Grave Exhortations

Evan Lavender-Smith



I may have recently gone the way of all flesh. I would kindly entreat the reader to confirm the incontrovertibility of my body's death prior to its burial.



I may have recently passed away. I should appreciate the reader's diligence in verifying life's full retreat from my body prior to its inhumation. Professional assurances of complete death, as provided by clergymen, doctors, undertakers, or gravekeepers, should not suffice.



I may have recently taken my last bow. However, do please refrain from judging the finality of my death by appearance alone. Employ all disposable means to authenticate the total vacancy of life from my loins.



Have I uniformly died? Am I as dead as a doornail? Have I thoroughly died? Am I as dead as a dodo? I should very much like to ask the reader to periodically consult with my body in coming days and weeks to verify that its death has been unremitting.



One hears tell of exhumations revealing deep fissures along the undersides of coffin lids made by the fingernails of persons buried while yet alive. It is imperative that measures be taken to ensure the impossibility of my return to consciousness after I am pushing up daisies.



I have bitten the big one—but have I truly bitten it, beyond all doubt? Absolve yourself from misprision of felony—go check and see if I've been buried alive. Do it now.



Have I kicked the bucket, or am I merely comatose, lying trapped beneath the surface of the earth? Either be certain of my total death, reader, or be certain to exhume my casket.



The moral turpitude one associates with the performance of several harsh experiments upon a cadaver, in order to substantiate the Grim Reaper's thoroughness, will appear negligible in light of that associated with the burial of a living human being.



I ask of the reader only that she ensure I am deeply and uniformly dead before such time as they drape me in my pine overcoat. For her attention to this matter, I would remain eternally grateful, were gratitude possible in death.



I may have bought the farm, indeed—though perhaps death has yet to expel all remaining life from my former body's every nook and cranny. I would kindly ask the reader to perform various experiments upon my cadaver such to ensure that no life remains concealed anywhere within it. I would remain eternally grateful for her careful attention to this matter, could I.



I would implore the reader to arrange for a two-week repose of my corpse prior to my dirt nap. Thank you.



I am carrion for crows, correct? I should like to ask the reader to confirm the definitiveness of my death by poking and prodding at the corpse of my former body for two week's time subsequent to death's initial appearance upon it. Thank you.



Certain forms of death are known to permit intermittent resurgences of life. If my journey beyond the veil has taken such a form, I should like to beseech the reader to supplement my natural death with another, more definitive death, one from which she is certain no life may rebound.



Have I dropped dead, definitively? I should like to ask the reader that during the two weeks following the interment of my former body, she nightly visit its gravesite to place her ear upon the mound of earth beneath which I may lie buried alive.



A nearby cemetery was recently relocated; several hundred coffins were unearthed to reveal that a full third contained skeletons lying not in a supine position, as one would expect, but, rather, face down. I should very much like to insist that the reader employ all methods to ensure that I not be counted among that forsaken third of humanity which thrashes about in its grave before finally succumbing to the answering of the final summons.



The role of subjective bias in the diagnosis of death is well documented. In the case of my own visit to Davy Jones's locker, I would ask you, reader, to arrange for the seeking of second, third, even fourth opinions, before such time as the lid to my coffin is nailed shut.



I may have handed in my dinner pail. It often comes to pass, however, that a person appears to have handed in her dinner pail, only to later awaken from a deep sleep. I would ask the reader to commit herself to an independent verification of my complete death. She need not refrain from exerting upon the corpse of my former body that amount of pressure necessary to substantiate an exhaustive death.



Perhaps my hour has come. I should like to implore that the reader confirm not once per day, not twice per day, but no fewer than three times per day over the course of a two-week period following the original appearance of death upon my body, that the entirety of that body has been touched by a true and indefatigable death, before such time as it is six feet under.



I have given up the ghost, have I? But please direct your attention to my former body in an attempt to glean if any little life remains concealed within it. If indeed some stubborn vital oddment is there perceived, I would ask the reader to snuff it out should it appear that the remaining amount were insufficient to sustain the complete vitality of my body for a significant duration. 



I have taken the last train to glory, you say. Still, reader, employ all available means to ensure that the corpse of my body is uniformly dead, that there exists no dim spark of life which might later flare brightly within me while I lie trapped in a coffin well below the surface of the earth. Could I offer you my eternal gratitude in return for your scrupulous attention to this matter, I most certainly would.



