Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Day Late and A Dollar Short

I think concerning death, we've all lost our minds. The day after my mother died, my Aunt Kathy and my cousin Caroline went to the funeral home to plan my mother's funeral. I already had an idea of what we wanted. Sophisticated, bohemian, spiritual and cheap. My mother would have wanted it cheap, but amazing. I'd like to think that funerals don't really matter, but the reality is that they are representative of our lives and I think that everyone deserves a gracious and glorious send off. My mother got hers, I made sure of that. It was amazing and beautiful, and my father even gave a eulogy that would have made her proud, if not laughing from her coffin. But while we sat there that day in the funeral home, between the decisions of should we have a limo and how expensive of a coffin did we want, my Aunt Kathy commented several times that she was already planning her funeral, so that Caroline wouldn't have to worry about it. Caroline sat taking notes about my mother's funeral and I sat in amazement, not really sure what to think as my aunt discussed how she wanted to be cremated and that she had an advanced directive in case she was in the hospital. I'm sure this all sounds like some backwoods discussion, but you would have to know my aunt. She is truly one of the classiest women I have ever met in my entire life. And not classy because of her perfect taste in clothes, food and design, but in how she treats people in her life. Well, for the most part. We all have our moments. But after we had the funeral arrangements made, from my mother's hymns she wanted sung at the church, to the bible verses and the Robert Frost poem, the beaded Indian dress she wanted to be buried in, right down to my friend's son playing "Moon River" on his guitar at the grave site. After all of that, I got to thinking. Maybe my aunt was right. Maybe we should plan our own funerals. The only reason we knew these things were important was because my mother had left a note pinned to the dress with these simple instructions. "Please bury me in my beaded Indian dress from the sixties, with pacouli oil and a flower garland in my hair. And please everyone sing Moon River at the grave. Thank you." Simple. And she got it. And being that my aunt does have such wonderful taste, we closed the casket. And it was the right decision. So, I've been thinking. What do I want at my funeral. If I left tomorrow, no one would really know. So here it goes, because none of us live forever. First and foremost, I want my dog Griffin there, no matter who he bites. And I want Willie Nelson's "Amazing Grace" to be played as they bring my casket in and I want Mahalia Jackson's "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" played as they put me in the ground. And I want to be buried, I do not want to be cremated. Please only white flowers, preferably stargazer lilies and definitely no roses. I despise roses. Do not bury me in a suit and tie. Jeans and a tee shirt and barefoot. And make sure you bury me with my friends, Shawn will know what I'm talking about, but just in case, one is named Paws and the other one is named Yellow Dog. I want a pack of Menthols in my jeans pocket, not out in the open. And everyone. Everyone better weep just a little at the fact that you won't be able to hear the sharp wit of my sarcasm and the soft feel of my hugs one more time. And then, just as you think you can't handle one more tear drop, everyone throw up their umbrellas and dance a fast jig to Mahalia over my grave, living like there's no tomorrow, knowing that I'm up there with Janis, Grace Kelly, Gilda Radner and St. Peter, smoking cigarettes, laughing and drinking from that golden honey, or whatever the hell they drink up there. Because it will be that good. And now that I've planned it, I think I can go on, living every day, maybe a little bit more like it's my last, on borrowed time, enjoying, every...last...drop...dammit!


Caroline said...

mom will love it (if she reads it) and I love I know how to plan your funeral - of course- if you die first and now all I need to do is plan mine. i hate roses too, don't care what I am buried in, actually still deciding on if I want to be cremated, sing lots of songs, dance lots of dances and just love love love.

Scott said...

Peter I have read this and it makes me kinda sad. We are still young. I have told Shawn about it so he knows what friends you would like to have with you. I am also sorry that I wasn't there for you in your time of need. I loved your mother, she was a hoot. Lots of love. Scott