“I didn’t know her,” the preacher said. “But if I had known her, I’m sure I would have liked her.” I raised one querying eyebrow at my husband. We are at his aunt’s funeral in Watsonville. (Is it a funeral service if the person has already been cremated?) Why would you have some stranger flapping their lips at the service of someone they did not know?
“And now she is home with the Lord,” he went on. What? How do you know? He didn’t mention the fact her son had passed before her, or that she was a twin; these were appropriate facts, the other not so much. I felt sad for her husband of 60-odd years, sitting in his wheelchair near her ashes, surrounded by thousands of dollars of flowers, riddled with dementia, just shaking his head.
Funerals are big business, no word of a lie. At the parlor where the service was held, a young grieving family was simultaneously selecting coffins, plaques, flowers and who knows what for a loved one, right before the time our service was supposed to kick off. (It started an hour late for some reason. In the meantime, they served bad coffee in plastic cups, as if that would make amends.) The sales staff had these folks at their most vulnerable, and I doubt the mourners walked out of there with much left in their bank accounts. Am I cynical? You betcha.
A while ago, I purchased the only life insurance policy that I would be eligible for — a $15K party policy and I don’t say that lightly. Well, it wasn’t really a party policy, but a rather light life insurance policy for those of us with — ahem — pre-existing conditions. Once the ashes are back to dust and put into some kind of suitable container, there will likely only be enough mullah for a party for a few of my very fave people to get together, eat, drink and have a good laugh. And why not! “Do not EVER put me in a box,” I warned husband, as if he would think that might be a popular choice. “You can burn me, baby, but no box.”
And this got me to thinking about my last hurrah. The preacher and his assumptions opened the door to my imagination and the possibilities of writing my own obituary before it is required, as it were. It can remain nestled away with my important papers, passwords and accounts, my directions for the distribution of jewelry and “assets.”
There, in the midst of all that tedious end-of-life stuff, will be my Party Plan — a much more fun document. I told my husband about my $15K party plan. “Don’t you think that’s something I should know about?” he queried, and he’s right. As soon as the safety box goes up where it’s supposed to, all that key stuff will be in one place and ready for him, or the kids to uncover.
I’m thinking that they may need a little over that sum of money for the post-party extravaganza, since I’d like some of the ashes scattered with my Mum on the Pacific Ocean, with Bud on the Isle of Man and with the spirits of my peeps in the North Sea of my hometown; so, I likely will not be in one of those easy-going one container jobbies. In typical me-style, I will be needing a little bit of extra work, exertion and travel — not to mention expense — to get me to where I’m going. I’d hate for the kids to have to dig into their inheritance to fund that little pleasure trip, so I must make the appropriate arrangements.
But first the party. All my fave music please — check the playlists in my phone — definitely “Say A Little Prayer,” “Gentle On My Mind,” some Stones, Elvis, Beatles, Glen Campbell, Willie and Amy to guide me along the way — it will undoubtedly be an eclectic mix, just like me. Mark Knopfler also needs to be in the playlist and, if Adam and the band can play me some Garth — “The Dance” would be so very suitable.
Everyone should wear happy clothes like cowboy boots, jeans and hats, great food please — smoked salmon, nice salads, perhaps a skirt steak BBQ and potato salad and coleslaw. Good cheese, chocolate, cheesecake? That day would not be one to scrimp. Lots of good local wines are a must — life is so too short for bad wine — and as much cheer and frivolity as you can muster.
Make it as if I’m actually going to be there for my last party — because, who knows, I may be right there floating 3 feet above the ground (read somewhere that that’s where you hover) — and I’d hate to have to dig some of you in the ribs and remind you of all I didn’t want at my final hoorah. If you’d like any photos, I have a million on my Facebook you can steal, and I will strive to leave all the passwords you’ll need in the designated location, so you can grab them without pain and suffering.
I see my family rolling their eyes at any premature discussion about my demise, but this is important. Just because I’m not planning on going anywhere soon, does not mean that I don’t need to plan for when I do. Having been to too many services that did not pay tribute to the character of the person who passed, I don’t want that to be mine. Having also been to services where the deceased obviously had made no plans at all for their exit, I definitely don’t want that to be mine either.
My old dad has certainly planned his exit service and, by the hints he’s passed along, I think it will be at a beautiful old church local to his house. There will likely be some Bach in the mix and who knows what else on the carefully selected program. I’m sure it will all be nicely in place when we need it. That’s how he rolls.
We already know where his ashes are going — to be with Mum in the Pacific, to Rosie’s bench on the Isle of Man and at Iken on the East Coast where we always had such lovely family times. He won’t be a one-container jobbie either, and why should he be. After such a long and wonderful life, I think he should go wherever he darn well wants to, and I’m happy I already know something about that, so sister and I can make it happen at the appropriate time.
We are all so very busy, aren’t we. It’s hard to make time for the important stuff. Somehow, we can find the time to get our hair and nails done, but we can’t do our living trust. We can spend an hour-plus chatting to a friend over lunch, but we can’t write down our last wishes. You get the message. Give yourself a deadline and stick to it.
Make the party plan and then you can relax and it will all happen seamlessly without you at the right time…. Unless, of course, you are floating 3 feet over the top, as I plan on doing, and showing up to your own party.