Planning life exits

We attended a funeral this week and it made me think about exits.

When I was born, my mother didn’t tell anyone she was pregnant — not her best friend or any of her sisters. Not for any salacious reason. My mother had been married to my dad for 18 years and already had two sons.

In fact, I am not sure why she didn’t talk about it. She was a soft round person so with loose clothing, she was able to completely hide it. It was in the winter and that helped.

When my brother told people he had a sister, no one believed him. That’s how I came into the world. Sliding in quietly with no fanfare.

When I think about the funerals I’ve attended, some have been (egad!) fun and some are a duty. I don’t go for a free lunch or to be nosy. I go for the survivors.

If I don’t know the survivors, I won’t go. The deceased is well…dead. They don’t care if I go or not. The whole point is to show support for those left behind.

So how do you structure your own funeral so it’s in the fun group? I would start by not having an open casket. Dead people rarely look like themselves.

Several years ago I went to the funeral of a co-worker. She had a long struggle with cancer. I did not recognize the body in the casket. For all I know they could have rented a cadaver.

Perhaps another thing would be to have music playing that would be considered contemporary for the deceased.

In my case it would be from the 60s-70s-80s. Fun stuff. Maybe some Beatles and Eagles tunes. Mix it up with the Stones, Jimmy Buffett and a few other favs. Wait, I want the Everly Brothers too! (Perhaps I should do my own play list.) I want people’s feet tapping and their hips swinging. They are still alive so they should keep moving.

If it’s in the morning, I’d have a coffee table with the good stuff. Danish and strudel too. If in the afternoon, some light noshing with a margarita bar.

No one is allowed in without a story (hopefully complimentary) about me. (That will cut down on the bar bill!) I want the tissues for laughing.

No chairs in a row. In fact not many chairs. I want people circulating explaining how they knew me and why I was wonderful. When they get tired, they can leave.

The funeral we attended had a therapy dog moving among people for hugs and pets. I liked that (although I had to explain why I smelled like dog to my cats).

Since I expect to live to a ripe old age I want a Depends dispenser in the bathrooms. Laughing and dancing is stressful on old bladders. (Someone told me that…)

Nothing formal, lots of laughter, music and a true celebration but not too long. Just enough time for a toast, a smile, a giggle and a wiggle.

Then again, maybe I’ll go out the same way I came in. Without announcement or fanfare, just slipping peacefully in the night.

Next I’ll work on my obituary.

Author’s note: This is a personal reflection and not meant to judge what you might want for your exit. Although I would suggest a margarita bar (coupled with Uber service) to lighten the mood.

 

 

 

93 thoughts on “Planning life exits

  1. It seems most of the funerals I attend are far too religious and about how the person is looking down and waiting for the rest of us to arrive. I prefer ones where the minister hardly says much and people just get up and tell funny stories. Cremation is best for me so the gathering will be simple, maybe just at home, with wine and cheese, people mingling, and nice classical music playing. Husband wants New Orleans jazz for his. I like your plans! Great post, Kate. Sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m an introvert so the idea of having a funeral service for me makes me anxious. I just want to be gone without any fanfare. Quietly remembered by a few as someone who was worth knowing, but who could not abide plastic flowers. Ever.

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  3. I plan to be cremated and have my ashes dumped in the river. (I always wanted to see the world, and never had the courage to do it!) Perhaps, instead of a funeral, my family and friends could go camping and throw me overboard while they’re fishing. A simple wave, and a “There she goes!” would suit me fine.

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  4. I skip most funerals unless it is important to a very close friend. As for me, I have instructions to be cremated and my ashes scattered in two specific places… I was divided in life and want to continue that way in the hereafter. And I want people to remember me as I lived and not as a corpse six feet under. Many years ago I attended an Irish wake at a well-known Irish pub in LA. Everybody was laughing and telling jokes and stories about the deceased and getting drunk. He went out the way he lived. I’ll never forget it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I laughed. Who but you would say dead people often don’t look like themselves? Renting a cadaver???? LOL! You are a stitch! I hope your funeral is a light-year away. I was surprised at the bar you mentioned. Wouldn’t Starbucks be appropriate?

