You can't take it with you

Table Talkers sound off on their debts -- and deaths.

Published July 9, 2004 5:11PM (EDT)

Private Life

Since You Asked by Cary Tennis

Amanda Sowards - 11:33 am Pacific Time - Jul 6, 2004 - #146 of 199

Although it seems to have subsided a bit, a couple of years ago, the LEFT BEHIND books were all the rage among Christians for whom a belief in God wasn't enough -- it had to come with a club membership. Maybe they're just mindless flock animals, I think to myself. But then a more disturbing thought comes to mind -- maybe they know something I don't. Maybe there's a tournament-class golf course and Olympic-sized swimming pool in Heaven that only the really GOOD Christians get to use. Maybe I'm being naive. Maybe God isn't really a kind and loving Father after all. Maybe He's a vicious, petty iconoclast who condemns people who haven't put those silly little fish stickies on the trunks of their cars, regardless of how good and decent they are during this really brief life we have here. Maybe when we quit killing animals on stone altars in His name, that kind of pissed Him off, and He's been getting His revenge with THE BACHELOR and fattening fast food and Hilary Duff movies.

The point being, whether we're believers or not, thinking people who live examined lives are always going to be in a bigger predicament than people who baaahhh their way to Eternity. Life seems like it's too short because it is. But it goes by a lot quicker if you occupy your time worrying about the Afterlife. Here's a little secret that most Christians won't admit -- we could be wrong. The whole life-after-death thing could be a total crock. I believe in it with all my heart, but I used to believe a lot of things that turned out to be wrong later on. Hubris is a luxury I just can't afford. So what to do?

Do the best I can to live a good life, to be compassionate, to not be such a big, inane, insensitive, anti-social dork (as my inherited tendencies incline me to be), and then I die. It seems kind of simplistic, but under the circumstances, what is the alternative? The writer has dogs, a loving husband, a home she loves, a mother, a sister, and (seemingly) lots of material comforts. It seems to me that she needs to focus on the here-and-now more than the hereafter. That way, no matter what, at least she'll have gotten her money's worth when it's over.

Mind and Spirit

When I'm Gone I Want

Patrick Nolan - 12:13 pm Pacific Time - Jul 7, 2004 - #3 of 42

The main strong feeling I have about death is that my body is not me.

At best, the flesh is a receptacle for the soul. It's made out of food. I look at my body and I think "former pizza."

My body is really just a pile of cleverly rearranged groceries. It's not a holy relic or a fetish object; please do not spend any money on its housing or upkeep. Don't make it look nice, don't put it in a fancy box, don't display it, don't put it in an expensive piece of real estate under an expensive piece of rock, don't even bother burning it. The only conscionable thing I can think of is to donate it to a medical school, so that it might be put to some use that might actually help people some day.

On top of my belief that my body doesn't have much to do with who I am, there's my contempt for the industries around dead people. I don't want them getting any money out of my loved ones by exploiting their grief.

The funeral industry seems to be right up there with the bridal industry in its willingness to manipulate people when they're emotionally vulnerable. "Oh, you want the cheap flowers?" goes the insinuation. Then you must not have cared about him. I know not everyone in the industry is evil, but the thought of even leaving the door open to that sort of thing rankles.

Social Issues

You Call Me "Affluent", I Call Me "Broke"

Micki Sue - 01:46 pm Pacific Time - Jul 5, 2004 - #17 of 45

I know that it's tempting to buy things that make you feel better NOW, when you don't have a lot of money. But that is precisely what will keep you in the same situation, if you don't curb the impulse.

Are there non-necessities that you could do without? Groups to which you belong that are expensive to be a part of, indulgent purchases that could be put off in favor of assuring your health with insurance, your future with some savings, however small?

I know that it sometimes feels like "hey, I might as well do this (expensive frivolity) because it's not like saving the $50 or the $200 or whatever will substantially change my financial situation."

But it can. An extra $200/month might pay for some insurance--there are policies that have a large deductible of $1,000. But better to know that you can get important health concerns cared for if you need to. Better to know that the cost will be $1000, rather than $10,000.

An extra $50/month in savings, in an IRA can become at least a supplement to whatever income that you have at retirement. There are ways that you can do the things that you need to do for your health and that of your family. But despair leads us to blow money on things with an immediate payoff.

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