My death is such a terribly frightening thought that my brain refuses to ponder it for more than 4.7 seconds. In April, I enjoyed Taryn Arnold’s For my 25th Birthday My Best Friends Wrote Me Eulogies and recently, I attended a funeral. These events got me thinking about how I want to go out. See, thinking about my funeral is different than thinking about not existing. For anyone that finds this post, I hope you enjoy my musings. For my family and loved ones, this is a set of instructions.
Alright, that Super Brownie Sundae Challenge at [insert restaurant here] has done me in, literally. First up, you need to make sure that the establishment doesn’t end the contest because of me. Just because I failed the 2 gallon gut buster doesn’t mean it’s not a fun way to promote their restaurant. Arguably, ending the silly promotion after my death looks like admitting guilt. Tell the owners and the media that I died doing the thing I love, eating ice cream.
Next up, what do you do with my body? What are my wishes? I guess, despite being dead, it’s respectful to do as I wish. If I’m being honest, I would simply ask not to be dead. I assume putting me in a new body or a terrifying robot is still Hollywood fantasy? Fine. So do I wish to be cremated? Or do you need to find a big enough cigar box to put me in and bury me the back yard. Presumably, next to the squirrel you saw dad hit with the lawn mower when you were 6 and forced him to perform a funeral for it. It’s only a tough question because I’d just rather not be dead.
Cremate me, I guess. We’ll get to what to do with that leftover bone and ash later.
Wake Me Up Before You Go Go
I don’t want to leave you hanging on like a yo-yo, but everyone grieves differently. Personally, my process rarely starts before the funeral. Rather than enlisting the help of a religious leader–that is, instead of paying a church to perform my service I would love a friend or family member to take the lead. Of course, only if he/she is comfortable doing it. I assume that the Hoff is either too expensive or frozen under glass in a tomb in Germany. You could ask Taryn Arnold or Justin Hall because they both have the right attitude and empathy. Otherwise a funeral director will work. Ideally, a grief counselor would be amazing.
While some find solace in faith, I believe it would be better to have professional help for mourners. If there’s a tacky printed program to commemorate my funeral service, be sure to add the name of a grief counselor and a way to contact her or him. I don’t mean to snub those with religious beliefs. I believe they will already have a support system in the form of their own pastor, priest or shaman.
As in life, the funeral is about me. One of the things that really bothers me at services is when the priest or religious leader turns my friend, or family member’s death into a commercial for his/her faith. “Don’t mourn Cindy, she’s in a better place because she put money in a dish when we passed it around and performed a sacred incantation. It’s a great reminder that you need to buy now because supplies are running low!”
I’m sorry for that tasteless portrayal of a faith leader, but that’s how I have felt so many times during funerals. I am hurt, vulnerable and dazed from losing someone very dear to me. Is this time to sell me life insurance? Are we exiting the funeral home through the back door to ignore the life insurance agents collected outside the front doors like paparazzi? No. It’s called respect. My funeral service isn’t a commercial for faith “X.” Let’s respect all the mourners and me. Let’s talk about me. It’s my favorite subject, alive or dead.
Paying the Piper
Let’s get to this “ceremony.” This is the part I like the least. Ceremony, I can’t stand it at weddings or funerals. Please don’t do any weird symbolic things with candles, sand, rope or ribbon. People have a hard enough time dealing with death. Let’s not confuse them with metaphors.
The same goes for poetry. I cannot stress this enough. I need poetry like a fish needs a bicycle. Typically loved ones reading the piece are overcome with emotions or deliver it dead pan. Pun intended. Jokes aside, this is the most important rule– no poetry. For me, poetry only serves as a distraction from the service and the mourning because I despise it so much. If someone thinks they have a poem or song that just fits, convince them otherwise or hire my friend Andy Luther to read it because he’s great at cold readings. (Should I keep a pun count?)
