Monday, January 21, 2013
Authoring your own funeral
Did you ever see The Big Chill? Friends gather for the funeral of one of their own tight group. It was very funny at the time but what brings it to my mind was the soundtrack which included The Weightand other 60s and 70s rock hits from The Rolling Stones et al. Part of its fascination was the notion of a funeral being other than an airbrushed and glossy choreography of a life. As my last blog explores, funerals tend to be for the living rather than the dearly (?) departed. As a consequence they can leave the mourner feeling bitter about what remains unspoken, or unresolved or that the quirks and failings in the deceased’s character have not been addressed and embraced. It seems extraordinary that it should be so. In Ghana there is a latter day Christian tradition that the dead should be given a warts-free send-off to the next place. As though the Christian God is mindful and persuaded by a funeral’s carefully orchestrated marketing.
If you live in a land where your last wishes count for anything, you can choreograph your own funeral and take the ticklish issue of people being forced to distort their public views of you, out of their hands. This is sometimes called a ‘living will’. Some undertakers provide you, in advance, a comprehensive document to fill in, covering every aspect of your funeral-to-be. So – you can ignore, deny, evade the responsibility of ensuring that your funeral is true to the curious mix of strengths and weaknesses that make you who you are, or you can wrest control from people’s failure of courage or desire to project a one-sided picture of you..
Arranging the final curtain can then be seen as your last act, a self-portrait, an autobiographical creation to hang before the congregation, whatever their religious or atheistic leanings. Imagine, you are reaching across the Great Divide and saying, “Hello, this was me and don’t you forget it.” I think it is within your last rights to exert this last opportunity to shape fate and leave a tasty mix of sweet and sour in people’s mouths, resonating with the memories of the person they once knew.
A wry novella I wrote last year describes an unusual choreography of death and can be downloaded FREE from www.chronometerpublications.me