I lost a few good friends in recent months. George was trying to save his passenger and the Mustang after a freakish engine seizure. Pete was just trying to get on with his life, when the cancer cells finally outnumbered the healthy ones and he was gone. In both cases it was mercifully-fast. For that I'm glad.
Every time we lose a friend, one of the requisite conversations to come right on the heels of the equally requisite comments on the blessings of quick, clean exits has to do with how each of us sees our own passing and the ritual which follows. To hear us talk, there will be lots of ashes spread, kegs of beer drunk, and hundreds of hours spent in missing man formations. We say these things to each other, but how often are they actually done?
These days' death and its aftermath seem to be commodities governed by lawyers and funeral directors. Each of them is doing what some grief stricken family member mumbles to them as "It's the way he wanted it...I think." In those times, more often than not, past conversations are either forgotten or went unheard by those making the decisions. If years have passed, friends separated, locations changed, the thoughts of death are far separated from the event, and the rituals wind up being boilerplate. a rubber stamp process where the name is inserted in the blank, the cemetery selected out of the yellow pages, and the soul of the man/woman is lost both in reality and in remembrance.
I've often said that I hope when I've folded my last sectional, that certain thoughts would be thought. Certain things would be done. At the end of these conversations, someone always says "Then you'd better put it down in writing, or it's not going to happen." So, I'm putting it down in writing and I'm counting on someone out there to make it happen.
I don't place a whole lot of store in the collection of manufactured theories so often bundled together and called religion. It's all too convenient and tidy. And I'm anything but convenient or tidy. Also, so many of the theologies almost never work in a tangible world. As an engineer, I tend to build my faith and understanding around less esoteric theories, like "action and reaction" for instance. Newton had a real grasp of the obvious: If you push, something moves. Pick something up off the ground and it always returns when released. Apples hurt when dropped from five feet. That's the way I think and live, and that's the way I want the Post Budd Ritual (PBR) to be. Straight forward, no soliloquies, and nothing remotely resembling anything formal.
PBR Rule One, never to be violated:
There will be no, repeat, NO, neckties, suits, or sport jackets allowed at anything concerning me. Levis and flight jackets are uniforrm of the day. If anyone shows up wearing a necktie, it can be assumed he either didn't know me, or he's a fed. In either case, since it's rude to throw them out, make them park across the street and watch the happens from a distance.
There will be no goings on for me. At least not in the formal sense. I don't want a dark, somber room with people aligned so orderly in pews. I've never understood why we say good-bye to someone in a place they wouldn't visit on a bet when they were in better health. We ought to say good-bye in context and, since I'm anything but orderly or somber, we ought to put me in context. Put the good-byes in a form I'd understand.
For instance, if there has to be something where all five or six of my friends (assuming some of them aren't in the same smokey hole with me) want to get together and do the remembrance thing, just make believe I'm still there and do something I'd enjoy being part of. The theory would be, "Budd's just gone to the john, again, and will be back in a second." That being the case, there's only one way to do it, and that's with a fly-in.
Like so many pilots, I don't look forward to being with groups of people. In fact, if that group of people falls under the category of "cocktail party or normal social gathering," I not only don't look forward to it but I generally can't be found while it's in progress. I love being with certain types of aviators. The most enjoyable social moments of my life have all been spent in a field somewhere, lounging around under a biplane or warbird, homebuilt or antique, just shooting the bull. It has been said I've raised BSing to a higher art form, but that's because there is no time I'm more at ease and together than when I'm with my friends talking about airplanes. Or firearms. Or fast cars. Or whatever blows in our ears at the moment. Sitting under a wing in the warm sunshine, a Diet DP i in one hand, a Nikon in the other, a friend at my side - that's how I'd like to be remembered.
The PBR fly-in shouldn't be a big one and should be delayed until it's warm weather. It should just be a few guys with Pitts and Cubs who thought it would be neat to spend a pleasant afternoon playing with airplanes and wondering when Budd would get back from the john. If possible, it should be on a grass strip. Clevenger's place would be perfect. Or the east side of Aeroflex. Any sunny piece of grass would work. Playing on the grass in the sun would satisfy the ground squirrel part of my personality.
At some point, folks are going to wonder what to do with the BD leftovers, since they're going to get pretty ripe sitting in the sun at an airport. Hopefully, prior to that, someone has had the sense to take what's left of me and feed me to a commercial blowtorch operation. Just make sure I'm in Levis and boots. And for the sake of my soul's peace, don't let some misdirected funeral fool put me in a cheap suit before sliding me into his pizza oven. If you do, I'll come back and haunt every one of you, so help me!
Once that's been done, I can sit above the proceedings knowing my old personality container has been reduced to a fine, gray dust.
Now, it's time to figure out what to do with said dust: I want it divided into four portions and disposed of, as follows. One part goes in the inland waterway just north of St. Augustine Airport, since that's where I spent some of my happiest hours shooting pictures and did some of my best work with some of my best friends. Another cupful of me should go into the southeast corner of Lake Winnebago at Oshkosh, for the same reason as number two. The last part should be dumped in the Blue River at Skunk Hollow in Seward, Nebraska. It's a remote piece of family-owned property where part of me still lives to this day. There's a low, sloping bank on the east side where I spent hours and days camping and sinking cans with a .22. Put all but a little of the dust there. Take most of the rest and give it to The Arizona Redhead so, after she is gone, she can have someone mix our ashes together before they are spread over Four Peaks where we can watch over Phoenix.
One last thing. If someone can be found to cooperate, mix a tablespoon of me with the smoke oil going into an airshow Pitts at Oshkosh. What a fantastic way to write the last chapter of "Grassroots."
Oh yeah, one more last thing. None of that extraordinary medical measures staff for me. Do not let them keep the body alive, when what I define as quality of life is gone. Pull the plug and plan for the fly-in.
Don't get the idea I'm getting ready to checkout. With any luck, I'll be sweating out Pitts landings and practicing the fine art of BSing for many decades to come. But you never know. Now, I'm counting on you to make sure things happen the way I've asked. I'd do the same for you. BD