Planning My Funeral

Death. It comes to all of us. Plan for it or not, there is the reality.

I’ve decided to plan for mine and I have wills that go as far back as 1979. Now we are updating our documents for the first time in 14 years.

We have the typical provisions for our little “estate” and we’ve gotten good advice on up to the minute legal matters.  We should be good for at least two minutes after we put our signatures on the dotted line.

That taken care of, the next item on the agenda is The Funeral. Oh, I guess we call it The Memorial Service now or even The Celebration of Life. I’ve kept a little folder of services I’ve attended. Now I’m struggling with choices: a service soon after death or wait a month or two, feed mourners or test their real devotion by showing up without being fed, scatter ashes or let them molder in the basement. I’ve always thought I wanted a Quaker style service where people “speak to the silence.” In my mind’s eye people would tell funny stories, read a meaningful poem, or share a childhood memory. But what if no one has anything appropriate to say and everyone sits around uncomfortably for an hour? Scary.

I’ve been talking about some of these choices with my nieces and nephews since they are the ones (or their offspring) who are left to carry them out. I want to be cremated and have my ashes (with  4 titanium tooth implants that don’t melt) scattered in a few choice places. Of course, this means that someone will have to carry this out. Here is a snippet of a conversation I had about this activity:

Me: I’d like to have a few ashes scattered in the ocean at Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel California.

Nephew Rich:  Right. Point Lobos. But you DO know that we’ll scatter them in the Barberton Reservoir  instead.

And about the service:

Me: I guess I should keep the service easy for all of you. So just have a little service at the funeral home and then send everyone on their way.

Niece Noelle: Right. Simple. But what about the big party and fun time for everyone?

So you can see that it is not as easy as it looks. I might request that “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow” be sung, but what I’d get may be Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. I might request that in lieu of flowers people send donations to a charity of their choice and my family may ask that donations be sent to the “Karen Patterson Surviving Relatives Vacation Fund.”

I’ve now been giving serious thought to an article I read in the New York Times about a new type of funeral. The deceased is dressed in an outfit that they liked while they were alive and

She looks so natural

She looks so natural

then posed in a typical position. One picture showed a woman in a wig and sunglasses holding a beer and cigarette. Another amusing pose was a man in boxing attire, standing in a boxing ring. Now I have new choices to struggle with: What would be my outfit and pose? Should it be me slouching around in a bathrobe with my morning cup of coffee? How about me at a birthday party trying to blow out those trick candles? Or me chasing a toddler around with a garden hose?

I’m beginning to have fun with this idea. I’d be looking in after death and seeing my relatives trying to set this up. I can hear their explanations to people who come during visitation hours. Knowing their personalities, Chris would be smiling, maybe trying to hide, and diplomatically keeping her mouth shut.  Patrick would be amused and explaining that he finds family eccentrics charming. Noelle would be finding even more charming ways to enhance my corpse. Richard would be suggesting that everyone make a cartoon balloon coming out of my mouth with their favorite joke.

In the end, I won’t be there so they might as well go wild. If nothing else people will go away with an unforgettable memory.