I’m going to get straight to the point because, as usual, I have a lot to say.
I dislike funerals.
Sorry, no disrespect, really, but they’re usually awkward and depressing, albeit for obvious and unavoidable reasons.
I mean, we’ve got all these rites and ceremonies that always have to be fulfilled as staples of traditional funeral services. And these formalities, especially when there are a lot of them, can make it pretty challenging to showcase the true essence of a person in whatever time is left over. So what I feel like we often see are stilted versions of what could and should be more authentic celebrations of a person’s life and legacy and impact on the world.
I think, though, for most people (myself included), funerals are just an all-too-vivid reminder that we’re all simply employees at will and can be terminated, for lack of a better word, whenever The Big Guy decides it’s time to let us go. So that’s why I think the majority of funerals have the same feel. There’s this somberness because (A) no one wants their mortality held up and dangled in their face; (B) we’re forced to recognize that we just lost someone we care about; and (C) we have traditions that have to be satisfied. And that’s a whole lot of heavy stuff, no matter who you are.
See, I’ve noticed, as a general rule, that there are a handful of emotions that are felt by the moral majority. Most people are usually pretty subdued, partly out of respect for honoring the funeral ritual and, I think, partly out of a fear of saying or doing the wrong thing under such delicate circumstances. And naturally, there’s this shroud of sadness that settles over people whenever mortality is concerned, and that’s because losing someone we love is just plain sad. But I just can’t help but feel like a person’s life should be truly celebrated after they die. In a way that captures the true spirit of who they were.
Now to my real point.
Last week, I went to a funeral that did exactly that. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t alter my thinking on the ultimate potential of the funeral experience. That’s because it was way more of a celebration of someone’s life than a somber sendoff that marks The End. And that I liked. In fact, I loved it. So much so that I found myself crying and belly-laughing in celebration of this woman’s beautiful spirit—a woman, ironically, that I’ve never even met.
There’s this saying, “We have a plan but God decides.” And in the case of my friend’s stepmom Pam, that couldn’t have been truer. She was in her fifties, out for a bike ride, and was struck and killed by a truck. Tragic is the only word that really comes to mind—the only word that really seems appropriate.
But as tragic and unimaginable as her death was, the way her life was celebrated at her funeral was truly epic. There was more laughter and joy than I think I’ve ever seen at a traditional funeral. And that’s because, from what I gathered about Pam, she was a woman who insisted that feelings be expressed and never assumed. And so as a result, her funeral was part roast, part celebration, and part straight-up laughter and applause. The likes of which I’ve never seen. So right there, even though I had never known Pam, I felt we would’ve been friends if I had.
I suppose I was so taken by how spirited and joyous her funeral was because even considering peoples’ overwhelming grief, her friends and family still found a way to truly celebrate the essence of who she was in exactly the way she would’ve wanted. They clapped. They cheered. They laughed. And they happy-cried.
The whole experience has really given me a lot to think about in terms of how I’d like my own funeral to be. I know, it’s a little bizarre to think in these terms, but I just want it out there so when the time comes there’s no confusion.
First of all, I think I want everyone in fluorescent colors. Something snappy to really perk people up. Next, only happy crying will be allowed. And there will be absolutely no mourning of a loss; only the celebration of a life that was truly and wholly lived. (That’s because when I do go, I plan to be friggin’ exhausted because of how busy I’ve been living.) I’m also thinking about having a chocolate fountain for dipping because chocolate, as you know, has magical properties. Beyond those few details, I think I’ll let the rest ride. I’ve always been a big fan of improv.
In the meantime, though, I’m planning on showering the people around me with some extra drippy emotions, so keep a towel handy. It’s gonna get messy.