My Living Media Will

For intravenous hydration, I prefer flat water to sparkling, with a slice of lemon in my IV bag

Illustration by Christopher Hutsul

In the event that my health deteriorates to the point where extreme measures are required to sustain life and keep me telegenic, I hereby request that those entrusted with my care follow the wishes in this Living Media Will. To wit:

  1. In the case of a persistent vegetative coma, please wait to see if it is truly persistent, or only “a nap,” or “not wanting to write.” Because my creative process closely resembles a persistent vegetative state, I have entrusted my family with the power to determine whether I am “still working” or “as good as dead.”
  2. If I am in a hospital, I would like a private corner room with a southwest exposure—we vegetables like the sun! If I must have a roomie, I would like someone upbeat who doesn’t watch those designer-challenge shows. An older, financially stable gentleman (uncatheterized) would be acceptable as well.
  3. Even if unable to talk or move, I want to be touched, caressed, massaged, held, crooned to, read to, bathed, exfoliated, and cuddled as much as possible. I want a lot of attention, regardless of whether I am curled in the fetal position with a ghastly rictus on my face. I want that male nurse in the Almodóvar film Talk to Her (minus the rape).
  4. Visitor policy: Everyone is welcome, and so are gifts. I will know who visits and who doesn’t, believe me! For instance, if my son-in-law comes and sits on my feet and wolfs down my hospital pudding, I will probably be aware of that, despite my persistent vegetative state. So tell him to use the chair and to bring something nice, maybe French fruit pastilles dissolved in my intravenous fluids—they really cut through the coma fog.
  5. My hair roots should be retouched every three weeks. Book pedicures biweekly, specifying plain, nude-y shades of nail polish for the summer months and deeper colours in the winter, to cheer me up when I stare at my own feet for hours and hours and hours. If I’m on a respirator, I’ll wear a nightgown, something simple with a bit of neck detail. But if it’s just a straightforward comaand-feeding tube, I would prefer sweater sets and some relaxed trousers: think Lauren Bacall. No jewellery: jewellery says outing. I am, after all, in a coma. And given my lack of facial expression, brow-shaping is crucial.
  6. And for God’s sake, give some thought to footwear. I couldn’t believe what they had on the Pope’s feet, for all the world to see—could they not find some appropriate, gold-trimmed, red velvet papal slippers? No, they went with brown Italian loafers, as if he had just come from a coffee bar! I want my feet showing, wearing some damn nice Tod’s flats.
  7. I have asked my husband to program my iPod with music suitable to a vegetative state—e.g., Beck’s Sea Change, Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3, Leonard Cohen’s version of Go No More A-Roving, and anything by Marianne Faithfull. Apparently, Björk’s a cappella CD has roused several people from profound comas. Worth a try.
  8. My family doctor has been informed that I will accept a feeding tube only if a) fresh, organic liquid nutrients are available; and b) the services of a life-support stylist can be obtained. The stylist will ensure that in the event of worldwide media coverage—if my family disagrees over any aspect of my care, for instance, and gets on the blower to nbc, Fox, and the cbc—my medical paraphernalia will be draped, prepped, and arranged in a way that is dignified and makes me look thin. No belly shots!
  9. In the event of sudden death, I would like to donate my organs to medical science. For instance, it would be nice if my liver could be exhibited as a “typical writer’s liver” for the benefit of future generations. If science has advanced to an appropriate stage, my husband has asked that the portion of my brain responsible for buying gifts for relatives and writing Christmas cards be kept alive and transplanted into his brain. I have arranged to donate my right breast to the ex-boyfriend designated in my will as A.Y., but I would like to have it reconstructed first. My sister has agreed to undertake this intimate matter.
  10. In the event that a former colleague, designated as R.W., who undermined my credibility on the job and then successfully campaigned for my position, resulting in my dismissal, should show up, I have requested my caretakers greet him at the door of my room and say “Are you R.W.? We are legally empowered to tell you to fuck off.”
  11. For intravenous hydration, I prefer flat water to sparkling, with a slice of lemon in my IV bag. A scented Jo Malone candle on the night table would be lovely too.
Marni Jackson
Marni Jackson is the author of four books, including Don't I Know You and The Mother Zone.