitiated learn another point of view.

In 1981, I finished my 488-page doctoral dissertation, spent 963 hours producing my first book The Oy Way, and am diligently working on my second book, a memoir. I am aware of what effort goes into researching and writing, and Lenny’s book contained 240 Notes and References, along with brilliant analytical writing, albeit from a liberal point of view.

Death Is Part of Life
Lenny died nine years ago, and Leonard Nimoy just died at the age of eighty-three. My wife and I have been trying to decide what to do with our remains after our lives are over. In the last few weeks, I have spoken to fifteen people of my age around the country, both family members and friends, and not all of them have decided on a final resting place, nor how to get there — burial or cremation.

We have visited all of the Jewish cemeteries within forty miles of here, as well as “neutral” sites. If you haven’t checked out availability and other financial considerations, you might plotz when you look at the cost of the plots.

On yesterday’s trip to Los Gatos Memorial Park in San Jose, we rode on a golf cart around the massive cemetery. Actually, there were several cemetery portions within, including an Asian-American one, a Catholic one, and Shalom Gardens, reserved for members of the Jewish faith.

Dying Is Costly
Our tour guide’s business card listed his title as “Preplanning and Family Service Specialist,” and the pleasant man is on commission. After the ride, we went to a conference room where he calculated an estimate for a single site at $11,147.56, and for a double with discount, at $16,213.87. Those prices include internment (open and close), burial vault, endowment care, survey and development, documentation fee, and tax. This does not include mortuary costs, preparing the body, the use of a hearse to deliver the departed to the cemetery, a casket, and someone to deliver a eulogy. I prefer pre-taping my own.

We have alternatives to consider, including plots we just bought in a Detroit-area Jewish cemetery where all of my relatives are buried, that cost only $1,400 each to start with. Then there would be the added cost of about $2,000 to ship a body back. Over the phone, I told the woman at the cemetery office that we have over 300,000 frequent flyer miles, so that shouldn’t be a problem to fly first class. She paused for a moment, and then solemnly said that we would have to fly cargo.

Another problem with residing in that cemetery during our afterlife is that it would be expensive and wearing to fly back to visit the site by the partner who was still around, on this side of the grass. Besides, Carmen is unenthusiastic of being buried in Michigan, especially after there was recently a wind-chill factor of -24 degrees.

Alternative Ways  
We have also checked with a local taxidermist to find out the cost of being stuffed. If we went that route, Carmen would be placed in the back yard with a small shovel in her hand since she loves gardening, and I would end up in the garage in front of the table tennis table holding on to a racket.

The easiest solution is to keep on living for as long as possible, and that is our plan for now.