On Death and Dying – Random Passages and Thoughts

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“The undertaker, Winthrop Ogletree, was waiting in the foyer of the large, rambling Victorian house at the end of the Street of Tides where he practiced his trade. . . . “I’ll get right to the point, Winthrop,” my grandmother said officiously.  “I’ll be dying sometime after my sixtieth birthday and I don’t want to be a burden on my family.  I’m going to pick out the cheapest coffin you carry in this boneyard and I don’t want no high-pressure salesmanship trying to get me to buy some million-dollar box.”

Mr. Ogletree looked both hurt and offended but answered in a mollifying voice.  “Oh, Tolitha, Tolitha, Tolitha.  I’m here only here to serve your best interests.  It would never occur to me to try to talk anyone into anything.  I am here only to answer your questions and to be of service.  But Tolitha, I wasn’t aware that you were ill. You look like you could live to be a thousand.”

“I can’t think of a more horrible fate,”  she answered . . .

*     *     *     *

“I don’t want no smile on my face when I kick, Winthrop,” Tolitha ordered.  “You better write that down.  I don’t want to be grinning like a chessy cat while folks go peeking over the side.  And I want you to use my own personal make-up.  Not that cheap crap you use.”

Excerpted from  “The Prince of Tides,” By Pat Conroy