Only Mostly Dead: In which I am declared deceased

October 11, 2014 in Canada, North America, Travelogue


It is an unsettling thing to be declared dead.

She peered at me over the rim of her metallic turquoise half glasses and asked the following questions:

Full maiden name?  Jennifer Lynda Susana Sutherland

Date of birth?August 7, 1974

Place of birth?Napanee, Ontario

Mother’s maiden name?I told her

Father’s full name?Dale Victor Sutherland


“Hmph.” she stared at her screen, stared at me, stared back at her screen. “Well, your SIN number has been deactivated for lack of use. We figured you’d be dead.”

What followed was a comedy of me doing my level best to prove my viability, including producing all of my current Canadian ID, explaining that I could not possibly have produced the four children in question (I’d come to apply for their SIN numbers) if I had, in fact, been deceased. And then, of course, there was the rather convincing evidence of my bodily presence in the office. No dice. My frustration was evident.

“You know,” she cajoled, “This is for your own good, we’re trying protect you from having had your number stolen and misused.” I resisted the urge to point out that it was, in fact, my supposed “protector” who had numerically murdered me.

Surprisingly, it was not my unexpected death that is most annoying. I’ll get that sorted out in six months or so; when I can produce the original documents that are locked safely in a bank box in another country. It was the fact that a dead mother cannot apply for the SIN numbers of her own children, even if she shows up in person. Meaning that I’d have to return, two days later, with all four children in tow.

Thursday morning, I presented my progeny, slouching and non-plussed by their early morning rousting to catch the 7:45 a.m. ferry. Navid, the helpful and efficient Canada Services officer ripped through the applications in less than fifteen minutes, not even looking at the children. They did not have to produce any form of ID linking them to their citizenship certificates. I could have taken any four kids, mine, yours, some random elves I’d picked up on the street corner,  regardless of gender, apparently, since he decided Elisha was a girl, without so much as laying eyes on the hulk of his 14 year old male form.

I reviewed the applications on his screen. “Um… that one’s wrong… Elisha is male, not female,” I pointed out.

“I’m not proving it!” Elisha grumbled from his seat on the floor behind Hannah’s chair.

The error was corrected. Papers were printed. I launched into my pitch with my sweetest, most persuasive voice.

I had a photocopy of the document required and the original sepia toned card given to my mother at my birth certifying that I was, in fact, alive and documented.

I tried humor, working the “zombie apocalypse” angle and how I was an early adopter.

No dice. I was declared still dead.

“Well, dead is an unfortunate choice of terms,” Navid apologized, “She shouldn’t have said you were dead, the official term is ‘dormant.’” He smiled.

“Clearly, I’m not that either,” I cajoled, “Let’s just resuscitate me, shall we?”

Canada Services officials, even young Arab ones, are impervious to feminine charm. That, or I’m losing my edge. I am forty. I’ve heard it happens. I am still dead.

“Well, then can I get my death benefits?” I quipped.

“That we could probably arrange!” Navid teased back.

And this is how I came to be dead to my home country.

It’s difficult to declare residency when one is deceased. The up side? If I’m dead, I’m totally justified in spending the winter of my death in paradise, don’t you think? Guatemala is my idea of heaven.

Of course my friends think this is wildly hilarious.

My Facebook feed exploded:

Talon Windwalker: The zombie apocalypse has begun?

Trish Herr: Life insurance to your family…plus, a life of crime can begin since you certainly can’t be held responsible for your actions once you’ve passed on…

Dorothy Morse: I know you like to get things done ahead of time, Jennifer Miller, but this??

Gayle Smith: OMG, I’m laughing!!!

Lois Hause Wood: So are you Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer. I could plan you one helluva funeral…the wake would be epic!

Jonathan Wood: Can I show up at your funeral in a grim reaper costume?

