Although in good health and looking forward to several more decades of driving people nuts, I recently set down my “final wishes” so Pat and the kids would know how I felt about checking out. It occurred to me that what I wrote might give folks who have never met me a clearer understanding of who I am and how I think, so I am publishing it here.
The Final Wishes and Ruminations of John E. Shuey
And there’s that one particular harbor,
Sheltered from the wind,
Where the children play on the shore each day,
And all are safe within.
A most mysterious calling harbor,
So far but yet so near.
I can see the day when my hair’s full gray,
And I finally disappear
Jimmy Buffett & Bobby Holcomb…One Particular Harbor
- Cremate my remains. All of them. If it’s cheap enough, shoot’em into space. If not, scatter them somewhere there’s lots of trees, critters, and sunshine.
- I doubt there will be much fuss…I never bothered to accumulate a lot of close friends. Then again, I don’t much care for fusses, so what the hell?
- I do not want any ministers, priests, rabbis, imams, or any other kind of superstition-peddling con-men at any last ceremony or whatever. Also no prayers, invocations, or other incantations to some invisible sky fairy. No shit, I mean it!
- As for music, I’m partial to Mozart, Buffett, the Beatles, and the Beach Boys…in no particular order. But it has to be light and fun. I’m not really all that upset about this and there’s no use ruining anyone else’s day either. If you can’t at least tap your toes to it, don’t fucking play it. And finally
- I want the following to be read to anyone who shows up at my goodbye party by the eldest of my children willing to read it. If all three (I think) pass, hire some sexy young lady to read it. They can be had cheap enough. It’s a combination of thoughts from Richard Dawkins, Penn Gillette, Mark Twain and me. Four of the brightest fellows I know.
So I’ve finally done it: gone and died. Big deal. I’m not the first, and all of us will, you know.
But don’t you see…that makes us the lucky ones!
To die, you must first be born. All the potential people who might have lived, but who have in fact never seen the light of day, are more numerous than all the grains of sand in the Sahara. We know this because the set of all possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people who have somehow managed to stir to life. We are therefore incredibly lucky, because it is we who have beat those stupefying odds. It is you and I who are here.
How wonderful it’s been. To be sure it hasn’t been without troubles or heartaches or disappointments, but hey… with no truly intelligent designer to arrange things for us, what else should we expect?
Look…I have gotten to eat carrot cake and drink the finest Bordeaux. I have stood within the Coliseum in Rome and Notre Dame in Paris. I’ve climbed to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico City, and watched from a scant few yards away as a grizzly bear plodded through a thicket in the Denali Wilderness Area. I’ve laughed at George Carlin, sung along with Jimmy Buffett, and marveled at the intelligence and elegant prose of Richard Dawkins, not to mention the wit and wisdom of Bill Bryson. I’ve held three newborn babies in my arms, and watched awestruck as medical science gave one of them back to me which fate and poor design had conspired to take away. I’ve basked in the love of some very wonderful people, and a few marvelous canines. There isn’t much else to have wanted.
Folks…listen up because this is really important: We are made of stardust! Each and every one of us is composed entirely of atoms expelled by distant stars tens of millions or even billions of years ago. That, it seems to me, is far more inspiring and marvelous than believing we were squished together from a handful of mud by some jealous, megalomaniacal sky fairy.
Likewise, we are connected to — actually relatives of — every creature and plant alive now or that has ever lived on earth. That connection too is so much more incredibly exciting and satisfying than any bronze-age creation myth could ever hope to be.
And do you know the most wonderful thing of all? That being made of stardust and connection to all life now and ever thing? Well, we are the only creatures on earth with the ability to comprehend that. And that, in and of its self, makes us as special as we should ever need to feel.
Mark Twain once pointed out that he had no fear of death because he had been dead for billions of years before he was born, and it hadn’t really been a bother at all. That is pretty much my take on the thing as well.
Please don’t misunderstand. If I could have avoided leaving you I would have. I have loved each and every one of you in my own peculiar way. There have been times when I wished I could have been a bit better at it, but at least know I tried.
So, enjoy the food, the company, and especially the wine. Celebrate please, my, and your, tremendous luck. All my best to each of you.
Yes I am a pirate,
Two hundred years too late.
Cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothing to plunder,
I’m an over-forty victim of fate.
Arriving too late…
Arriving too late.
Jimmy Buffett…A Pirate Turns Forty