Instructions Upon My Death

I would hope you’re reading this with tears streaming down your face, but I doubt it. Our relationship has not always been an easy one, volatile at times, distant at others. But never let it be said I didn’t love you. Very much. I don’t know how you feel about me. We don’t talk about such things, apparently. But now I’m about to die and there are some things you should know.

I know you won’t be here when it happens. You live far away and I live alone. Given my medical history, it’s likely I will drop dead on the floor, to be discovered only when the stench invades the neighborhood. The police will check my email mailboxes to find notifications. You’ll be on that list and, as my next of kin, you’ll be the decision maker. I’m sorry to put that on you but, as we know, life—and death—aren’t always fair.

There’s some service here in town that retrieves the body in a bag and torches it for a reasonable fee. What you do with the ashes, if anything, is entirely up to you. 

I have enough friends here that there could be a small gathering. Please note that if it involves any religious invocation at all, I will come back to haunt you. And no euphemistic mention of “passing on,” please. I died. Plain and simple. Perhaps people would want to share remembrances. That would be nice. Or it could be. What might they say? That I was smart, talented, clever, a supportive friend, an accomplished person who led an interesting life. Good enough.

But what would you say? Maybe that I was a good mother, whatever that might mean. I think that phrase sounds like it’s the first part of the sentence that continues with, “…but…” There were some of those in our life together. I would have apologized while I was alive if I knew what to apologize for, to make good if only I knew what I made bad. Something kept you at a distance. I did support you financially for a long time but that’s not a personal thing, nothing you’d brag about. I tried to support you emotionally, too, when you’d let me. 

And what about music? How could there be any remembrance of my life without music? There are the two CDs I recorded but please don’t embarrass everyone by playing the first. The second is vastly superior. Choices of cut is up to you, of course. “Sentimental Journey” would be an easy choice, but I can understand the temptation to put all this behind you with “Today Will Be Yesterday Tomorrow.” It doesn’t have to be my voice in the room, either. You could select something from the work of Doris Day, who has been a poltergeist and role model for many years, most recently the subject of some of my writing—both fiction and nonfiction. Or you could choose Susannah McCorkle’s work. Her pathos and abrupt ending were also the fodder for my endless rumination and aspiration. But from now on, it’s all your call.

No more holidays together. No more flights back and forth. Think of the money you’ll save. You will be free—and pretty rich. I’m leaving you tons of money.

Life goes on. So if there really are tears on your face, they’ll be gone soon.

-Pam Munter


Pam Munter has authored several books including When Teens Were Keen: Freddie Stewart and The Teen Agers of Monogram and Almost Famous. She’s a retired clinical psychologist, former performer and film historian. Her essays, book reviews and short stories have appeared in more than 100 publications She is the nonfiction book reviewer for Fourth and Sycamore.Her play, “Life Without” was nominated for Outstanding Original Writing by the Desert Theatre League and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her memoir, As Alone As I Want To Be was published in 2018 by Adelaide Books. Her work can be found at