The astute observer of human behavior and great American author Mark Twain was fascinated by the concept of eavesdropping on his own funeral. In the novel “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” published in 1902, he wrote that Tom, eavesdropping on his own funeral, said “it was the proudest moment of (his) life.”
What kind of funerals have you been to? What kind of funeral do you want to have? Do you want to have a funeral at all? A living funeral? A party? A roast?
I’m going to answer my own questions. The first funeral I ever attended was for a classmate’s mother, when I was in elementary school, 4th or 5th grade. It was the first time I’d been to a Catholic church. The church very close to my house, and my best friend and I walked there together. I remember thinking that our friend, Damon, looked so small and strange in his suit. We didn’t know anything about Damon’s mom, or how she had died. We just wanted to go because Damon was our friend. I remember looking at the statues and the stained glass and understanding that what had happened was very sad and very serious.
After that, I attended the funerals of my family members; three grandparents, and lots of great aunts and uncles. I’m blessed to be part of a large, close Jewish family living almost entirely in New Jersey, New York City and Long Island, so everyone’s funeral was in Queens, at a funeral home, presided over by a Rabbi. Each of my relatives is buried in one of the large Jewish cemeteries on Long Island. These cemeteries are so large that they have street names. These funerals were pretty similar to one another; people wore black, gave eulogies. We traveled to the cemetery together in a convoy, then went to someone’s house to eat and be together.
When my aunt Kate died, she was laid out for viewing. This was very unusual for a Jewish woman. She had died her hair bright red for many years, only revealing her beautiful natural white for the last few years of her life. As I peered into her coffin, I was shocked, once again, by the absence of red hair with which I’d associated her so strongly those many years. Hers was the first dead body I’d ever seen.
Aside from my family, I attended a funeral for a friend’s younger brother, killed when his friend who was driving drunk crashed their car. This was a very different type of funeral, held in a cemetery rural Pennsylvania. It was very informal; people wore jeans and smoked cigarettes at the graveside. They told stories, drank beer, laughed and cried. Afterward, there was a small, very casual dinner at a local hall.
Recently, I attended a hospice patient’s funeral. Another Catholic church. I was struck by how many of his neighbors attended, speaking of his good deeds and kindnesses toward them. His wife posed by his open coffin, crouching down beside his prone body while her friend took photographs. She posed with the priest as well.
All interesting experiences. All filled with unbridled emotion, pain and suffering but also light and love.
None of these experiences is right for me.
I just turned 40 and asked to be roasted for my birthday. I want to know how people feel about me. I want them to celebrate my wonderful qualities and my foibles. I want it to be real, and funny, and thought provoking.
I want that for the celebration of Emily, too. Not my funeral. The Celebration of Emily. I want my favorite foods prepared and eaten, my favorite songs played. I want color and brightness. I want tears and pain and laughter and the full rainbow of emotions. I want stories and memories and photographs. I want to be look natural, I want to be clothed in something beautiful and special, and I want my loved ones to feel that way, too. I want it all, because I am selfish, indomitable, effervescent, silly, sensitive and spirited. I want ME. And then I want to be buried in the Mushroom Burial Suit: https://www.ted.com/talks/jae_rhim_lee?language=en (For more options, read my upcoming blog entry: Interesting Things We Can Do With Our Bodies When We Die).
So, to sum up, we can eavesdrop on our own funerals. We can be present for them. We can do whatever we want. What do you want?
What do YOU want? Share your thoughts, send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sending love, light, and bright blessings today and always,