real life

It's the last party you'll ever attend and it's in your honour. Don't stuff it up.

By BERN MORLEY

This week I attended the funeral of a relatively young family member who I didn’t know all that well. In fact, after listening to his children and friends eulogise him, I realised that I hardly knew him at all. Hang in there, this story does get cheerier. Kind of.

The thing about a funeral is that is makes you contemplate your own mortality; confront the reality that one day, that will be you up there, lying in that wooden box. Maybe it will be soon, maybe it won’t be for a long time but one thing we probably all have in common, is that we don’t like to dwell on the mechanics of it all too much.

But I think we should.  At least, I think we should all take the time to have a hand in planning our own life after death.

It was clear from his funeral, whether this is comforting or not, that my cousin had time to plan parts of it himself and to make sure that in death, as in life, he was well represented by the things that defined him.

So what should you do? What can you do? You can start by planning the following:

Music

Generally there are at least three songs played during a service. Pick at least three that you like. Or that say what you want via song. They can be sad, cheery, uplifting or just plain weird, there are no rules. Just remember this is about your friends and family remembering and celebrating you. My Aunty and I were discussing song selection at the wake and she pulled me aside just before I left and said to me “Make sure they play that “Spirit in the Sky”  song when I die! It will of course, be tragic when that day comes but also, a beautiful reminder of a beautiful lady when they play that song.

Special requests

I once went to a funeral for a child and it was of course, devastating. What struck me though was how she has asked her Mum to get everyone to wear bright pink at her funeral, as it was her favourite colour. Many people often make this request or simply ask that you don’t wear black. This is because they want the service to be a celebration of their life and not a sombre occasion. Some people want special flowers, or no flowers at all. Others want to make sure that their choice of celebrant or priest is observed. If you have a special request, tell someone about it!

Cremation or Burial?

Most people are quite adamant about their choice but I am still conflicted. I mean, what’s better, being burnt or being left to decompose in a wooden box for all eternity? Not a very cheery thought either way. What I did recently see on ‘The Project’, was a company in Sydney that commemorates the loss of a loved one by shooting

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Who doesn’t like fireworks?

their ashes up into the sky as a fireworks display. At first it sounded weird but the more I thought about it, the more I started to dig it. Who doesn’t like fireworks?!

One of my friends wants her ashes mixed together with her pet’s and scattered at the beach. I think she could tell I probably wouldn’t be the best person to carry out her wishes when I turned a sickening shade of green but see, these are the discussions we need to have. Otherwise you might end up buried 6 foot under or cremated without Rover.

Allocating your possessions

The death of a loved one can do terrible things to a family unit. People often have preconceived notions about what they should “rightfully” receive. I’m not talking about the big ticket items here like the house or the business, generally a will takes care of that. I’m talking about the things that have more sentimental than monetary value. These things can also turn once considerate and loving family members into vultures and strangers. I’ve heard of situations where, once the writing was on the wall, family members started going through the house and putting sticky notes with their names on the items that they wanted. Nice. Real nice. So, if there is an item you wish to see go to someone in particular, make it known. Write it down.

And that’s it. Sometime soon – talk to someone you love and trust (and someone you expect to outlast you obviously) and tell them your plans and requests. After all it’s a celebration and reflection of YOUR life, you should have a hand in it.

So I’ll start, here’s my plan:

Music:

A photo montage to this:

Eva Cassidy – Somewhere over the Rainbow

And to see me out:

Talking Heads – And She was.

Special Requests: At least one person is to throw themselves onto my coffin and declare that they can’t possibly go on without me. (Kidding, just wear something cheery and organise a non-religious ceremony)

Cremated and shot into the sky via fireworks. I think.

Helpfully, last year, Nicky Champ put this post together with the top ten funeral songs.

Is yours on the list?

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