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I agree. In our family, funerals tend to be a family reunion. So there is always lots of story telling and laughter and tons of food. When my mom died, my best friend told me it was the most fun funeral she had ever been to. It wasn’t particularly special, but it wasn’t somber.

    Unless you are the last person you know when you die, I think funerals are necessary for the living. The ritual means something. The chance to solidify the idea that this person existed and still exists in our memory. A chance to be reminded that life is about connections and not things.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I don’t think I’ve ever attended a “fun” funeral. I think you may be right, though, and better music could change the entire feeling. As much as I love flowers, I think if I wanted a better experience for my “guests” I’d request no flowers. As soon as I enter a service and smell the strong fragrance of flowers typically grouped at a funeral, memory and recall sets in from past experiences and I feel emotional conflict. I like the way you plan very far into the future, Kate. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • For family funerals, we all get together afterward at a restaurant. That’s when the fun begins because we start reminiscing. I’m the youngest cousin but the stories…yikes! When the cousins were growing up, we all lived near each other so we were friends too. As we have all aged the older cousins are mostly gone and it’s not the same anymore. I went to a very tragic funeral for a co-workers son. He was hit by a train at age 40ish. The place was packed and it took forever to get in but they have a wonderful day weatherwise and they played 70-80s music. It was so uplifting despite the tragedy. Some recent deaths have not had any funeral. Just something for immediate family.

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  8. I like some of your ideas. One nice thing about some funerals is that they give you a chance to get together with people you seldom see. You might as well have good food and music. My sister and I planned our mom’s funeral, and we chose some favorite songs from the ’40s. People appreciated that. For my husband’s funeral I chose hymns. Maybe I should have been more imaginative.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The best reunions I have attended were like family reunions. I remember one where we were at a restaurant making quite a ruckus. Fortunately it was mid-day and didn’t distract any paying customers. Once you get to a certain age, you don’t see relatives any more except at funerals.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I like the idea of folks telling a story about me…I think. I would rather there was a party with cake and hot fudge sundaes than a solemn thing. Definitely no open casket. Actually, the party should be after I am buried nobody has to see me put in the ground. And peeps should give flowers to someone they love when I die.

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  10. Both my husband and I will be cremated, but that’s no reason not to have a party! I can understand having a more solemn affair if someone dies tragically or very young, but if you’ve lived a long, good life, there is so much to celebrate. I want to have a margarita bar too… oh wait… I won’t be able to have any.

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  11. Myself–just cremated (parts can be donated if there’s anything worthwhile by the time I leave). No funeral. Son and DIL know they can sneak and scatter my ashes wherever they want–their garden would be good…any pretty spot in the woods…sprinkled in a river or lake…whatever. My son knows how I love the song I’m Just An Old Chunk Of Coal and informed me that people’s ashes can be made into diamonds now. We laugh about that. I told him if he wanted to waste his money on such a thing…well, it would be cool. 😉

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  12. Hi Kate! Definitely worth thinking about exits. There’s a funeral file on my desktop with instructions, including my playlist and some hymns…I think it really helps those you leave behind if you tell em what to do. I actually think funerals are for remembering and swapping anecdotes and comforting the survivors (as you say). If it’s fun, all the better…but if you’ve lost someone, it’s sad…so I have no objection to tears. I hope to be cremated in a cardboard box (to save trees)! My playlist includes a song called ‘Walking on Sunshine’ which I hope I’ll be doing, and a bit of Elvis!!

