After the End of the Road

As of Early 2014

What I do not want:

  • Extended mourning period. Of course people will be sad (at least I hope those I deal with will!), but it is what it is. Everyone mourns differently, but it would make me happy to know that I am remembered with a smile instead of a flattened mouth, sooner rather than later.
  • No days or weeks of praying or chanting, not for my sake. People are free to do whatever makes them feel better, but please don’t impose anything (directly or indirectly) on anyone else, especially my family. To be crystal clear, no one should even ask or indirectly suggest to my family if a prayer session or a Buddhist chanting should be done. I don’t want one. Anybody can do whatever they want to make themselves feel better, but nobody should have to be forced, pressured, hinted, or even influenced to attend one of these sessions, especially in my name. That would be against my wishes and be of the greatest disrespect to me, and I will haunt you till the day I die. I mean, resurrect.
  • Formal service of any type where people you barely know come and “pay their respect”. Makes sense to neither the living nor the deceased. If I wasn’t able to earn your respect in meatspace, it would be stretching to think that being reduced to ashes could. If it is absolutely needed for work or business partners, just do the bare minimum and don’t bother my family about it.
  • Flowers, gifts, abalone towers, and especially gifted canned writings in Chinese by people who likely do not know me and whom I likely do not care about.

What I do want:

  • Family to carry on knowing that I love them always (duh).
  • People to remember me from my good days (not many).
  • People who offended me to know that I do not hold a grudge (I’d be dead, so it would be difficult); for those that I have offended, forgive me (or carry the grudge to your grave, whichever you prefer).
  • Organs donated, if viable (ha!).
  • Cremated soon. I don’t like it THAT cold.
  • My children to never lose your sense of curiosity, to be careful and critical thinkers, to never let someone else think for you (groupthink), to always be open to change your minds based on facts and sound arguments (not opinions and assertions), to know exactly what it would take to change your minds, to have no cow so sacred it cannot be slain. Study some psychology and philosophy; it will help you greatly in life, as will a good sense of humor. After all, money is not omnipotent. Although I admit it’s pretty damn close.
  • Most of my ashes should be kept as part of the Liang’s Family Great Ash Collection (it’s a family thing). No matter how colorful or what a steal it may seem to be, no plastic urn please.
  • Family to take a vacation together and bring a very small bag of ashes to scatter there. Yes, MY ashes please. If the “ashes” are too bony, pick the smaller, inconspicuous pieces or grind ‘em up (probably won’t hurt me). It had better be a fun place. Repeat at least once a year, and as often as necessary, until money or ashes runs out, whichever comes sooner.
  • An informal gathering in place of a service, which should be a celebration of my life and not a reminder of my death. No stage, no microphone, no elaborate setup. Keep it small and intimate and happy. Happy music, food, beer, wine and booze, upbeat atmosphere. For those that want to, they can share a memorable moment about me with others, be it funny, poking fun at me, heartwarming, or anything, good AND (not or) bad, as I want to be remembered for who I was, flaws and all. No suits or ties, no dark colors unless that’s what you normally wear. For the crybabies, please do so in private.
  • Afterwards, have a gathering of friends in my house, doing what we usually do. If I was still playing poker, there should be a poker table with the usual players playing the usual game. A seat should be left empty for me, with an unlit cigar and a glass of whiskey. If I am in the big blind, don’t steal it unless you have a premium hand (AQ+ or pair >9). Trust me, you don’t want to have a reputation of stealing from dead people. Leave a seat at the table for me during dinner, with a glass of wine and a bottle of beer, for this day only. For those that want to, take a poker chip as a keepsake upon leaving (sorry, no cash value).
  • For those who choose to visit my family, please honor me by raising a glass (or mug) of your favorite beverage, alcoholic or not, assuming I have it in stock. Don’t worry, if I have done my job, all the good stuff will be gone. Tip: if it’s non-alcoholic, better bring it yourself.



  • Keep those prying eyes away from my browsing history (yes, you)
  • If my death is bothering you and you need someone to commiserate with, take comfort in the fact that sometimes it bothers me too.

Thoughts about End-of-Life

As of Early 2014

Few things brings one’s own mortality to the foreground than watching a loved one leave.

It is full of difficult decisions and tradeoffs. Although I fantasize that my thinking will always be clear as I age, it is simply unrealistic to expect so; and wishful thinking does not constitute a plan. In reality, my cognitive skills will likely decline with age. I expect that the decline will be (or has been!) imperceptible to myself. That is, I will be under the illusion that my mind is as sharp as it has always been, and perhaps even “wiser by experience” as I age, when in reality my thinking may already have deteriorated significantly. Without objective measures it would be tough to convince myself of the deterioration; and at some point, even with objective measures, it is possible that no amount of evidence could. As I like to say, trust is hard to come by; hell, I don’t even trust myself (well, my future self).

So in theory, a living will/advance health care directive should work. However, it is important for me that my wishes not be contradicted or overturned by my future self in a possibly compromised state. To me in my current, fully rational and informed state (yes, wishful thinking), it is far more important to me that instructions be followed as I direct them now, and not what I might otherwise instruct in a state of distress or panic. I want to be remembered as I currently am now, and not who I hope I will not become towards the end. For example, I do not know if I might, in a state of despair and/or diminished thinking, say, turn to a religion (monotheistic or otherwise), superstitious thinking, magical thinking, or unproven forms of folk/alternative medicine. It is a tough call and probably unusual, but I would like to explicitly state here that any changes made to my advance health directives after I become seriously ill and/or impaired should be ignored. If that is not legally possible or if it is overridden for any reason, I would like my original, unmodified directives to be made available to those whom I care about or those who care about me. It may sound silly since I would be dead or impaired and shouldn’t matter to me; however it is important to me now that those who remember me do so with the right perspective.

I also want to be fully informed of my medical condition, no matter how bad it is. If I cannot express my wishes, the default is to go hospice if there is no reasonable chance of recovery. No heroic efforts, no hail marys, especially if the treatment is experimental or scientifically unproven in nature, and/or may carry other risks or discomforts. I am not afraid of death. However, I am afraid that I will not be able to plan out the remaining time I have left. I want to see the end of the road, whether long or short, and if there are monsters on the way, so be it. If I show signs of depression, hallucination, or other types of mental problems, I want my caregivers to give whatever medication is necessary and respect my directives made before my mental problems have occurred. Only in the case where serious mental deterioration has occurred, and informing me fully of my medical condition would seriously adversely affect my wellbeing (such as suicide) do I waive the right to be fully informed.

I set up an account on, as it is a bit more comprehensive than ordinary living wills. Five Wishes is an interesting version but a bit too spiritual for me – I would have to cross out a lot. What also irritates me is the fact that the Five Wishes version seems more for the living than for the person facing death. Perhaps that’s what makes more sense, but somehow it still rubs me the wrong way.