I doubt if Black Sabbath singer, Ozzy Osbourne will ever go down in history as a great philosopher, yet the lyrics of the Black Sabbath classic « After Forever » from their 1971 « Master of Reality » album, ponder the subject of our ultimate demise.
“When you think about death
Do you lose your breath?
Or do you keep your cool …
Well I have seen the truth
Yes I have seen the light
And I’ve mended my ways
And I’ll be prepared
When you’re lonely and scared
At the end of your days”
Of course as all true Sabbath fans know, it was actually the group’s bassist, Geezer Butler who penned these ponderous lines, though Ozzy did have the tendency to « change » certain lyrics during the band’s live shows.
So, this is not a post about Black Sabbath, one of my favourite bands, and as much as I like Ozzy, I always thought that the late great Ronnie James Dio was a far better singer, though not such a good front man.
On this day, November 1st, when we traditionally think of those loved ones who are now more ethereal than earthly; I too am dwelling of the subject of my ultimate demise (or as I prefer to call it – the next stage in the journey of life).
Oversize Anoraks and Dinosaurs
It is all the fault of my banker (or Financial Adviser – to give him his official title.)
My banker is a fairly pleasant chap. – a smiling and bespectacled recent forty something, who actually looks ten years younger. My banker looks like the way he has always looked. He was probably born this way. I can quite easily imagine him back in school. The sensible speccy kid that you never really notice, probably quite good at maths and interested in astrology or dinosaurs. He will never have been good at sport and I daresay, was probably bullied into doing maths homework for the « bigger boys ».
There are a couple of notable features about my banker; despite his very medium size, he has enormous hands and he always wears suits that are far too big for him. His jacket sleeves hang way down almost to his fingers and his trousers hang far too long, meaning that the end of the trouser leg gets « trod under » his shoes when he walks.
Perhaps his wife chose him a suit that was too large, perhaps in the same way that his mum might have bought him an enormous oversize anorak with the words « don’t worry dear, you’ll grow into it. »
The same thing happened to me as a kid. I wanted a denim jacket or a Harrington jacket like all the other kids at school, instead I got a sensible C&A brown anorak, so large that it might have passed up for a tent. « Look! » enthused mum, « It’s got a fur-lined hood. »
Death and the Banker
So, death and the banker (could be a decent name for a play.)
I’m leaning back in the uncomfortable chair in my banker’s office and my bespectacled banker lowers his specs and knowingly stares across at me.
« You are fifty now aren’t you? » (As if I needed reminding.)
« Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about … » says my banker with the benevolent air of a priest attending the dying.
« Have you thought about some provision for those you leave behind? »
Yes I have. Ten Years ago I took out a life insurance policy – this was at the time when everything that you paid into a life insurance policy was tax deductible – alas no longer, however the life insurance policy does guarantee an instant 10,000 Euro payment to my nearest and dearest to cover the cost of dying – mainly funeral expenses.
« Indeed it does! » exclaims my banker, however, under new rules, this payment will only be made until you are seventy, so if you die after…. »
And so my banker begins an upbeat hard sell of the bank’s new « death insurance. »
« It’s not actually an insurance – it’s a savings scheme. If you pay in a basic 27 Euros a month over ten years, with the interest, the bank will guarantee you a capital of 3000 Euros, paid to your family on your death, to cover funeral costs. »
And there is more – a 24/7 helpline for my family with « experts » on hand to help with funeral arrangements.
« We even give you a form where you can write down your last wishes of how and where you want to be disposed of. »
(Did he really say that? Yes he did. My final disposal. Is it just an unfortunate accident in this town that the local crematorium is next to the rubbish dump?)
I haven’t thought about « how » I want things done, but on the new death insurance, my banker assures me that, even if I die before the full ten year term, my family will still get the full amount. By my calculations therefore, I had better snuff it when I am 69, meaning that my family will get the 10,000 Euros funeral pay out from my life insurance policy and the 3000 Euro from my death insurance. If I die after 70, they will only get 3000 Euros. I run this by my banker, who confirms my calculation.
« And If I sign up to the death insurance and get run over by a bus on leaving the bank, will I still get a guaranteed 3000 Euros?
« Ah, sorry, » says my banker apologetically, « you have to be in the scheme a full year before you get a pay out. »
So, sign up now, pay in for a year and then cop it somewhere in my 51st year and everyone’s a winner (except me).
Not the Cemetery
I think I could get some kind of half decent send off for 3000 Euros – I’m not too concerned about the quality of the coffin, and I certainly don’t want a final resting place in one of the cemeteries around here, they are all so far from anywhere adjacent to the railway line, or the local prison and besides, cemeteries are full of dead people, and what happens if I get put next to someone I don’t like? You are dead an awful long time, at least try and get some decent neighbours.
Geezer Butler and a Small family Car
So, in conclusion – 13000 Euros for the family if I cop it when I am 52. That sounds a lot of money, but at today’s prices thirteen grand won’t even buy you a half decent family car.
So, back to Black Sabbath.
« I’ll be prepared when you’re old and scared
At the end of your days. »
When Geezer Butler penned these lines, was he thinking about life (or even death) insurance? Probably not.
Final thoughts on a final resting place
Apart from being fairly depressing places, sandwiched in-between rubbish dumps and railway lines, I wouldn’t want a permanent « monument » in a cemetery. I don’t want to inflict the responsibility of tending the dead on the living. It takes enough time looking after yourself when you are alive, so you don’t need the extra hassle of looking after the dead. They’re dead, why do they need looking after? No folks, on this 1st of November when the French flock to cemeteries to clean up and flower the family tomb, I want to be cremated and then scattered on a beach in Corsica, that way, if the family come to my final resting place …
Now I have depressed you all, go away and do something happy.