Iowa Writes

MARY CONWAY
Last Requests


We all have little quirks that are part and parcel of our personalities. They make us the interesting, if not controversial, humans that we are.

One of my quirks is that I like bagpipe music. The raspy, squeaky noise that emanates from the bagpipe is soul music to me. The history of my relationship with bagpipe music goes back many moons to when I was a member of The University of Iowa's Scottish Highlanders Bagpipe Band. I learned to love the bagpipes then and it stuck with me.

At a recent family gathering, I was telling my adult children that, on the event of my death, I want bagpipe music at the funeral. Nothing canned, I warned them. I want a real live bagpiper in full Highlander array, following the priest down the aisle, piping my family and myself into the church. Actually, I thought of having the piper go first but the priest would probably fuss about that. They looked at me as though I had lost my mind.

"Where do you think we could ever find a Highlander decked out in a kilt to play the bagpipes at your funeral?" asked someone in the group.

"That's your problem, not mine. And furthermore," I continued, "I want the following music to be played: 'The Bluebells of Scotland,' 'Over The Sea To Skye,' 'Scotland the Brave,' and 'Amazing Grace,' in that order."

"How about 'Ding Dong The Wicked Witch is Dead'?" offered my son-in-law.

When the laughter died down, one of my enlightened offspring said to me, "Mom, you're a control freak! After all the preaching you've done about codependency being about control and how destructive it is, here you are attempting to control the whole lot of us from your grave. I can't believe it!"

We all have little quirks that are part and parcel of our personalities. They make us the interesting, if not controversial, humans that we are.

One of my quirks is that I like bagpipe music. The raspy, squeaky noise that emanates from the bagpipe is soul music to me. The history of my relationship with bagpipe music goes back many moons to when I was a member of The University of Iowa's Scottish Highlanders Bagpipe Band. I learned to love the bagpipes then and it stuck with me.

At a recent family gathering, I was telling my adult children that, on the event of my death, I want bagpipe music at the funeral. Nothing canned, I warned them. I want a real live bagpiper in full Highlander array, following the priest down the aisle, piping my family and myself into the church. Actually, I thought of having the piper go first but the priest would probably fuss about that. They looked at me as though I had lost my mind.

"Where do you think we could ever find a Highlander decked out in a kilt to play the bagpipes at your funeral?" asked someone in the group.

"That's your problem, not mine. And furthermore," I continued, "I want the following music to be played: 'The Bluebells of Scotland,' 'Over The Sea To Skye,' 'Scotland the Brave,' and 'Amazing Grace,' in that order."

"How about 'Ding Dong The Wicked Witch is Dead'?" offered my son-in-law.

When the laughter died down, one of my enlightened offspring said to me, "Mom, you're a control freak! After all the preaching you've done about codependency being about control and how destructive it is, here you are attempting to control the whole lot of us from your grave. I can't believe it!"

"You're right," I said.  "It's sick stuff. I should simply make the arrangements myself, sparing you the pain of searching for the appropriate music when you're grieving (I hope). That way I can throw a guilt trip on all of you for not obeying my wishes. You know, that's a good idea. I think I'll do it."

"That sounds like control with just a bit of manipulation thrown in for good measure," said someone who shall remain unnamed.

"Not at all," was my reply to the little darling, now six feet tall. "We only die once you know, and it's important to have things the way we want them when the time comes. Remember the Scripture readings that remind us that the day of the Lord is coming like a thief in the night? My point is made."

"Is there anything in Scripture about codependency?" asked another, sarcastically. "Were there any bagpipes in Jesus' day?"

"Codependency is as old as man himself (and woman herself, to cover the inclusive language issue)," I replied. "History is filled with miserable episodes of people trying to control each other. Wars have been fought over who shall control whom and why. Shame, blame, covering up for others, rescuing, enabling, rationalizing, minimizing, and denial have all been with us from day one. Even Adam laid the blame on Eve for his fall from grace by saying that she made him eat the apple. The skunk."

"As to whether there were any bagpipes in Jesus' day, I doubt it. But if there had been, you can be sure He would have had a lonely piper playing in the distance as a guardian of His tomb. I know about these things."

"Can you just imagine what people will say if we have a bagpiper playing at your funeral?" inquired yet another darling.

"My friends all know about my wish for having a bagpiper at my funeral. I've already informed them so that you will be compelled to do what I want you to do. They are quite prepared to scold you indefinitely if you don't honor my last request."

"Request my eye! This sounds like an order to me," said another of my darlings. "There is no way we can get out of it."

"No, my dearest child. This is what you call Terminal Codependency."

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


MARY CONWAY

Mary Conway is a graduate of The University of Iowa. Mary and her husband, Francis Conway, M.D., live in Emmetsburg. A Certified Substance Abuse Counselor in Iowa, she has also been a professional writer for more than 25 years. Her work has been published in newspapers and magazines throughout Iowa, and she has been a syndicated columnist for The National Catholic Press.

This page was first displayed
on April 28, 2007

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