Look, I don't want to alarm anyone (or get their hopes up, as the case may be), but come Thursday morning, I'm checking into the hospital for what they call a "procedure." As I understand it, on that scale on which taking a baby aspirin is a "1" and a multiple organ transplant is a "10," this procedure is a step or two below what they would call "a ridiculously minor surgery."
Still, they will be poking through my skin to the other side, which--other than a few vaccinations and some blood drawings--has never happened to me before. And... well... you never know, do you? It's not that I don't trust doctors. I trust my doctor without reservation. And if I didn't, I sure as hell wouldn't say so, in print, two days before he'll be looming over my helpless, anesthetized body with God-knows-what in his hands.
But there are dangers other than doctors lurking in hospitals, aren't there? For instance, were I to come down with one of those unstoppable flesh-eating bacteria or a nurse with a history of getting the saline solutions confused with the cleaning supplies, it's a lot more likely to happen in a hospital than in, say... a bowling alley. Probably.
So, in the event I walk into the hospital on my two good legs, and am rolled out sealed in a zip-up bag, I have decided to enter this last column before the procedure as my obituary. Some of you may think this a tad distasteful, if not outright offensive. However, there is no law I know of that says a person's obituary can't be published before there's an actual death certificate issued.
Secondly, I have noticed a growing trend in people writing their own obituaries, something I had decided to do years ago rather than leaving the job to some bereaved, distraught family member who--however well-meaning--can't write his or her way out of a paper bag. Besides, who knows the particulars of my life better than me?
Lastly, I'm doing it now because, if the worst happens Thursday, I won't have the opportunity to do it later, will I? Here goes:
I, Bill Cope, was born in St. Luke's and nearly 66 years later, died in Saint Alphonsus. But it could just as easily have happened the other way around, I'm sure. So let us not jump to conclusions.
A lifelong resident of Meridian--except for all those years I wasn't--I graduated high school in 1965. About 20 years later, that school burned down. I had nothing to do with it. I was home in bed when the fire started.
I attended the University of Idaho, a factor of my life about which I sometimes get vain and proud and perhaps even arrogant, and I often have to remind myself that Larry Craig, Dirk Kempthorne and Sarah Palin (however briefly) also attended the U of I.
During the time I spent at the university, I earned a Bachelors of Music degree, approximately 90 percent of a Master of Music degree, and minors in English and creative writing, all of which combined were as useful outside the world of academia as (to borrow my father's delicate words for such a resume) "tits on a boar pig."
However, during those early, exploratory years, I was introduced to sex, drinking, cigarettes and a variety of controlled substances--some of which continued to occupy my leisure hours for decades to come. I also met a lot of nice people there, some of whose names I remembered right up until a few years before I died.
After 17 years in Meridian and another eight in Moscow, I felt strongly the urge to go someplace that wasn't called "Idaho." So I went to Ohio. For those young people who feel their hometowns are boring beyond endurance, I recommend going to Ohio for a while. That'll cure your restless ass.
However, I met a lot of nice people there, too. Among them, the girl I would have been married to for 40 years, if only... you know... I had lived that long.
I was also fortunate to have fallen in with a gang of Ohio musicians, and was able to fill my weekends playing such '70s gems as "You Light Up My Life" and Captain and Tennille ditties at other peoples' weddings and Christmas parties and...
Wait, wait, wait! Hold on here. This obituary is not going as I envisioned it. So what? I went to schools and then to work--so what? And got married and had a kid--so what? And doesn't everyone?
No, I really don't see the purpose of an obituary if it doesn't give a vivid sense of who the dearly departed is. Er... was. Like, what set me apart from all the other dearly departeds? Was it because I was such a jolly old soul? Never met a person I didn't like? Started sobbing every time I saw a sunrise? Loved animals and children as long as the damned things stayed outside?
See what I mean? Let's say you believed everything I've just told you about myself. You still wouldn't know me from a sack of potatoes.
Now, I've always suspected you could tell more about a person from the clothes he wears, the music he prefers, the books he reads--those sort of personal matters of taste and style--than all those the facts combined about where he works, what church he attends, who his pall bearers are... blah blah blah. So what I'm going to do in Part II of my obituary is list my 10 favorite of everything. Ten favorite movies. Ten favorite U.S. presidents. Ten favorite Broadway musicals. Ten favorite T-shirts, etc., etc. And when I'm done, hopefully, you will say to yourself I feel as if I know him.
Er... knew him.