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  • Mike is one of my oldest friends. We’ve been friends for longer than all but maybe 2 or 3 people I can think of, outside of my family, most of whom I also consider to be friends.

    He’s my buddy from my second ship. Mike and I couldn’t be more different. Politically, I am certain that he is at the complete other end of the spectrum from me. He’s definitely an off-the-charts “I” on the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, while I am an off-the-charts “E”. He avoids crowds of people at all costs, while I gravitate towards them. He prefers a very simple, mundane life (his words), while I like to be involved in lots of different things. Yet, we have a 38 year friendship that is still going strong. Our common denominator was a love of Bob Dylan songs, and a love of reading. We’ve both turned each other on to many, many books over the years, and have had dozens, maybe hundreds, of discussions about Dylan songs. We’ll discuss a book after we’ve read it, and compare notes, about how we each reacted to it. It is usually much different. I find Mike to be a fascinating character, and a true friend.

    Oh, yeah, the other thing we have in common is, Mike followed in my footsteps – after I blazed the trail, going AWOL from my ship and eventually getting an honorable discharge, Mike did the same thing. His AWOL journey was much saner than mine – he drove across the country in his Jeep, and turned himself in. Mine was a slightly wilder ride, including a stop in the Felon Tank.

    We both told the story at Treasure Island all about how terrible the captain of our ship had been, and after Mike and I, about 3 or 4 other sailors followed in our footsteps and did the same thing. We like to think we played a part in that ambitious Captain never getting his admiral stripes, which we both agree was probably a good thing for the Navy and for anyone who might have had to serve under his leadership as an admiral.

    So I shared with Mike my recent “Freedom” trilogy of stories about going AWOL and getting out of the Navy. He came back with this. “Have you got room in your tale of adventure for the part about how in late July I had heard you were in Norfolk and I went to Dave Hennessey's place (my former roommate) and saw a body sacked out on his couch and when I said to him ‘Say, Dave, I heard Pete was in town. Have you seen him?’, he just kinda pointed toward the couch--and that body lying there was YOU??? You probably don't remember that, since you were asleep at the time. But I swear it's TRUE! Every word!” No, Mike, I didn’t remember that, but now I know!
  • We got to talking about death, and what we’d like to have happen after we bought the farm, so to speak. He brought it up first. He doesn’t want an obituary or any kind of memorial service, and just wants to be buried at sea – whole body burial, not cremated and ashes. I’m not sure if you can even do that, but asked him whether he considered that that would make him shark bait? I told him all about Stephen Levine’s book, “A Year to Live”, and how I’ve been doing this for the past 11 months, living the year like it’s my last. So, I continued:

    “But now, I'm supposed to really think about how I would want to be ‘disposed of’, for lack of a better term for dealing with my remains, and then what I would want my memorial, if I wanted one at all, to look like. I hadn't given it a whole lot of thought, to this point, but time is running out on my year - I believe I now have 33 days left. So I better get cracking on this one.

    “I have the first part nailed down pretty tight - cremate me, and stick me in a hole in the wall at the Columbariums at Arlington National Cemetery. That's where Mom and Dad are, and me and my brother Ken, who was in the Air Force, plan to join them there. Anyone who served, and got honorably discharged, can do that. You get the 21-gun salute, the bugler blowing "Taps", and your loved ones get a flag folded up nice in a triangle, along with thanks from a grateful nation. I'm down with all of that. I've done the service for my Dad and Mom there, and it's very cool. Simple, but elegant. Mom didn't get the guns, taps or the flag - she just got to join Dad, and we supplied our own minister to do the service for her. It was still really cool.

    “What I have to figure out is what I'd want a service to look like. My Dad had definite ideas about his service. My mom said ‘I don't need any big service - just that simple thing at Arlington, like your father’s’. I would have honored that, but my brother Chris said ‘It's not about what she wants - the people that knew and loved her need a way to have closure and a place to meet and grieve her death, and to celebrate her life, together with others who knew and loved her’. And, I had to agree with that. Sorry, Mom!

    “So, we did 3 services for the lady that didn’t want any - one down in South Carolina for all her friends there, then two in Virginia, which I made all the arrangements for - one in my church, then the simple one she wanted at Arlington, the same day, where her cremains were interred. I had her on my mantle, in an urn, for the 2 1/2 months in between the SC service and the VA services. You have to schedule the Arlington service after the person dies, and it takes awhile to get an available date. To borrow my mom's one and only joke, which she would always tell whenever we drove past a cemetery - people have been dying to get in there for years!

    “Maybe I'll make everyone at my service sing karaoke, and come dressed in the costume of their favorite character - yeah, it would be along those lines. I would definitely want Elvis to be in the house! Maybe some stupid animal tricks too - perhaps a pair of sky diving squirrel twins, or a Ground Hog doing a stand-up routine. (No animal cruelty or any animals getting hurt, of course!) I would mainly want it to be fun and hilarious, and for people to just have a blast and talk all kinds of great shit about how fucking cool it was to know me. I think I'd also like to "punk" them - pull a practical joke on everyone. You know, like have a pregnant lady show up, crying, and say that I was the father of her baby. Then, for my Eulogy, I would have Elvis (someone dressed as him) get up and read the shortest eulogy ever – ‘Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke!’

    “Well, that's what I have so far. I think I might also want to have my untold story about what REALLY happened on SoCar all typed up, but then cremated along with the rest of me and put into my urn, so they could say "and he took that secret to his grave".

    “You know, if my only legacy was playing a part in keeping that captain from making admiral, then, my friend, I would have to say, "that was a life with a purpose, well-lived!" That would be, and is, a legacy to be most proud of. I think that you and I can safely say that we did that, each in our own ways”.

    Of course, you know that I am joking about the service details and all. Yeah, I’ll try to be a little more sensitive and thoughtful about it all, for sure, but I do want it to be fun, very musical, and want everyone to have a good time and talk lots of good shit about me. That’s for definite sure.
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