Sunday October 25th 2020

THE LAST LAUGH

We’re dying – all of us are, but some with a little more haste than others. We two who are writing this column have been given timelines which can be counted in months. Facing your own mortality raises several questions: how can I get one of those lovely Ghanaian coffin makers to fashion me one in the shape of a giant cock? What sort of contest can I organise for my friends to see who gets the playstation in my will? Does this mean I get a license to take medicinal marijuana? And – what will people remember us for? We hope that some of you, at least, will remember The Last Laugh.

“I never promised you a rose garden. But you can have my first ever clown nose.”

The big stuff, well, that’s easy. House, car, money. That goes to the children. The people looking after the children. It’s a no brainer; in fact even if you don’t specify that kind of stuff the government automatically knows what to do with that.

“Mate, when I’m gone, I want you to have this shirt. In fact I reckon it’d suit you even more than it does me.”

“Ah cheers, mate. (pause) Can I have it now, then, only I’ve nothing to wear.”

“No, fuck off, I’m still using it!”

“Alright, don’t get your knickers in a knot.”

“Fuck you”

“Fuck you too”

There are the silly small things we want to will to people. “Bequest” to them – it’s like a request though, isn’t it – if I give you this, will you remember me a little longer, a little more often? A novel autographed by a favourite author. My very loved and who cares if it’s scruffy and dirty and falling apart and only vaguely recognisable as ever having been a teddy bear teddy bear. The sunglasses I bought at a rip off Chinese store in a back alleyway in Lisbon. The last dregs of my scent.My fake pool of blood. These are things that mean so much to me, please, oh please, can’t I make them mean something to you too?

There’s the “screw you” things to leave people. The drumkit to the nephew who will love lovelove it and who’s somewhat annoying and uptight father will detest. The incredibly large, ludicrously heavy and, let’s face it, really butt ugly cement sculpture to that person who attached themselves to you in Junior School and could just never ever take a hint. The gaudy and crass All Singing All Floating Jesus on a Crucifix you bought as a joke on a booze filled night in Vegas to your oh so worthy and devout Great Aunt.

And then there’s the intangibles. The right to be the person who reads “The Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve while everyone is forced to go through the pretence of listening and pretending it isn’t cool while secretly loving it to Ruth, because she does the absolute best Santa impression EVER. The seat at the poker table complete with personalised coaster and control of the stereo remote to Brian, because maybe he won’t be there very often and maybe, as he claims, he’s truly shite at poker, but I know he’d fill it with style. The way we always say “we love the blue lights” whenever we drive past the blue lights to Andrew, because believe it or not he too loves the blue lights. The right to correct people’s grammar without apologising for being a godawful pedant to Kathy, because she makes being grammatically correct sexy in a 50s kind of way.

And ultimately, these are the important things: the things that aren’t things. We can’t give people our memories. Holding hands in comfortable silence in the awe inspiring glow of the Northern Lights. Hearing your child’s heartbeat for the first time.Achieving something when everyone around you had given up on you and stopped believing you’d ever succeed. Looking someone deep in the eyes and promising them forever and knowing it’s by far the best decision you’ve ever made. Standing in front of a crowd telling your very first joke and hearing people laugh, and realising it’s not because you’re funny, it’s because you just split your pants climbing the stairs…

Screw the things. They’re just things. The bits of us we’ve left in others: that’s our real legacy.

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