After she's gone, a lot of stuff will not get done

The Baltimore Sun

Most baby boomers believe in life after death, a recent survey shows, and the closer they get to the finish line, the more certain they are a reward is waiting.

In a survey in the latest issue of AARP The Magazine, 73 percent of those 50 and older agreed with the statement "I believe in life after death," and two-thirds of them say their confidence in the afterlife has increased as they've gotten older.

More women (80 percent) than men (64 percent) believe in an afterlife, possibly because they are convinced they earned their spot during this life.

"Heaven's a place, all right," said 56-year-old Ed Parlin of New Hampshire, who was quoted in the report. "It's always a beautifully clear day and sunny with great landscaping," he said, echoing a widely held belief that heaven is not like Maryland in August.

Apparently, this belief in the afterlife reflects the fact that boomers are returning to religion, presumably because there is more time for reflection with the kids out of the house.

I tend to accept the Raymond Chandler view of the afterlife: The Big Sleep. I don't think there will be much going on after I cross over, and not just because I won't be able to call everybody and plan it.

But I am certain of what will happen - and not happen - here on Earth after I make my exit.

For example, I am absolutely convinced recycling will end - at my house at least. And nobody will ever clean underneath the vegetable bins in the refrigerator again.

I used to worry that there would be nobody to mother my young children if I died, and I made prayerful bargains with God. "Let me get them out of high school, and then we'll talk," I would say.

I also thought I would have to leave notes for my husband all over the fridge if I were lucky enough to get some notice before my passing: "There are 72 containers of spaghetti sauce in the freezer." "Hire help for the college application process."

We're past all that now, and the kids are pretty well launched. But as I look around, I see all sorts of things that would suffer from neglect if I departed for Ed Parlin's Botanical Garden in the Sky.

No one would change the shower curtain liners or the furnace filters. And the carpets wouldn't get cleaned unless a stabbing death had taken place on the premises.

The dryer filter would get cleaned regularly, but nobody would remember to turn on the dishwasher. I am pretty sure the microwave oven would eventually look like someone killed a small animal in it.

It's not just the cleaning that would go undone if I was no longer here to do it. The bills not only wouldn't be paid, they wouldn't be retrieved from the mailbox. The grass would look like it just had a $200 haircut, but my flower gardens would die back into compost.

And nobody's oil would get changed.

My husband says that he did just fine before he married me. His apartment was neat as a pin, his bills were all paid on time and he kept all his food stuff in the refrigerator to discourage the cockroaches in the building from stopping by his place.

But over the long life of our marriage, everything from planning retirement to planning parties has drifted to me. I am the default position for just about everything, from maintenance to memory-making.

If I take a nap, the kitchen sink fills up with dishes, the toilet paper roll delivers its last sheet and every light in the house mysteriously comes on and stays on.

I can't imagine what's going to happen when I take The Big Sleep.

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