I know it’s not a fashionable topic, but I’ve been thinking about it for 2 reasons:
1) I had my 20 year school reunion and let’s face it, I’m getting on. I mean Jesus died when he was about 30 and he always looked like an old man to me. 20 years since school? I still feel the same as that pimply teen trying to get out of economics. I still get pimples (on my wrinkles – where’s the justice in that?)
2) The day after said reunion I had a hangover that made me believe the end was surely nigh. There were visions of my exploded brain all over the room (that was the extent of the throb) and of my children having to say their mother died from bingeing on cucumber caprioskas when she was older than Jesus when he died that’s old enough to know better MUM. There’s no excuse – somehow I was indestructible. I did a Nina Proudman – carving up the dance-floor at 2 am and half dead by 8. By midday I lay in tortured half sleep having more visions – of my funeral with pale people singing wobbly hymns and my poor father shaking his head over his alcoholic daughter.
When some water finally stayed down and lucidity crept back in, I was still thinking about funerals. It’s morbid I know but I’ve decided it’s a good idea to make wishes clear so that no one is floundering and shoving dreadful hymns into proceedings because they didn’t know how to fill a space. They are suggestions though – as opposed to rules. Grieving people shouldn’t have to take on stressful obligations. Anyway, here we go…
No one is to put on a brave face simply because they think that it would hurt me to see you cry. Well for one thing, I can’t see you and for another, what better place to have a good sob than at a funeral, with friends and supporters to do ugly crying faces with runny mascara along with you? If you need to cry – then do it now or it will catch up with you later when you’re in an important meeting or driving over the Tasman bridge (danger to others). Go on, let it out, give those tears a little push if you need to and let them flow. But don’t try too hard – if you don’t feel like crying for me don’t feel you have too. Again I won’t be looking down thinking cold hearted bastard thoughts. Much.
2) Order of Service
The order of the day for the order of service seems to be photos – front, middle (watermark) and back. Great idea, I want people to take them home as a momento. I particularly like the watermark one as it’s kind of haunting and I love a good ghostie. But please can someone who knows a flattering photo when they see one choose these? As a rule of thumb I hate photos of me taken from the right side, diva-ish I know but sadly true if you care to compare. And sometimes in pictures I do a ridiculous grin and lift my chin like a small child with ten house points. Ridiculous. And no not my wedding photos unless from a good distance or in black and white as I was wearing hideous purple eyeshadow (of course in 50 years it could be retro cool so that’d be ok too).
Despite not being a religious person, I do like a church. They are beautiful and if the mood is right, sombre places, fitting for a funeral. And I was married in a church which was lovely. So St Matthews Church in New Norfolk please, where I was married, or St David’s Cathedral in Hobart, because I spent so much time at school staring up at its beautiful bits. There doesn’t need to be too much religious palaver, although I accept there may have to be a bit of “in God’s arms” stuff given the location.
Music is very important to me, but don’t worry about including hymns and asking the congregation to sing along. It is awkward and squawky and usually too high pitched for anyone to feel uplifted. If there must be live music, get a trained soloist for goodness sake and let her (yes has to be female) sing one traditional song – maybe Hallelujah or something. People can join in if they feel inclined. Leave the rest to the pre-recorded professionals who have composed suitably wallowy and lovely songs, I have four of them to choose from – or even better, include them all:
I know, they’re all sad sad sad but that’s the point. Let those tears flow. And please note that these choices are subject to change so check back if I happen to pop off the hooks long after this post is archived.
I have never liked florist flowers, not since an old boyfriend used to shower me with them every time he’d shagged another girl. So no flowers are to be brought by the punters unless they are picked from their own garden. And if they have florist flower money rattling around in their pockets, donate it to bowel cancer research or World Vision, my charities of choice.
The church and coffin can be decorated with flowers though – blue Ixia is my favourite (not the pink ones), or peonies (not the dark ones) and roses (David Austen style, no dark red, sorry Collegiate I can’t have your rose, your maroon blazer did me in for life).
7) Readings / Eulogy
If he’s there, don’t expect my dear husband to read or speak, he hates this kind of thing. Surely one of my children has my public speaking gene (unless, God forbid, they are too young), or a friend. And while I’m not about to dictate what is to be said, they shouldn’t be afraid to mention stuff like grumpiness, grandiose statements, ridiculous ambitions and terrible taste in shoes. Everyone in the room will know I wasn’t perfect so it’s no use pretending.
There is a reading that is possibly a bit overused and cliched, but it sits well with me because I find that every time someone I know dies, I watch the world closer and notice things I’ve ignored for a while. I wonder whether they are in a cold wind that passes through the funeral proceedings, or moving the branches of a nearby tree, or in the stars. Cheesy I know, but anyway, here it is:
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep
I am a 1,000 winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow
I am the sun on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled light
I am the soft star that shines at night
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there; I did not die.
Anon, 20th century
Those who know me may find it ironic that I could be anything near uplifting in the mornings, but I do have birds nests every morning and it sounds nice. Also, rebuttal is welcome in the Eulogy.
And it’d be good if no one said I had ‘passed’ or ‘passed on’ or ‘passed away’. I accept that ‘dead’ is a bit harsh, but there’s nothing wrong with ‘died’, or if you must, ‘gone’.
Not much needs to be said here other than get the cheapest one. It won’t matter what it looks like because it will (please) be draped with an old fashioned white lace tablecloth (yes the doily kind) and some flowers (see above). And anyway it’s just going to get burned…
Yes please – I’m not keen on full body burial. BUT I would like my ashes to be buried at a later date – please see below.
Everyone back at my childhood home to gather in the garden for drinks (lots of them but not cucumber caprioskas). Chicken sandwiches – lots of those too, along with little bowls of mixed sweets (particularly milk bottles, jelly babies and licorice allsorts. No chicos, teeth or pineapples).
These need to be divided into 3, I have a plan for each portion: 1) Pop lot 1 into a small, tasteful urn and bury it in the Valleyfield garden. 2) Lot 2 needs to be scattered on Stroud farm at Bream Creek by my husband and children; and 3) Lot 3 needs to be placed into
a small ‘bookcase urn’ (see picture) and placed on my sister’s bookcase. This because she has great books and it would be an honour to be among them – particularly near Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen. If my dear sister is gone then choose the best bookcase of my children.
*Please note this last one is subject to my squeamish sister’s approval.
7) Memorial Stone
Okay scrimp on the coffin, the flowers and the wake but here’s where you can spend your hard earned – a white angel is to be placed on the spot where my ashes are buried (that’s portion 1 of ashes just to be clear) and I mean a beautiful one, no ugly faces please (some of them are) and none hugging a giant love heart.
Too tragic? Just go with something like the one at the top of the post.
Well this – like the eulogy – is up to those left behind I think. They probably have a better perspective on what sort of person I was and what sort of epitaph I deserve. But if you (who are left behind) are stuck, then this is a nice one:
“But in the night of death hope sees a star, and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing”. (Ingeresoll)
Please not: “Weep not she is not dead but sleepeth”. I AM NOT SLEEPETH. I don’t know for sure that I can’t watch over you, won’t be waking up somewhere else as someone else or be floating about in your hallways, but I am gone, there is no sleepeth and I won’t be waketh-ing up.
Oh and something that sometimes worries me: if I’m in some kind of coma / brain dead thingy where people troop in and say goodbye before they switch me off, can someone please pluck my eyebrows – my friend Kath would be the best choice, she has great eyebrows and will scan for pimples with concealer in hand.
And for goodness sake, DONATE MY ORGANS, I won’t need them.