Here’s a novel idea, how about talking about my cause of death? It seems to be the hushed conversation of the audience but rarely covered in the service. “Chris gorged on a 2 gallon ice cream sundae, fell into a diabetic coma (diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome) and passed, shortly thereafter.” Perhaps I am so terrified of death because we don’t face it head-on in our society? I do know that mourning the loss of my uncle became very real when I was allowed to see his blue, bloated body before they cremated him. It may sound morbid, but how many of your deceased loved ones have you seen on a death bed or in a state of lifelessness? At the funeral service, they make the bodies up to look as if they are sleeping. I think it can be very hard to accept the loss if we are constantly ignoring the truth. So address my death in the service. I’m not saying to put my body in the cooler full of ice and drinks. Though, the “stiff drink” pun would be amazing.
Tell stories of our harrowing adventures together. Share tales that embarrass me, I promise not to blush. If you want to roast me, that’s perfect. Please let there be laughter at my funeral. Making people laugh brings me endless joy. There’s a talking point right there! "Chris was a cliché in life, always desperate to make people laugh."
Now, let’s eat! It might be in bad taste to have ice cream if I have truly cashed out from a diabetic coma, but the after-gathering is a very important part of any funeral. The service is the last official act to help many cope with accepting the loss, but the bland sandwiches afterwards are just an excuse to console each other. If we’re being realistic, this is the first time many of you will have seen relatives and friends in ages. This is a social gathering.
Many people say, “I don’t want a funeral, just have a party!” We have parties to celebrate events and the simple act of showing up is all you need to do to support the person or event. The party itself should be for the guests. And so, after the service, enjoy the people around you. Catch up with acquaintances, relive the old days and be present. This will be something I will be unable to do. Think about that. Use the bereavement leave from your work to see these people while you’re all in the same town. It only takes one 2 gallon sundae to take them away from you and leave you with regrets.
Heaven is a Cloud Service?
You’ve cremated the husk that stored my personality, now what? First, I don’t know what to believe anymore. Do crematories actually toast me individually, or do they load my body in with a bunch of others and melt us down together? If that’s the truth, what’s the point of holding onto the ashes of me, someone named Wilma and twenty other cadavers? Again, it’s symbolic ceremony, spreading my ashes on the beach or something. Especially if it’s me and a bunch of other people. Donate to the State park in Michigan in my name if ceremony is your thing. A hover bench with my name on it or an outhouse with excellent ventilation.
If what you get is truthfully just my ashes, do something weird with me. You can get the ashes added to a paint and commission a painting of me as Vigo the Carpathian. Have my ashes added to jewelry, stained glass or a tree.
Next, what do we do with digital me? Well, you can give my friend Quoc the keys and let him pretend to be me with a random update every few years. That sounds very Andy Kaufman, doesn’t it? All I ask is that my ridiculous legacy is available for people. Earlier, I wanted to make a Chris Farley joke, but I knew the Saturday Night Live clip would not be available because of the mess that is copyright. People should be able to hear my story. Presumably my death certificate reads, “Cause of death: ice cream.” That’s amazing! Don’t deny people of my ancient tweets about farts. The down side would be my likeness in VR, AR or a CG me being used to sell people things I truly wouldn’t approve of. However, you didn’t listen to my rants on Big Data when I was alive, so I assume Facebook literally owns my likeness and there’s nothing you can do about it anyway.
"Thank you for your cooperation. Good night."
As the Boyz II Men said, “it’s always hard to say goodbye.” Can you imagine doing the opposite of what Taryn did? Trying to go around to everyone you love and saying, “thanks” before you leave this Earth? That would be very hard. I’m so thankful for the 4 people I talked to today, let alone those that have had a tremendous impact on me in the last 30+ years. Thanks for the friendly conversation this morning, café employee! Seriously, saying my last goodbye & thank you to her and the other 3 people I interacted with today would be brutal. Not to mention, going through that with my wife. Yet, that’s the important thing to take away from Taryn’s “For My 25th Birthday, My Best Friends Wrote Me Eulogies.” Say it now.
So, I should take this time to thank you. Not just those of you that I call my family & friends, but even those of you that somehow found your way to this page and read this far. While I don’t have ads, the tap, or mouse click that brought you here is still a shared experience that I value. If I’m not hit by a car tomorrow, your page view may inspire me to open up about something else or bring us together in another way. Thanks for reading to the end. If I am currently on life support as you read this, please consider this blog post as my consent to be put in a cyborg-like abomination. The worst that could happen is that I become a murderous robot cleaning up the streets of Detroit.