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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Celebration of Life, The Reality of Death and Planning my Funeral

I just read an article outlining the benefits of planning your own funeral.  I haven't given it much thought, but this week I have been wondering if it wouldn't be that bad of an idea.  If a funeral is to be about a person's life, then maybe the best person to plan the funeral is the person for whom the funeral will be for.  

I will list a few things I don't like about some funerals.  (these are the same things I would want avoided at my own memorial, If I have any say in the matter.) 

1.  I don't like viewing the dead body. 

 When I was 7, I attended a viewing of my grandmother before the funeral.  It is the last and only memory I have of her.  That isn't anything I wish on anyone. 

I don't want that to happen at my funeral.   I don't want my body on display when there is no life in it.  I am getting cremated... (already stipulated in my will).  I don't care if I will be messing up someone's closure ritual...  but I don't want my corpse to be anyone's last memory of me... (If I have a say about it!) 

2. I don't like singing morbid hymns over and over.  

I don't mind some music at a funeral, but if I am crying or mourning the loss of someone, I want the option not to sing.  Singing for me is usually a joyful experience.  I don't want to mess with that.   

I figure for my funeral, all the music can be electronic.  I don't want to put anyone through the painful expectation of singing at my memorial.

3. I don't like evangelistic sermons at funerals.

I guess it happens that funerals often turn into outreach events.  But it doesn't seem right.  There are pastors out there that feel like it is their responsibility to "reach the lost" that come face to face with death. 
I wonder if that is taking advantage of a person's vulnerability and grief.  

I would opt out of having any sermon at my funeral.  I am not the biggest fan of sermons on a weekly basis never mind at the end of my life.  I don't think I want to put anyone through that. I go to a memorial to remember that person and to say goodbye... Not really going there to get preached to about how to handle death right.  And I don't need to hear hell warnings either.  It isn't the time or the place for that. 

 It's not the sermon from the pastor that I ever remember anyway. It is always the stories from the  family and friends of the person who died.  

4. I don't like family pictures at the funeral or graveyard. 

Here is the story... It was my Opa's funeral. I had been hiding my emotion right up until the internment.  I lost it... collapsed on the ground and bawled my eyes out.   I was still laying on the ground in the graveyard with a tear soaked face, when I was informed that the next order of business was family pictures by the casket. 


Is it okay for me to admit now what I really thought of the events of that day?  

Here is the deal.  No family pictures at my memorial.  Find another day of the week or month or year to snap the group shots.  If someone wants family pictures after I am gone... then there is no need to include my ashes in the shot. 

5. I don't like going to funerals days after loosing someone I love.  

I prefer to mourn in solitude.  Public displays of grief are awkward for me.  I know that delaying the funeral day will only work if the body isn't involved in the actual ceremony.  

Because I am getting cremated, there will definitely be some flexibility.  I figure a good month ought be enough time. The initial grief will have mellowed a bit and most can attend a public function without too much pain.  

The first memorial we had for my Dad was painful in a lot of ways.  It was five days after he died.  We had another memorial service a few months later and, for me, that was much easier. 

6. I don't like someone else telling me how to get closure.  

Everyone grieves differently and everyone ought to be given the freedom to grieve in their own way.

A personal story:

Losing my Dad was painful.  I was at the funeral home dropping off the urn on the morning that his body was scheduled for cremation.  I had already been given a tour of the crematorium a couple days prior and was made to understand the process that my dad had chosen.  

The morning I went to drop the urn, I asked John (the funeral director) if I could sit in the room where the cremation chamber was. I didn't get to see nor did I want to see the beginning and the end of the process, but I sat on the floor for a half an hour during the process.  It was cold in the room because it was vented to the outside (-30 deg. C. beginning of February).  I leafed through the cremation documents and stared for a while at my dad's name. I let the reality of what I was seeing, hearing and feeling soak into my soul. I felt him close to me somehow.  I walked through memories in my mind for that half hour. 

 Not to many have that opportunity that I did that morning and not too many would chose to sit and listen to the sounds and feel the chill of the presence of death.  But I did and that was my closure. 

I am thinking that I won't have much say in the actual events surrounding my death (except the details stipulated in my will) 
 I could give my loved ones the freedom to grieve the way they need to. After all, I won't be here for my funeral, so do I really need to plan it. 

I am going to end of this post with a Youtube clip from a Star Trek episode.

The episode finds two of the Enterprise crew, Jordi and Ro lost in a transporter accident.  They aren't dead, but "phase-shifted".  Still able to walk around and see and hear everyone on the Enterprise, but unable to communicate.  No one can hear them or see them.  They are presumed dead and Data is elected to organize a memorial.  Not having any experience at funeral preparations... this is what he comes up with.  

Jordi Laforge and Ensign Ro Laren's memorial party: Star Trek "The Next Phase"

I like it. That's all I'm going to say. 

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