David Hill: When your number's up, what about a plate

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

There are too many cemeteries I wouldn't want my name, or me, to be found dead in. It's usually parked a couple of corners from our place: a mature Japanese import of no particular significance except for its personalised plate - LOMU 11.

Someone bought that plate when the big brave bloke was still a rugby colossus. Someone bought it as term investment or as tribute. I hope it was the tribute; I hope the someone wanted to immortalise our Jonah.

If we sometimes have little control over the way people name us in life, we seem to have even less over the way we're named in death. Short of making their inheritance depend on it, you're helpless when it comes to influencing how friends and family perpetuate your memory.

Personalised plates featuring your name? Okay, but what if the plates end up on a clapped-out old banger? Disturbing symbolism.

Our names are recorded most commonly in cemeteries.

Loving, grieving, totally decent human beings do awful things to those names, with grave verses that can also be grave mistakes: verses along the lines of "God took our flower / Our little Nell/ He thought He too / Would like a smell".

Does anyone really want their name perpetuated as it is on one headstone in our local cemetery - the one made from an aluminium motorbike engine cowl, with the inscription "John Dough: Manufactured 1941; scrapped 2002"?

Or how about the visual images set in cemetery concrete? Photographs of the Dear Departed looking glazed and gormless at the firm's Christmas do? Engraved images of fishing rod or golf trundler or shotgun and dead ducks (disturbing symbolism again)? There are too many cemeteries I wouldn't want my name, or me, to be found dead in.

You can go for immortality by having a star named after you - but then comes the agonising choice between Red Dwarf and White Giant. Your name can endure for billions of years on an asteroid, if an astronomer friend chooses to memorialise you. Don Bradman is up there orbiting the Sun beyond Mars. So are Ringo, John, George and a fourth person.

Presidents and major minions of Mammon are often remembered by having buildings named after them. I like the Ronald Reagan Trade Centre in Washington DC. It's on 13th St (ref disturbing symbolism), and it came in US$450,000,000 over budget (same again).

When I shuffle off to that Great Reject Tray Up in the Sky, I'll be quite happy to leave something apposite bearing my name. A local landform perhaps: Hill's Hummock. Something commemorating my tireless hours in the garden: Hill's Hammock. My home handyman efforts: Hill's Havoc. My favourite English breakfast: Hill's Haddock.

I could endure being immortalised through a cultural edifice. A decent museum like the Guggenheim or the Vickie-and-Albie would do me. Okay, financial constraints in the family might result in only part of the museum bearing my name. The David Hill Memorial Men's Room Doorknob: I could (ahem) handle that.

A more ... living tribute would also be acceptable. Not a tree: there are so many rimu and yews and totara in our town with plaques remembering good people, that you can't see the trees for the goods.

I'd be happy to leave my name linked to some event. The DH Eisteddfod sounds a good note. The DH Beerfest; I'll drink to that. Or an event supporting one of the minor arts: The DH Mime Festival - if I can keep a straight face. The DH Massage Meet - see earlier handling reference.

It'll all be beyond my control, of course. And in the last analysis, which is what this is about, I'm ready to be immortalised just by my good deeds. Or maybe something a bit bigger than that. Like personalised plates.

- NZ Herald

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