February 28, 2014

FREY: Thinking about when your time here ends


---- — My friend Lewie recently asked if I understood the signifi­cance of candlelight vigils for those who met untimely or tragic deaths.

“Can you please tell be about vigil?,” he thoughtfully asked. “I am not sure I know what they are all about.”

One definition of vigil is “evening or nocturnal devotions or prayers,” which is the definition that made the most sense for my friend at the time.

I also shared with Lewie that vigils give people an opportunity to come together in support for and of the person who died and their family and friends.

Lewie paused for a moment, and then said that if he met an untimely death, or any death, for that matter, that there would be no vigil.

“Promise me there will not be a vigil,” he exclaimed, “especially if I die in the winter. I do not want family members and friends standing outside with ice cycles on their faces, frozen tears on their cheeks, holding little candles in their shivering hands.”

My friend did, however, suggest a gathering of good friends and family members, a celebration of sorts, inside his house.

The event, I was informed, would be a “candle kegger.”

Candles were “eligible to be lit, but only for ambiance,” my friend said.

Copious amounts of beer and wine are to be served, along with an assortment of favorite foods. All of the information was shared as if placing a future order at a restaurant.

“There will be fried mushrooms and fish, perhaps, and homemade coleslaw,” Lewie rapidly said, as if he hatched the plan right on the spot while we were talking. “There will be laughter, frivolity, shared stories about my life, and maybe a reading of James Whitcomb Riley poems.”

There will not be, my friend reiterated again, a vigil.

“And you know who my friends are,” he quickly added. “No leechers,” he said, using a word I’m sure he made up that very second.

“What is a leecher?” I inquired.

“You know, those people who really didn’t like you while you were alive, but want in on the fun after you are gone,” he fervently explained. “No laughter, wine and fried mushrooms for the leechers!”

I didn’t know, but did take the time to look up leecher in the dictionary. There is no such word, but oddly enough, it sounded appropriate for the situation.

Lewie then asked me to promise that the arrangements requested would be put into place after his death occurred.

Which got me thinking about my own demise.

So many arrangements to be made. So little time.

Do I want a vigil? Do I want fried mushrooms, fish, and coleslaw? James Whitcomb Riley readings? And of course, the image of leechers arriving was a bit troublesome.

After my conversation with Lewie, I decided to make preparations for my own death.

I would like a celebration at my house as well. Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller, Vivaldi and Billy Joel will be playing in the background.

Instead of wine and beer, cups of hot Earl Grey and Constant Comment tea will be available for consumption. Family and friends will munch on baked artichoke dip on tortilla chips and crock pot cheesy dip with bacon bits on slices of crusty French bread, both of which will be prepared by my friend Rhonda Hundley.

If Lewie is still with us, he will read excerpts from “Charlotte’s Web,” one of my favorite books, and Philippians 4:8, my favorite scripture in the Bible.

And this tragic turn of events, of course, would be my get-out-of -jail card for overseeing all of Lewie’s anti-vigil death requests.

Alvia Lewis Frey is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at