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How an Irish bullock prompted me to make my will

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Illustration by Caty Bartholomew
The high cost of dying in Ireland never crossed my mind until I was driving home cold sober one night last winter and met a black bullock in the middle of a wet black road at 40 miles an hour.

All parties just about survived the collision, but afterwards I reflected that, had I been driving faster, I could easily have been intestated there and then without even the mild sedation of being mildly intoxicated.

So I decided to make my will.  I did the job with a splendidly excellent solicitor (lawyer) in Shannon last week, with the greatest of pleasure and relief.

The only hiccup in the process came in relation to my powerful wish to avoid the worst excesses of the cost of dying and that, dear readers, is why what follows here is more of a legal document than a lighthearted yarn. As part of my extended family, you are hereby witnesses to my wish to depart this world as cheaply as possible.

The solicitor casually mentioned that the cost of an Irish funeral of the routine kind can now exceed 9,000. When I replied that I desired to insert a strong wish for cremation in the will he said words to the effect this would not do.

It was often weeks before the will of a deceased person was read, and by then I would be boxed and buried deeply unless I previously discussed the matter with my wife and family. And the bills would be rolling in.

I have already fully discussed my wishes with the immediate family but, just to be on the safer side, I am also informing what I see as the much wider family circle represented by all of you.

I do not propose to die for another two or three decades because I'm enjoying myself these days, but you never know when you might encounter another black bullock.

And, quite apart from the savings involved, I very dearly wish to be cremated when the time comes and, above all, for my boxeen of ashes to be buried among the roots of a mighty strong sycamore tree in some park or area which the clan will have access to down the years to come.

I love sycamore trees with their spinning parachute seeds each autumn and gently whispering canopies. I love them above all other trees.

If reposing in ashy form down at the roots I can always claim to be a living part of that power and beauty, to be somehow still alive in the west. And with tree hugging so common nowadays I will be delighted to be hugged occasionally by generations of MacConnells as yet unborn.

I abhor antiseptic funeral parlors and all that goes with them in modern Ireland.  Expensive oak caskets likewise, huge hotel functions for mourners, death notices costing small fortunes in dozens of newspapers, hugely expensive headstones, flowers that are already dead by the time they arrive at the graveside or artificial bouquets that somehow always look cheap and tawdry.

When I depart I want to be briefly waked in my own bed in Maisie’s cottage, I would like a kind priest to celebrate a quick Mass, and I would be very happy indeed if my clansmen and friends raised a few glasses, played some reels and sang a few songs before morning.

Then I wish to be speedily transported to the nearest crematorium ideally in one of those cardboard coffins currently being promoted by the Green Party.

When the family select the sycamore, I'd love if an ordinary six inch steel nail was inserted in the trunk. When visitors call to see me in the years to come I'd wish that they first wrote down the best joke they'd heard that week, or a wise and witty saying, or about anything lighthearted, and hang it on the nail before departing. That might mean that callers would depart with a smile on their faces rather than the somber countenances one sees emerging from gray graveyards.

That's about it but, I now have thousands of witnesses to my wishes.  I feel so much energized by that reality I will probably go past the century before eventually saying goodbye to the West.

Final thought for this week -- if you have not yet made a will then do it soonest. It's great craic altogether!

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