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Smell the Coffee: Don't fear the reaper

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I was manning the registration desk at my 30-year reunion, amused by history having looped back around to me working a table while my classmates socialized, when a man -- the guest of a fellow Nitro class of '82 attendee -- approached seeking a new name tag.

There was nothing wrong with the tag Michael Fleener was wearing. He just said he felt like being someone else for the night.

I never realized reinventing yourself could be so easy. And there were so many possibilities.

Among the names he considered were Buck Fifty, Arlo Prices, Kurt Reply. And Hugh Jorgan.

In the end, cartoon nostalgia won out and he went with W.E. Coyote.

Originally, though, Mr. Coyote had other ideas about what name he'd like to have been for the night. His first choice, he said, would've been to use the name of a classmate who'd died many years back.

"That way I could walk up to people all evening and go, 'Hey. Why weren't you at my funeral?'"

Fleener struck me as someone who could put the "fun" in "funeral."

"I always wanted to go to a big funeral dressed as the Sad Clown," he said. "Or maybe stand quietly at the back of the room dressed as the Grim Reaper."

I later mentioned this to my daughter (who turns 15 Monday). Her demented mind makes me proud. She took it one better.

"I'd like to dress up as the Grim Reaper," Celeste said, "and walk the halls of a nursing home."

The subject reminded me of a story a friend recently shared about a man he knew who worked as a private pilot, along with two other pilots, in Alaska. The three had a habit of playing rather elaborate practical jokes on each other.

After many years together, one of the three men died. His final request was for his two friends to spread his ashes over a certain area at a specific time of year. He'd written out detailed instructions for how he wanted it done, even included the precise flight path for them to adhere to when releasing his ashes.

Respectful of their friend's request, they followed his instructions carefully. Not realizing he had calculated his request to make certain his ashes would blow back inside the plane, thoroughly coating his friends.

Earning him the ultimate last laugh.

And while we're still on the subject, I'd just like to say that any preacher who reads Scripture at a funeral service should not be annoyed by those cursed with short-fuse giggles if said preacher knows he has a lisp, yet attributes every verse he's reading. Even though several are from Thessalonians.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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