They started arriving in the mail a few weeks ago.
At first, just one or two in a week. Then it was a few in a single day. One day, we got four of them.
Although it is getting closer and closer to Election Day, I’m not talking about those slick, glossy, giant cardboard mailings from our local politicians. It’s amazing how every one of those people will lower my taxes once they get into office, isn’t it?
Don’t worry; this isn’t a political rant.
I’m talking about the gift catalogues that sell everything from sweatshirts to throw pillows to Nativity scenes with tiny dog statues representing Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Before there was Amazon, this was how people bought gifts without ever leaving the house.
Of course, if you ever bought one gift from these mail-order companies, even if it was 30 years ago, you are still on their mailing list. You’ve probably been getting catalogues ever since. That mailing list has been sold hundreds of times since then, so you get them from everyone else, too.
We got catalogues from companies called “Signals” and “The Feel Good Store.” There is one from “Bits and Pieces” and another called “The Vermont Country Store.” Of course, we still get a “Harriet Carter” catalogue three or four times a year. I never understood why they put a “This is your last catalogue unless you order…” sticker on it, though. We still get them, even though we hadn’t ordered from them since 1995 when the kids were little and we ordered glow sticks.
There are plenty of books about religion and cooking or how to take care of your pets. But the one that caught my eye was simply titled, I’m Dead, Now What? It was a book that helps you organize all the information your loved ones will need to know after you die.
You will have all your personal information, including who they should contact, in one place. There are instructions for what to do about your email and social media pages. You can even leave some last words.
As morbid as this may sound, it makes perfect sense and got me thinking. What would happen if I just didn’t wake up tomorrow? Would my wife know who to call at work? What about my editor at the Massapequa Observer or my publisher at Red Penguin Books? What should she do with my Facebook and Twitter accounts? We’ve always talked about completing a will for our finances, but what about all the other stuff? Except for my kids, I may be the only person that knows the WIFI password.
And then I got a call from work that one of my coworkers had passed away from a heart attack overnight.
It was shocking and painful to realize that such a wonderful and vibrant woman wouldn’t be around anymore. There was no reason to believe she wasn’t going to be available on that Zoom call today. There was no warning.
It certainly stopped me in my tracks and gave me pause to think about my own mortality or that of anyone close to me. Suddenly, that seemingly innocuous 96-page hardcover book for $14.95 seemed like a pretty good idea.
Her passing made me think about a song Don Henley wrote called “New York Minute.” It reminded us that, “In a New York Minute, everything can change.” The haunting song warns us to take care of the people we love because, “One day they’re here, next day they’re gone….”
Paul DiSclafani’s new book, A View From The Bench, is a collection of his favorite Long Island Living columns. It’s available wherever books are sold.