Vigil and Last Breath Ritual

As promised, here is my current death plan. I am sure that things will change considerably in the coming centuries but this is where I stand now.

Vigil

Once my body is showing signs that I’m in the last couple weeks of life it is time to start the vigil and get me into the last place I’ll be alive. Planning this was actually pretty emotionally difficult. I broke down crying when I was thinking about taking my last breath. My tears weren’t because of sadness really, or fear. My last breath is going to be fucking beautiful and a pretty awesome end to a life well-lived.

So, this plan is based on a “dream” scenario where I die at an old age in some home that I haven’t built yet.

I want my last days to be in my bedroom where there is a massive window that looks out into the forest. Occasionally I’d like to be wheeled outside to feel the sunshine, look at the stars, and feel the rain. I love the rain and spending a few minutes just feeling drops of water would be wonderful.

My bedroom will be mostly empty except for the things I’d like people to read to me. I want people to tell me stories about our lives together, read letters that they’ve written, read some poetry, play acoustic instruments, and read some books that I never got around to reading. The only time I want any television on is at the end of the day when I’d like to watch Netflix with Anna, just like we do most nights now.

I’d like candles that smell like blueberry or vanilla lit occasionally. And each morning I’d like someone to bring me up a fresh cup of coffee that I can smell. Music should be played regularly as well, specifically a death playlist that I’m still compiling. If anyone wants to sing some of the songs I choose or play them on a musical instrument that is cool too.

Oh, and I want a peace lily in my room.

Before entering into the room where I am dying (and I definitely want visitors) I want to people to really get into a good headspace. My room is not a place to argue over money or logistical bullshit, keep that outside. Before entering my room I want everyone to take a scrap of paper (the doula will organize this) and write something they are grateful for. It doesn’t need to be something huge, it can be something simple and plain. The grateful notes will be put in a box and read to me on occasion.

All friends and family are encouraged to visit me and take care of any unresolved issues. As most people know, I love being touched. Friends and family are welcome to touch, hug, cuddle, etc. The only limit is my head. Only Anna can touch my head or play with my hair. Oh, and I’d like my dog to come and curl up at my feet whenever possible.

Last Breath Ritual

When my body starts actively dying it is time to get the last breath ritual started. First, I’ll need someone to light a small campfire outside using oak if possible. Then, when I’m in my last hours of breath (or shortly after I die if I go quickly) I want to be taken outside and put into a hammock that is set up for this occassion. Ideally, Anna will be cuddled up with me and will gently remind me from time-to-time that it is okay to let go (damn it, now I’m starting to cry in the airport).

Four Candles

Once I’m set up in the hammock I want four candles set up at each corner of the hammock. The first candle will be green and once I’m in settled in I want my mother to take fire from the campfire and use it to light the green candle. This represents my birth, the springtime of my life. I’d like people to sing or play Amazing Grace when the candle starts burning. While this candle burns I’d like it to be fairly solemn and people can discuss my life, how I impacted them, and such. Next to the green candle will be a picture of my birth (or when I was a baby).

When the green candle is nearly burnt out I want my father to use some of the remaining flame to light the second candle, a yellow one. This represents the summer of my life that my father helped prepare me for through his example. I’d like an acoustic version of “Southbound” by MxPx played when this candle is lit. Then, the doula will bring out beer and other drinks or food. This is a bit of a party period and I’d like laughter. Next to the yellow candle will be a picture of the four of us guys from high school.

Once the yellow candle is nearly gone I want Josh to use the flame to light the third candle, an orange one. This represents autumn of my life and how Josh acted as a mentor and best friend throughout adulthood. When the orange candle catches fire then I’d like an acoustic version of “Past Lives” by Kesha played. Next to the orange candle will be my wedding photo. This period can continue the party.

When the orange candle is burnt down I want Anna to light the final candle, a blue one. This is the winter of my life and Anna, as my partner, was with me until the end. When this candle is lit things should calm down a bit. “My Way” by Frank Sinatra should play but when the song is over I’d like it to be mostly nature sounds and gentle conversations. I’d like the candle (or replacement candles) to keep burning until I take my last breath. After my last breath the doula should blow out my candle.

When I am no longer breathing I’d like to be moved to a bike-powered carriage and have loved ones bike me down to a pre-determined spot where I will be buried. It should be near a river and I’d like to be washed in the river.

Once clean, I want friends and family to lower me into the ground. In my mouth I want a little bit of MDMA placed, in my right hand a beer, and in my left hand a book on Stoicism (specifics TBD). I want to be wearing a plain t-shirt and jeans. A black flag should be folded and placed on my chest. Once buried I’d like a final poem by Hafez to be read by the doula and then they should say “We are stardust, and to stardust we shall return”. I don’t want my grave marked.

After those words people can head on up to the house to have a celebration of their choosing.

So, there it is, part of my death plan. There are still things that I haven’t figured out yet like a Legacy Project, but at least my final days are somewhat taken care of. Oh, and it should go without saying but I’ll say it, if there is anything I missed then Anna has the authority to make those decisions. I know I didn’t cover any medical stuff. I don’t view death as a medical emergency, or even a medical issue, but decisions may need to be made and I want her to make them. I want Josh, Kayla, and Jordan to support her and provide any guidance she may need. If somehow there is a significant disagreement or a compromise can’t be made then flip a coin.

It was interesting and somewhat difficult to do this exercise, but I actually feel more at peace now that I’ve given it some thought. Not only that, I’m inspired to make the most out of my life. I’m motivated and excited and can’t wait to keep trying to make this (probably) one conscious life count.

Memento mori

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a Snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail?

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Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
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Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

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