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  13. At Tim Russert’s funeral died they played his iPod before the service started. I thought that was great until I realized I have at least three songs on my own iPod (out of over 2000) that are dirty. One is a Monty Python and the other two a friend “gifted” to me via iTunes. It’s funny to think of them being played, but I’d probably be mortified if they were. Oh, but I’ll be dead. Never mind… – Marty

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  14. I like your style!
    I too have been to both types of exits – informal and traditional. Needless to say, the former is a celebration of life, while the latter is true mourning.
    I haven’t given my preference any real thought, except I hope people do come. I would hate to think that no one would want to attend my final farewell. What a bummer that would be – first, I’m dead, and then I get snubbed at my own funeral. Ouch.

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  15. You cracked me up. You entered the world like a cat sneaking in the back door between my husbands feet!

    i’m the odd woman out, I know, and my girlfriend thinks it’s unethical, and I respect her opinion, but there won’t be a funeral for me. I’ve donated my body to science. I’d rather med students practice surgical skills on me than on living people. My DH, being a private person, is totally thankful not to have to deal with folks gathering around him for a funeral!

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    • That’s a very noble gift. My husband is going to be cremated. I am not really sure I’ll have a funeral at all. I’m trying to gather my thoughts and try out options (not literally of course). I’d rather fund a cat wing at a rescue than just about anything else.

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  16. Yeah, everyone should leave behind a playlist. Also an utterly worn out, used up, destroyed body to prove they truly lived. 🙂

    Dogs, for sure. Drinks, and stories.

    Every so often I ask my husband what kind of funeral he wants when I inevitably outlive him. Every time he says, “What do I care? I’m dead!”

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Okay, I’m coming to your funeral whether I’m invited or not. 😀 I always tell my husband that I want my theme song played. I even have it as my ring tone. It’s Carry on my Wayward Son by Kansas.

    Have a great day, Kate.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. You’re clearly a person after my own heart! Actually, I’ve always thought it might be a good idea to hold what I call a “living wake”. We could invite all our family and friends. They could bring flowers and give them to me while I’m still living–I’d lay there in a lounge chair and they could all walk by and tell me how natural and good I look then we could all enjoy an open bar and dance to great music.

    I’ve been told that this is a “sick” idea, but to that I say PHOOEY! I’d rather that people come and have fun WITH me rather than a somber, sad event after I’m gone.

    Your thoughts???

    Liked by 3 people

  19. I get Z Cat’s ashes with me and CH gets Holly Cat’s ashes. Closed casket. I like your idea of no chairs. Actually, I will probably just be buried quietly. Hope for CH’s family to go have something wonderful to eat, drink some wine, and do some laughing remembering all the quirky things I did. I like the idea of slipping peacefully in the night.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve had a few friends die in the past few years and they didn’t have anything public. People were directed to contribute to a charity instead. That’s a great idea to me because most people do not want to go funerals.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sometimes a funeral or memorial service makes the death more real to me. It can feel strange to just go on without marking it. (I agree that a service is for the living people too. Sometimes they need public acknowledgement of the magnitude of their loss.)

        Liked by 1 person

  20. I think it is wise to tell loved ones your final wishes. Years ago, I told my family to play episodes of I Love Lucy at my wake. I also want to be buried in my pajamas with the ashes of my beloved cats that have passed away of the years.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. We talk about our exits and if I go first, apparently Hubby doesn’t intend to stand for it and will wire me up to the mains with jump leads until I ‘come back’.
    The deal is if he goes first, it’s joggers, benny hat, body warmer and warm socks now, in a black bin bag up the chimney. Then I sell everything and go to my brother in NZ.
    If I go first (and the mains thing fails), it’s joggers and Dad’s cardy with the pockets full of dog biscuits. I want Il Divo in the background. Then Hubby will sell everything and take my ashes down to NZ. If people didn’t know me, then no point them being there, so that’s most of the family out. It’ll be a nice cheap farewell, just how we’d like it. Now if we go together, everything is sold and given to the Childline charity. If family don’t like it, tough.

    Liked by 3 people

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