Ten months ago we wrote of the passing of our old friend Walt. He wanted a basic cremation without ceremony. That sounded simple enough. Well, it did until the funeral home delivered a walnut box of cremains. Now what?
Julie, his second –ex and lifetime best friend had asked Walt about that. He offered no ideas, no preferences, and even less interest in the subject. And while Kat and I agreed to take his big black cat, that box of ashes had to be Julie’s. Again, now what?
We all settled upon minor destinations New Orleans (maybe the Zoo, a favorite Walt charity, or City Park, site of his successful wedding and many softball triumphs), and high up on a gulf coast beach at storm elevation to sun for a spring and summer before joining the waters. The majority destination for his cremains is a ten acre park in the heart of his alma mater, the University of Mississippi. The last site is known as The Grove, a campus crossroads when school is in session, and one of the world’s premier tail-gating venues on football weekends. Walt became well to do and that notwithstanding, he was forever generous to Ole Miss. Like most accountants, he liked people in small doses; the sidewalks that crisscross The Grove will shield him from much of that. But as long as there is SEC football thousands of excited, well-dressed Rebel fans will cover that little park. Food and drink will be spilled all over. He would like that, at least the beer, bloody Marys, and martinis. In time his minerals will find their way into the oaks that provide shade when it’s hot and admit sunlight when it’s not. Oaks are long-lived, so for another human lifetime or so, our old friend and hundreds of other cremated Ole Rebs will live on in those trees.
Kat, Julie, Walt’s god-kids Bret and Stephanie, and I traveled to Oxford just before New Year’s Eve. We told our favorite Walt stories, shared a good meal on Oxford Square and lifted a few glasses. We then spread out to sprinkle his remains over The Grove, ending it all with that rousing Ole Miss cheer: “Hotty Toddy!”
“Are you ready?
Hell, yes! Damn right!
Hotty toddy, gosh a mighty,
Who the hell are we? Hey!
Flim flam, bim bam,
Ole Miss, by damn!”
Nothing lasts forever, not even oaks. They too die and become firewood or mulch, and that will be that. Except it won’t. No man dies so long as one whose life he touched lives. Walt touched many lives, and we will pass tidbits of his wisdom, courtesy, and kindness along to later generations.
Walt’s days on earth left it just a little better than it would have been without him. We should all do so well.