Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to plan a funeral. But don’t worry — it’s going to be the most soul-satisfying, life-affirming, totally-not-creepy sendoff that ever consecrated a cadaver.
See, I recently attended the memorial service for a beloved family member who died suddenly — and much, much too young. None of us knew how she wanted to take her final leave (coffin? viewing? urn? ocean?) or to whom she wanted donations made in lieu of flowers (Humane Society? homeless shelter?) because these aren’t the sorts of things on which busy, prime-of-life people spend a lot of time ruminating. So we guessed, by god, because what else can you do? And we shuffled through the traditional paces prescribed for an aggrieved family: choosing a casket, ordering flowers, designating burial garments and jewelry, assembling a slide show, banging out a stark and bloodless obit, and attempting to sum up this woman’s life, character, and passions for the eulogizing pastor who never even met her. Not once.
I can’t remember ever being at a memorial service where the officiant actually knew the deceased. What is that?? Whole church full of people who love and are desperate to remember someone — and the emcee is just spurting conjecture and hearsay. I object.
So I’ve decided to plan my farewell festivities myself, and well in advance, to avoid the horrific eventuality of being laid to rest at a party that sucks — to prevent, as it were, my last rites from being all wrong. I mean, what if someone opts to play some sappy song by some rubbish band? Then everyone will think of me every time they hear that dreck forever after. Oh, no, you don’t. I came into this world a control freak, and I have no intention of leaving it otherwise.
And I’m not alone. I discovered that some not-especially-dour friends have also given thought to their own bow-out blowout — their toodle-oo do, if you will. One dreams of her loved ones eschewing a funeral altogether and simply scarfing hot fudge sundaes in her honor. Another has collected her favorite 20 photos of herself over the years just for this purpose. Another hopes for a Sousa march and a roast. Why not?? It’s more fun, fitting, and fabulous than anything someone else could dream up to honor you.
Even my 13-year-old already has opinions about his own memorial service. He’s a straight shooter who, not surprisingly, has strong language preferences. At his event, no one will be allowed to use the term “celebration of life” or any other namby-pamby euphemisms. “If anyone uses the term ‘passed away,’” he warns, “it’s gonna be their funeral, too.”
I understand that these events exist for the mourners, not the dead — and if anyone’s busted up over my demise (Aww! You guys!), I want them to get what they came for. (Unlike my friend Andy, whose only demand is that his funeral guests listen to Justin Bieber for an hour “because I won’t be there, and I think it would be funny.”) But I’d like for my friends and family to know that if I can’t be there with them anymore, at least I tried to envelop them in my favorite things while they’re stuck being sad.
There will be dancing. To something funky. A flash mob is not out of the question. There must be scrumptious comfort food (“Prepare yourself, you know it’s a must. Got to have a friend in cheeses …”). I’d love a couple of therapy dogs for snuggling. Or a temporary tattoo station with antique typewriter tats. And a table with all of my jewelry dumped on it and a sign that says, “Free! Take one!”
No clergy. No saying kind things that aren’t true. And no quoting Michael Scott from The Office (kids, I’m looking at you). Just favorite stories, a skirting-inappropriate amount of laughter, and, for dramatic flair, a spin of The Cars’ “Bye Bye Love” in closing.
Don’t forget to grab your schwag bag on the way out. It’s got my ashes in it. Sprinkle me somewhere fun.
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