“When you're dead, you're dead. That's it.”- Marlene Dietrich
The day before his death William S Burroughs wrote, “Love? What is it? Most natural painkiller. What there is . . . LOVE…”
We let it in
We give it out
And in the end
What's it all about?
It must be love- Kate Bush, “And So Is Love”
And if a double-decker bus
Crashes into us
To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die
And if a ten ton truck
Kills the both of us
To die by your side
Well the pleasure, the privilege is mine- The Smiths, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”
And as your last breath begins, you'll find your demon’s your best friend, and we all get it in the end- Scott Matthews, “In The End” as sung by Mx Justin Vivian Bond
Recently, before having dinner with my goddaughter Nora, her parents and her older brother and sister, the subject of what we wanted to happen to our bodies after our death came up for discussion among the adults. A____, Nora’s mother, said she wanted to be cremated. Her husband, P____, agreed. My answer was a bit different and way more 19th century. “I want a mausoleum,” I said, “with a bronze pierced doorway that a visitor can look through and there see my bronze coffin raised on a stone plinth. On either side of the mausoleum door, I want large weeping angel sculptures with my name chiseled in stone above the doorway.”
P____ was amused and A____ was horrified. How could I envision such an ungreen, space hogging, archaic ending for my life. She said that if I died before her, she would just cremate me anyway. And I said I would haunt her for all eternity if she went against my wishes. I know my goddaughter who will be the executor of my will (which will explicitly detail the funding and building of the mausoleum with all my specifications) will carry out my wishes no matter what her mother says.
According to an eerily accurate psychic that I saw almost 20 years ago, I am supposed to live to the ripe old age of 96 which is fine with me as long as I have my mind. The year of my death will be 2063. Nora will be 54 years old. And she will sell all of my antiques and build my mausoleum and I will in a sense live forever.
The year is 2140. 2 young people are touring the cemetery where I am interred in my little house with the weeping angels. They read my name above the door and Google it with the chip in their brain. They discover this blog and while picnicking at my eternal front door, they read The Great Within and they are impressed. They laugh, they cry, they think. They read this post about my mausoleum and they enjoy a self-reflexive post(post)postmodern moment.
In our discussion of death that night P____, Nora’s father, rightly concluded that after one generation, no one comes to visit your grave anyway and even the generation after you sometimes doesn’t even bother to come. But, there are always those random visitors to the cemetery and Google and eternal digital life.
One may think it is odd that I am thinking about my death at this moment in my life. A friend recently described me as “vibrant”- an accurate assessment which is a wonderful feeling after so many difficult years in which I struggled with depression. Now the right combination of doctors and medicine has given me a new life fostered above all by the presence of my goddaughter, Nora. When I wrote recently that, “She saved my life”, I was not being dramatic or grandiose. She really did rescue me from the dark depths.
So, why am I slightly obsessed with my own passing and my own afterlife in a mausoleum? My desire to have a mausoleum for my remains is half in jest and half (pardon the pun) deadly serious. Death sucks. It is not romantic or spiritual; it is dirty and banal and simply a part of life. And perhaps I want my beautiful mausoleum to counter death’s dirtiness and banality with a small aesthetic jewel that will say with its presence- “I was here, I slogged through all the shit of the world and I survived.” I am eternal and so is this blog.
And I don’t think you ever get over losing a loved one. It’s like losing a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. There are holes and gaps that distort the picture and leave empty spaces in your heart. You, of course, do move on from loss in death, but only because that is really the only response.
There are several holes in my puzzle- my maternal grandmother Hedwig, my paternal grandmother Anne, my step-grandmother Emma, Aunt Mimi, Aunt and of course more empty spaces will be created as I get older, but we can all take comfort because eventually we will all be together in the splendid, many roomed palace in the sky.
But my body will be in a bronze coffin resting on a plinth in a stone mausoleum with a bronze gated doorway with weeping angels on either side. Above the door chiseled in stone- “Kelly T Keating 1967-2063. He survived the shit…”
Here are some pictures that are sources of inspiration for the design of my mausoleum:
Cenotaph of Archduchess Maria Christina, Duchess of Teschen (1742-1798) by Antonio Canova, Augustinerkirche, Vienna, Austria. The Archduchess is actually buried in the Tuscan Vault of the Imperial Crypt in Vienna, along with her husband and daughter, Maria Theresa who only lived one day.
Maria Christina before she turned to dust at the age of 24 in 1766 by an unknown artist. She was called "Mimi", was the fourth daughter and fifth child of Maria Theresa of Austria and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She was the Regent (governor) of the Austrian Netherlands in 1781-1793.
Cenotaph of Archduchess Maria Christina detail. This angel is what I want for my mausoleum and of course my tomb won’t be empty. My body will be in a bronze coffin lined with satin, my head on a satin pillow.
Helene Luise Elisabeth of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Duchess of Orleans (1814–1858) holding her son, Philippe by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1839, oil on canvas, Palace of Versailles. She was a French Crown Princess after her marriage in 1837 to the eldest son of Louis Philippe I, Ferdinand Philippe of Orléans. She was the mother of the future Count of Paris and Duke of Chartres. Her descendants include the present Count of Paris as well the present-day pretenders to the throne of France and Italy and the kings of Spain and Belgium.
Tomb of the Duke of Clarence by Alfred Gilbert, 1892-1899, marble, bronze, aluminum, ivory, Albert Memorial Chapel, Windsor. Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (Albert Victor Christian Edward; 1864 – 1892) was the eldest son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and Alexandra, Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra), and the grandson of the reigning monarch, Queen Victoria.