Last week was a week of funerals – celebrity, political and personal. On Saturday, we attended the burial of a close friend of my wife’s family, gathering at the Reedsville Cemetery surrounded by the lush green hills of Hatley Township, a reminder that, among all the uncertainties of life, you can always count on graveyards to have the very best real estate.
Prior to the service, I looked around the cemetery at the markers spaced in orderly rows. Quite near me was a stone engraved “MURRAY.” Behind it and one over was a monument that read “ROSS.” If I stood just so and squatted down, I could align the two of them to read “ROSS MURRAY.”
“Well,” I thought, “that’s not good.”
I had to remind myself, though, that this wasn’t about me but about saying goodbye to a family friend. I turned back and focused on the service, which was lovely and sad and touching all at once.
But it’s days later, and now it is all about me.
Namely, this particular funeral and the high-profile ones for John McCain and Aretha Franklin last week got me wondering about how I would like to go when I no longer go anywhere.
First of all, the location. I feel the service should be held somewhere that was important to me, some place where I spent considerable time, a place truly dear to my heart. I’m thinking the ice cream aisle of the local grocery store. Bonus: it’s right by the beer fridge.
Seating might be difficult, but not to worry, I have ample stacks of unsold books that can be configured throughout the frozen foods to support mournful bums.
In terms of guests, I would like at least one celebrity. I don’t really know any, so I’ll leave it to your discretion. I once sat behind Donald Sutherland at a municipal council meeting addressing the matter of raw sewer leaching onto his property, so maybe he’d do. He wouldn’t have to speak. Just him lurking around the toilet paper aisle I feel would be a superb tribute.
All I ask of my children is that they rise as one and acknowledge that I do not stand around with my tongue sticking out and vacantly rubbing my tummy as they claim I do in hurtful and completely inaccurate impersonations.
Loud weeping will be acceptable. Loud weeping subsequent to inhaling vast amounts of helium will be encouraged.
Instead of a formal service, I would like people to share their memories — and not just the nice things. Not as funny in person as in print? True. Not really that funny in print either? Fair enough. Narcissistic? Me? Just kind of shuffled that bake sale sign-up sheet but didn’t actually sign up to bake anything? Can’t deny it… because I’m in an urn.
Seriously, if I have made Sarah Palin-calibre misjudgements in my life that ultimately led to the political climate we suffer today, don’t pretend it never happened. It’s who I was. By all means don’t feel you have to protect my feelings. Because, again, I’m in an urn.
However, as a writer, I feel it would be fitting to have people recite some of my most familiar material. For example: “Those dishes aren’t going to wash themselves!” and “Oh, right. I meant to, but I forgot,” and “I thought it was candy.”
Music was important to my life (sorry, getting ahead of myself: “is”), so at this point I would request “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate” by The Flaming Lips, not only because it’s message-appropriate but also because it’s over 5 minutes long, and I’m kind of tickled by the thought of people pretending to be solemn while resisting the urge to look at their watch.
After this, we will motorcade to the burial plot, which, if my wife follows through on her comments over the years, will be in our back yard with the hamsters and one dead cat.
Here, people will gather under the cool shade of the maples and the burgeoning growth of our beloved vegetable garden. So if everyone wouldn’t mind pulling a few weeds, that would be great.
Finally, I would like my urn lowered into the ground and then have the hole filled to the brim with gelatin. Everyone will stand in silence while the gelatin begins to set until, at a fitting moment that I will leave to the bereaved to determine, someone will whisper: “The plot thickens.”
A reception will follow with little sandwiches. And, of course, ice cream.