We have a snack basket in bookkeeping. It’s a basket filled with snacks (obviously . . .) that occasionally double as lunch . . . or a munchie that keeps us from fading in the middle of the afternoon. I’m usually the stocker of the basket, but I’ve been falling down on the job lately. A lot. So before I scheduled my last Wal-Mart pick-up, I went through the basket to check the expiration dates on all the stuff.
The Fiber One Chocolate Fudge Brownies? They were best by July of 2019. The Lance Toasty Peanut Butter Crackers? June 6, 2020. The Kind Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate gluten free bars with eight grams of protein? They’re about a year old. And my favorite? The Lance Captain’s Wafers filled with Peanut Butter and Honey? Well, let’s just say most of them died in 2019, except for one lonely little pack that’s evidently been living in the basket since before October 13, 2018.
The only things in the whole basket that were still allegedly edible were the 100 calorie, 14 grams of protein, foil packs of StarKist Ready-to-Eat Deli Style Tuna Salad. Two of them are good through May of 2021 and the third is supposedly fine until December 21st. Which, quite frankly, scares me.
It took me a while to find the “best by” and expiration dates on some of those things, mainly because there isn’t really a designated spot on all food items where they can be found, or they were stamped in such a place that it was almost impossible to read unless the light hit the plastic just right. But at least every item had one so I knew when to start seriously considering whether or not I actually wanted to consume a particular snack—unlike my father who ate moldy bread and anything else he could make look presentable with a little scraping.
I’m pretty sure you know where I’m headed since expiration dates and Death are generally linked in the minds of us mere mortals. But what I want to stress is that human beings don’t have one. Granted, we’re all going to “expire” at some point or other, but as the doctor in the commercial for Cancer Treatment Centers of America so aptly observes to Peggy, the patient, “I don’t see an expiration date stamped on the bottom of your foot” or something to that effect. And yet we so often hear of people who have been given days or weeks or months to live—predictions that often prove inaccurate.
We had a woman call our office many years ago wanting to schedule a funeral for her husband on the coming Saturday. We knew we hadn’t been called by anyone official, or even unofficial, regarding his death, so of course we asked where he was. Turns out he was at home, still very much alive, but the doctor had told her he wouldn’t live through the week. And she really wanted a Saturday funeral. So she called to schedule it.
We didn’t, and she was none too happy about it.
The gentleman managed to survive for several weeks after his appointed time of demise, much to his wife (and probably the doctor’s) surprise. But not to ours. Because we understand that the human spirit is capable of some remarkable feats including, but not limited to, outliving expiration dates that are artificially thrust upon it. Often that’s because the mind is a powerful tool which, when positively engaged, can make a world of difference in the outcome of an illness. But not always. Which brings me to some words of wisdom, spoken by the late Valerie Harper after her diagnosis with lung cancer that eventually spread to her brain. “Don’t go to the funeral—mine or yours—until the day of the funeral.” Her doctors gave her three months to live in January of 2013.
She died on August 30, 2019.
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.