Recently I wrote a blog about what I wanted to have happen at my funeral. It was a bit of a tongue in cheek piece, and I was, to be honest, a little concerned that it might offend some people.
But it didn't. In fact, quite the opposite, I got more emails and comments than usual, with people thanking me for bringing up the taboo subject of death. They shared what had gone wrong with funerals of their loved ones because no one had thought about it ahead of time or really knew what the person who had died would have wanted.
I have to say that is why I wrote the piece in the first place. Sadly I've attended my share of funerals of late, and each time I would come back and tell my daughters what I wanted for that final event, and more to the point, what I didn't want. After all, as someone who has made a career of putting on events, of course I wanted a say in that final one.
Why as a society do we avoid the topic of death? We are all going to die one day. Naturally we all hope it will be later rather than sooner. And perhaps because I have had a brush with cancer, I am more comfortable with the topic. I've had to face the inevitable.
So here's what I want:
1. I don't want any fancy, expensive coffin -- rent one if you like.
2. No, I repeat, no open casket. As a fashionista, I prefer to be in control of how I look. I mean, someone will put on the wrong jewelry that doesn't match the entire ensemble.
3. I want to select the photos now. Years ago my daughter held a surprise birthday party for me, complete with a gallery of photos she'd chosen, which from my perspective were selected based on how dreadful I looked. Granted, she had plenty of choice, as I am not photogenic. So none of that.
4. Talking of photos, the family better start clicking now because there are no recent ones of me.
5. Have some stirring music that is upbeat, and everyone can burst forth into song or tap a foot to the rhythm.
6. Have a private family service early on and a celebration a few weeks later when family and friends feel less raw and ready to party.
7. No dreary speeches -- make people laugh. Hey, I have provided enough material for you to share some funny stories about me. In fact, if we get some advance notice of my pending demise, I could even write a few.
8. Have a party and celebrate each other -- some good food, wine and company. (Will just be sorry to miss it.)
Having no photos was a big issue for some of the people who wrote to me and it does make you realize that you do need to capture your life on camera. As one woman shared with me:
"A birth certificate shows you were born,
A death certificate shows you have died,
A photo album shows you have lived."
If you have elderly parents, talk to them. Find out what they want. As people age, they become more comfortable talking about death. Maybe all their friends have gone and they know they are on borrowed time. I remember chatting to my mother-in-law about what she wanted and she was grateful to have the opportunity just to talk about her demise.
And when it comes to our own plans, think of how much easier it would be for our loved ones if we have made it clear ahead of time what we want when that final day arrives. Now I am not planning on checking out any time soon, but when I do I am ready.
In Tuesdays With Morrie, a book that follows a dying man, I have always found comfort in the premise Morrie raises that death is the end of a life, not a relationship.
So even when we are gone, our relationships live on.