I’m not planning on doing so for a good couple of decades at least–hopefully I’ve got at least another half-century left to me. But in the event that I die, I want to make sure my death is couched in the right exposition.
Hopefully I’ll have died well. With my boots on, as they say. No bribe attempts or blubbering. But what of the rest? What of those left behind, the mourners and the friends–those asking Why Was This Wonderful Person Taken From Us So Soon? Memorials and wakes and funerals are for the living, not for the dead. Still, being the Guest of Honor as one might say, I’d like a say in how it goes.
First off, I have two words for you. Closed Casket. Don’t even embalm me. Donate my organs, if any are usable–but other than that, leave it all alone! I don’t need formaldehyde pumped into me and my lips sewn shut and all that jazz. I don’t need hysterically sobbing relatives commenting about how “He looks so natural” or “He looks like he’s sleeping.” I bloody will not look like I’m sleeping. Do you sleep with makeup caked on your face and your lips sewn shut? So closed casket, if you please–some dry ice to keep me from stinking is all I need. I don’t want my nasty creepy corpse creeping out my grandkids.
That’s assuming we use a casket at all, and not a shroud. Shrouds are cheaper, prettier, cheaper, more biodegradable, and cheaper.
Second of all: I really don’t want a funeral. Not like we think of when we think of funerals. Give me a graveside service–but in place of a funeral, go have a party. I don’t need to be there, I’m dead–and it’s hard to have a party with dead folk about.
For the party: this is where I want y’all to celebrate my life. This isn’t to be a depressing thing. I want a specific rule made that nobody should be wearing black, that everyone should be wearing bright colors. (Which is ironic, really, considering how much I wear black, but hey–we’re counteracting post-mortal depression here.) Have some pictures of me out (‘cuz my body shouldn’t be around, and even if it was, you’re not going to have my casket open or my shroud unwrapped, remember? REMEMBER?). Have some good music playing. (I swear if there’s any hip-hop at my memorial party I will come back as a zombie and eat you all.) Get a good bottle of wine out. Pass the bottle. The fella that is holding the bottle tells a story about them and me. Takes a sip. Passes the bottle. The next person tells a story about them and me. Takes a sip. Passes the bottle. Rinse and repeat. The point being that you’re focusing on the memories, on the happy stuff, and not the fact that I’m, well, dead. That’s what I want from my memorial party.
All the stories will probably almost be like mini-eulogies in themselves, but there should be one official eulogy. I thought about delivering it myself via pre-recorded DVD, but that would be awkward. (“He was a good man…”) But whomever is delivering this eulogy, I have two demands of you. First, that you get a good joke in there, preferably at my expense. You have my permission. And secondly, that you clearly and concisely say why I as a Christian have no fear of death, and where that lack of fear comes from, and how others can lose their fear too. Don’t bludgeon my mourners over the head with our beliefs, and don’t preach a sermon, but work my beliefs concerning death in there somewhere.
I will be very upset if there is not at least one decent prank pulled during the course of the party.
For my grave: I don’t want to be buried in a vault with a heavy coffin and all the bloody preservation crap. And I don’t really want to be cremated either, because you need a coffin to do that and it’s a waste of a perfectly good box, not to mention the toxins it releases. I want to be buried with decay in mind–I want my body to become one with the good green earth. Hopefully either I or my parents will one day have the land to legally establish a family cemetery, a small backyard plot for the Russos and their kin. But if we have not, a green burial will do. Take me to a nice quiet spot, bury me with a blank journal and a ink-filled pen on my chest, and a walking stick or a good straight spear by my side (but not my sword–that goes to my sons). Plant a rowan tree on my grave, or a beech, or an oak. I want to enrich the land, not have my nutrients sealed or scorched away.
Be sure to remind attenders of the graveside service that hiking books and hiking attire, not suits and dresses, will be needed.
And lastly… feel no obligation to visit my grave, once I’m nicely interred. None. I won’t really be there. Do you visit the house where your friends used to live? Of course not. You go to where they now are.