D Thomas Moniz: Just don’t bury her in the Pet Sematary

And then, Hannah created a memorial for me and I began to be eulogized:

Robin Holland: She was a very dear friend of mine. I DO hope she is laid out in her red dress. <snicker>

Simms Brooks Cate: She knitted together a glorious life of memories and socks

Melissa Adams: She came, she saw, she kicked the bucket, that first she made, out of bark, that she lugged from the Canadian woods, when she was three.

She kicked that bucket with boots, that she fashioned, out of beaver hide, that she hunted, when she was 12.

Inside those boots were socks, that she knitted, from the wool of a Tibetan goat, that was a gift, from a monk, that she cooked dinner for, from scratch, over a fire, that she built, in the woods.

Inside those socks were her feet, that were finally healed from her walk, on the Camino.

Attached to those feet were her legs, she had great legs.

And above those legs was her tummy, that still looked amazing in a 2 piece. I secretly hated her for that.

Attached to her tummy was her trunk, with her arms and hands, strong yet tender, good for hard work and tight hugs, quieting babies and shlepping laundry, that she washed, over a rock, in a river, in her backyard in Guatemala, without soap.

And on the hands were her fingers, nimble with needle, and pen, and keyboard, and wooden spoon, that she whittled, from a log, that she dragged behind her bike, next to the child she also toted behind her bike, through all of Europe.

And when the fingers weren’t wielding something creative, they were grasping a cup of steaming hot tea, or fingering a glass of wine, or an early evening Pinnacle.

And above the arms, her shoulders, that carried the weight of the world – hers, mine, yours, until she set it down, to carry just the joys before picking back up the weight again and moving forward, light and heavy evenly distributed.

And her neck rose above those shoulders to be the balance for that head, that glorious, beautiful head, that held the beauty, the brains and the bounty – all the treasures and triumphs got their start in that head, which actually got it’s flow from the heart. That great. deep. vat of a heart. And goodness, how she blessed the world and we are gonna miss her – unless of course, she’s only mostly dead.

Jeremiah Wood: She was Canadian, but we all loved her anyway.

Becca Haram: A limerick.

There once was a woman named Jenn she adventured around the world but didn’t come back again.

She explored in endeavoring to find all to be seen endeavoring to be a blessing and help and leave a place better than before she had been.

She knitted and darned for miles and miles singing songs like “Once I was the King of Spain” to share the giggly smiles.

She opened your home too all that passed by and shared what they had never to say goodbye.

Encouraging laughs and encouraging pats, nevermind onlookers as her man twirled us out.

Always a place to call home except in Canada that stated she was cold dead bones.

Susan Whitehead Never met Jennifer Miller in person, so I didn’t do it

Another friend forwarded me a youtube video of Monty Python’s Bring Out Your Dead.

Songs were suggested for my funeral:

I Will Survive

Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead

The Ring of Fire

O Canada

I stood at the back of the ferry, yesterday morning, as we left Wolfe Island, talking with my friend Aaron. I shivered in my purple lulu lemon pull-over and the tie-dyed scarf from Thailand that Chris gave me in North Carolina last week.  Aaron, swaddled in his, government issue, layers of neon yellow fleece and waterproofs smirked, “Are you cold?”

“Yes! Which is why I’m headed to Guatemala!” I grumbled I had not yet had my tea and had started the 10 hour travel day with missing the 9 a.m. boat.

“Perhaps it’s your circulation,” he snidely suggested, “You know, since you’re dead.”

As is our habit when I’m on the island, we spent the 20 minute crossing catching up, chatting about our kids, and continuing our 35 year friendship. Aaron tormented me a bit when we were five year olds (I tormented him, a bit, back). his biting wit is one of his best features. He was sure to work in as many jabs about my untimely passing as possible: “Good thing this isn’t the River Styx….” and, with a wink, and, “Everyone pays the boatman!” He didn’t get a tip, but I gave him a look that might have caused him to join me on the other side if I’d meant it.

And so, I find myself with one foot in both worlds.

Very much alive, and yet completely inviable in my mother country. I find myself in the interesting company of the enigmatic Man in Black in The Princess Bride, in that I’m, Only mostly dead.”