Payin’ the Piper

I have an old buddy whose been obsessing about his undertaking over the last year.

He keeps telling me he wants to “go out” in a good way. Since he can’t preside over the comings and goings at his own funeral, he’s taken to putting together the particulars ahead of time.

“Why do you think you’re going to die now?” I keep asking him.

He explained that all of the men in his family, including two older brothers and a sister, died when they were exactly 85.

“How old are you?” I asked the other day.

“83 and a half,” he said, serious as a heart attack. “I don’t have much time to get this thing straight.”

The obsession with death is an Irish thing, and the obsession with a grandiose wake and a good “send off” is a distinctly Boston Irish thing. No matter what a loser a fella was here in town, he can really make up for it with a good send off.

On the flip side, I’ve seen many a person I thought would attract a major crowd for the wake and Mass, only to go to the services and find the place looking like a theme park at midnight.

It’s surprising sometimes how few people show up to support a passing friend or acquaintance.

But it’s not surprising at all, really, because there are finally no consequences.

Say you’re boss or a friend is having a party, you feel obligated to go because you’ll have to see them again and there will be consequences for your absence.

Once they’ve bit the dust, whose going to say anything if you don’t go?

Certainly not the deceased.

My buddy, in all of his hasty planning, ran into a bit of a quandary.

He was sizing up the parish priest, he said, and realized that the priest was older and could go any day. Everyone in my buddy’s family and half the town of Boston had been eulogized by this old priest – and he was good at it.

Having him eulogize you was the working man’s equivalent of getting an original Robert Frost poem dedicated in your honor.

“What if he dies before I die,” he said. “He ain’t lookin’ so good. I don’t know. I might outlast him.”

My buddy sprang into action and proposed a unique bargain.

After Mass one morning, he pulled the old fella aside and suggested that he write a eulogy ahead of time for him. Getting down to brass tacks, he said he was pretty worried that he might outlast the good father, and in that case he ran the risk of getting some new priest just out of seminary coming over and awkwardly delivering a last statement for someone he doesn’t even know.

“I’m not about to be sent off by someone who doesn’t know me and will screw up all my plans,” he told the priest. “For God’s sake, he may not even know how to say my name right.”

After a few promises for extra widow contributions, my friend closed the deal.

Like clockwork, a few weeks later, the old priest handed him a three-page, typed, eulogy after Mass.

All was well and good until my buddy handed the eulogy back to the old priest, with suggested additions, exaggerations and outright lies!

  • • •    •

I’m applauding Mayor Walsh on his move to sue the pharma companies that produced those poison pills that seem to have mainstreamed and exacerbated the opiate epidemic five to 10 years ago.

These folks are my new pariahs.

The more one learns about what they did, the more – in my opinion – we find an evil so conniving that it sickens the heart.

Nothing has been proven, but these pills were marketed as safe and non-addictive. I remember that because some johnnie come lately doctor tried to pawn them off on me when I broke my ankle. I don’t really take pain pills, and pretty much welcome the pain from an injury.

Luckily I have a high tolerance for pain.

I’m Mr. Boston.

But not everybody has such an iron constitution.

Many people – especially young athletes and construction workers – took these pills, and they shared them with their friends. And a maniacal plan unfolded to reap profits off of unsuspecting people who took the pills to help them tolerate the pain of an injury or everyday life on the job.

Now I hear these varmints have come up with an antidote for the opiates – streamlining the evil intent.

But we shouldn’t look down on them. All of us are capable of the same thing.

It’s a matter of the heart for an individual whose on top of the stack.

So many times they can forget who they’re standing on top of if they don’t frequently look down.

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