Is it morbid to plan your own funeral?
And why do they have wedding planners but not funeral planners?
I just attended a lovely funeral. This being my first Chinese-American funeral, I had quite a bit of time during the Cantonese language portion of the program to think about how intensely personal, yet universal funerals are.
It was hard not to see the similarities, as they far outweighed the differences. Except for a pastor speaking first in Cantonese, then in English, the format and sentiments expressed were pretty much what I anticipated. No one wailed openly. Most guests seemed more somber than grieving.
We heard psalms. We watched a video. This was, in all senses, a celebration of life. And even though I'd never met this woman, I came away feeling how incredible - and incredibly loved - she was.
I may live to 78 like Virginia Yee. Or I may drop dead tomorrow. Whenever it happens, I want my 55 minutes of funeral fame ... and I'm thinking it's best not to leave that to chance.
Who is it for -- the deceased, or the living?
This is a serious question. You might ask, "What do you care about your own funeral? You won't be there anyway." That raises philosophical and theological issues I don't want to get into here. I do want to talk about the funeral as social event. In that context funerals are not very different from christenings, confirmations, or weddings.
Your funeral is the last, great party you will ever have thrown in your honor. My feeling: as you were in life, so should you be in death.
You can't control who will attend your funeral (by this point it's too late to do much about your popularity, sorry). But you can control their experience. If you're so inclined, you can plot (no pun intended there) it down to the fine details. Do you prefer a religious rite or a secular celebration? Are there ethnic customs or family traditions you wish or need to honor? Where will the funeral itself be held - church, hall, funeral home, outdoors in a meadow? Will there be a procession to a cemetery? Open casket, closed casket, no casket? What music will be played? What readings represent your values? Do you have a preference for flower types or colors? How about donations in your memory -- do people know your favorite charity?
Will pall bear for pints
Plan now or plan later
Planning can pay off
These kinds of questions can easily be answered ahead of time. By writing your desires down, you'll take the guesswork out of it. You'll actually be doing your loved ones a favor. They'll know absolutely what to do and what not to do. And they'll have fewer decisions to make under pressure. There will still be plenty to do just adhering to your last wishes.
If you are so inclined, you can even comparison shop. I have not done this myself, but I'm willing to bet you can pre-order your own casket. I know for me, I don't want anyone's guilt putting me in a Cadillac. I'd like something tasteful yet understated; individual, but not too flashy, please.
And why shouldn't you check out different funeral homes the same way you'd research any other event facility? Me, I'll go with the best combination of non-creepy ambiance and package price.
Just a simple casket
For a little professional help with your sendoff..
- mysendoff.com | Home
Mysendoff.com is a social planning and resource tool that connects people's wishes for a personalized sendoff to their family and friends.
Make your final day memorable
What will guests remember about your funeral - besides that you missed it?
When my mom died, she left a notebook with some surprising findings. Not only did she select specific hymns, she identified the organist and the singer. Having worked for years at her church, she was quite familiar with funeral protocol and options. She knew there is a league of church women who bring food to the deceased's home. They coordinate with the family in terms of menu, tablescapes, etc. Well God bless my mom. Her funeral notebook went so far as to request "sweet and sour meatballs." And she was right. They were delicious!
My dad tells the story of my uncle, a WWII sailor. His last request was to have "Anchors Aweigh" played as his casket left the church. Now, I don't know if he was joking, but I do know his wife said, "No way!" On the other end of this spectrum is my friend who died suddenly at 51. His Yellow Submarine-themed tribute was exactly what he would have wanted.
The Last Supper
Bagpiper in Paradise
Send me off happy, ok?
Am I a great connoisseur of funerals? Hardly. Knock on wood (not a casket, tho - I'm sure that's a funeral home no-no), I can still count on two hands the ones I've attended.
But, being a writer and an observer of humanity, I have been taking copious mental notes. I intend to borrow bits and pieces from Irish, Greek, California, New York and recovery traditions. Ideally, I'd like TWO funerals - one in a church and and one casual. That should pretty much satisfy everyone:-).
One of these days, I'm going to write my thoughts down so there's no ambiguity about my wishes.
I'll start here with MM's top 12 songs I want played at my funeral(s):
- Beware of Darkness (George Harrison) -- but it has to be the live version from Concert for Bangladesh with Leon Russell
- In My Life (Beatles) -- Love that harpsichord!
- Your Song (Elton John) -- Been my fave since high school
- Black (Pearl Jam) -- Time to be a star in my own sky
- Spirit in the Sky (Norman Greenbaum's one and only hit)
- Life by the Drop (Stevie Ray Vaughn) -- Stevie got it!
- God Loves a Drunk (Richard Thompson asks, "Will there be any bartenders up there in heaven?")
- Angel - Sarah McLachlan (I hope to be up there with the "real" angels and all those dogs and cats Sarah advocates for)
- Come Down (Bush) -- Damn straight! Once I get up there in the clouds, no way I want to come back down!
- Amazing Grace -- It wouldn't be a funeral without her
- Ave Maria - Always, always, always makes me cry
- Give Peace a Chance (John Lennon) -- or if I die around the holidays, Happy Christmas/War is Over
Honorable mention that didn't quite make the cut:Get this Party Started (Pink)