Wissot: Roll me up and smoke me when I die | VailDaily.com

Wissot: Roll me up and smoke me when I die

There’s a scene in the James Bond movie, “Quantum of Solace,” where 007 (played by many a woman’s fantasy, Daniel Craig), dumps the murdered body of a fellow agent into a trash dumpster. Craig’s gorgeous female companion (Has James Bond ever been in a movie where he wasn’t sleeping with a gorgeous female companion?) asks him if he thinks that’s a proper way to dispose of a friend’s remains. Craig unflinchingly replies, “He won’t mind.”

Neither would I. I realize I’m out of step with most of you who do care what’s done with your body after you die. Not wanting your decomposing flesh sharing company with dumpster trash is thoroughly understandable. There are also your loved ones to consider. A grave, an urn, a mountain top, a vast sea, provide closure helping family and friends cope with the disruptive reality of death. I’m obviously the outlier here because none of that matters to me or the small circle of people who care about me. Once my vital organs are removed, I want to be cremated and consumed.

“Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die,” the song that Willie Nelson (a lifelong cannabis user) co-wrote and recorded with Kris Kristofferson and Snoop Dogg, is how I’d like to be treated after I kick the can. I’ve enjoyed my fair share of weed over the years, so mixing my remains with pot and lighting the stuff so that assembled mourners can each take a toke seems a fitting way to be remembered.

I realize that many of you don’t take advantage of the fact that recreational marijuana is legal now in 21 states including our own. Super duper. No problema. How about blending your remains with tobacco to fashion a bon voyage cigar? Even non-smokers will take a gratuitous puff on a cigar to mark a happy milestone like marriage or the birth of a child. Why not follow the same spirit to honor the dearly departed?

In First American culture, (I prefer “first” to “native” because first leaves no doubt as to who the real natives were, tobacco is considered a sacred plant possessing both medicinal and spiritual benefits. For many tribes, the tobacco plant has healing powers, and for some, the smoke from burned tobacco is seen as a means for conveying thoughts and prayers to the spirit world.

Support Local Journalism

I didn’t know about the sacred nature of tobacco until I visited Wounded Knee in South Dakota last year, the place where the worst massacre by the U.S. cavalry of First Americans occurred. A member of the Oglala Sioux tribe approached me at a solemn mass grave site and handed me a cigarette to smoke. I demonstrated my ignorance of the gesture’s significance by telling him I gave up smoking 50 years ago.

I learned to my embarrassment afterward that he wanted me to puff on a cigarette as a sign of respect for the 300 human beings who in 1890 died a horrific death on the tribal ground that is now a historic national landmark. Given the role tobacco plays in honoring the dead for First Americans, I wouldn’t mind loved ones puffing on my tobacco-fused ashes to say hasta la vista to me. It’s just a puff for crying out loud. Nobody’s going to contract cancer by taking a drag on a fag.

While death is not something any of us look forward to experiencing, I see no reason for making it more sorrowful than necessary. I love the tradition of the Irish wake. Putting a glass of Guinness or Jameson on the top of a casket is to me a swell way to honor a person’s passing and at the same time wish God’s speed to a soul headed for greener pastures (or if you prefer, their last roundup).

The Irish possess a knack for using alcohol to ease the pain of death. At the end of Frank McCourt’s wonderful memoir about his Irish family’s early 20th-century immigrant experiences in America, Frank and his brother, Malachy (who opened the first singles bar in New York City), mourn their mother’s death by getting drunk and leaving her urn on a bar stool. The brothers retrieve the urn the next day bringing the book, “Angela’s Ashes,” to an end.

While I’m very certain about what I want to be done with my ashes once I’ve reached the proverbial elephant burial ground, (I thought after I shuffled off to Buffalo was tacky), I’m completely uncertain about the path my soul is destined to take after everybody is finished smoking me. I frankly admit I’ve no more idea at 78 about whether there is or isn’t an afterlife than I was the day I was born. I view my life as a succession of unsolved puzzles and since I’ve done such a poor job of figuring out this chapter in my existence, it should come as no surprise that I’d be even more clueless about what comes next.

I’m OK with the numerous places my soul might go, except the one that involves burning in hell for eternity. I really hope whoever is keeping score loses my naughty and nice file before I hear Frank Sinatra singing, “And now the end is near.” I’m confronting life’s metaphysical mysteries with the same open-mindedness Yogi Berra demonstrated after his wife, Carmen, asked him where he wanted to be buried. Yogi’s answer was, “I don’t know. Why don’t you surprise me.”

Go ahead and surprise me. Sock it to me.

Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail. Email him at jayhwissot@mac.com


Support Local Journalism