If you are reading these words, I may, at last, have come to my sticky end. It could well be, however, that some time after my burial, deep below the surface of the earth, I will awaken, and what had appeared a whole death was, in truth, a fractional death. I should like to entreat you, reader, to visit with my corpse in the coming days and weeks in order to verify that no small quiescent life has remained ensconced anywhere within it.



I would ask the reader to verify, and then to reverify, over coming days and weeks, that I am, in fact, unequivocally done for, engaging any means whatsoever, without concern for the total desecration of my corpse.



There remains a not insignificant chance that I have not yet gone to my last roundup despite already having been buried well below the surface of the earth. I should like to implore the reader that she visit my gravesite often in the weeks ahead to listen for any pleas issuing near to that mound of dirt beneath which I may lie buried alive.



I would kindly ask the reader to take measures such to ensure there will be no chance of surprise resuscitation after I have fallen off my perch. If two weeks have not yet elapsed following my burial, I would ask her to visit my gravesite and exhume my body in order to verify death's sustenance.



In anticipation of compelling her to confirm that I have in fact cashed in every last one of my chips, I offer the reader a simple supplication: Employ all available means of confirming the totality of my body's death prior to its inhumation.



Though it may appear that I have joined the invisible choir, oftentimes death is no more than that: an appearance. I would ask the reader to tirelessly devote herself to an independent analysis and reconsideration of my death such to ensure all traces of life have been vanquished from my body prior to its burial.



I may have snuffed it; rather, it may seem as if I have snuffed it. Often it comes to pass that a person is buried while some life remains dormant within her, only to later awaken and effect her body's revivification as she lies trapped within a dark coffin well below the surface of the earth. I would ask you, reader, to ensure that such a thing not occur in my case. Engage rigorous scientific means to validate the extent of my death prior to the interment of my former body. Thank you.



I may, at last, have shuffled off this mortal coil—yet I would kindly ask the reader to ensure that I am decidedly dead, without any stray bits of life stowed away within me, before such time as a single shovelful of dirt is dropped onto my coffin lid from above. Thank you.



Can the reader claim, with certainty, that I have not awakened from a seeming sojourn to Abraham's bosom, while buried in my coffin, well below the surface of the earth? I would ask her to entertain a reverie of waking from a deep sleep only to realize that she is trapped inside a coffin with little air available, no light, and the full weight of the earth pressing down from above. Such may be my predicament at present.



You imagine that I have turned up my toes, reader, that I am riding the pale horse. But has death snuffed out every last iota of life from me? I would ask that you answer this question positively and definitively before such time as my coffin is lowered into a grave.



I should like to remind the reader that poking and prodding at my skin to find no reaction thereupon does not represent indisputable evidence of my having joined the great majority. Were gratitude and oblivion commensurate, I would remain ever grateful for the reader's assiduity in verifying the total death of my body, before such time as it is food for worms.



I am going home in a box. But before my coffin lid is nailed down, I would ask the reader to perform one final check to ensure that within me there exists no small amount of inert life, which may attempt to quicken as I lie trapped in my coffin well below the surface of the earth. The reader should pinch the skin of my forehead between the fingernails of her thumb and index finger for a duration of no fewer than seven minutes. Thank you.



Reader, you suggest that I have kicked the calendar. But how can you remain fully satisfied that no small rogue life remains stowed away within me until such time as my head and torso have been separated for a certain duration?



I pray that the prospect of my premature burial will cause a stir among the reader's thoughts such to motivate her brief visitation with my corpse, upon which time she should verify for herself, using any means available, that I have, indeed, gone to a better place. If there's a shovel or some other gardening implement lying around nearby to my corpse, grasp it in your hand, reader, and with no concern whatsoever for the sanctity of my former body, use it.



I would kindly ask the reader to see to the tying of a length of string upon my right index finger, that this string be led from beneath my coffin lid up through the earth and along the trunk of a nearby tree, where it must be draped upon a branch and tied to a small bell. If indeed I have not yet hopped on the last rattler, then upon my life's resurgence I will wiggle my finger, alerting a mindful passerby to my living presence beneath the earth.



Well I have lived; well I wish to go west. I entrust you, reader, with the grave responsibility of ensuring that I have not been buried prematurely. Thank you.