The ugly “F” word.
No not, the swear word. But it might as well be…
The word I’m referring to is funeral, as in, funeral plans. As in my own funeral plans.
Everytime I tell someone that I’m making my own funeral plans, I hear some version of:
“Are you dying?”
“Is everything okay… do you need to talk?”
“Wait… funeral plans? But you’re only 30!”
Being a writer in the funeral profession, these remarks catch me by surprise every time I hear them. Still.
Why would something be wrong with me for wanting to have a say on how my precious, fragile, and epic life will be remembered? Why do I have to be older than 30 to care about the legacy I leave behind?
And would someone who is suicidal really be this involved in their own funeral planning? Probably not.
Why is no one planning their own funeral these days?
We, as a society, have been taught that funeral planning is something that you do when you’re sick, old, and about to kick the bucket.
It’s not typically seen as an inspiring exercise. It’s more of a “chore” or a “task”.
In fact, most people don’t even make any funeral plans. What a sad ending to an amazing life lived!
We make choices for everything in our lives… what kind of job we have, who we want to be friends with, what our house will look like, etc. So why would we not want to make a choice on how we’re celebrated, honored, and remembered for all the remarkable elements of our lives?
It starts with re-defining what a funeral is for ourselves individually
I, being a curious writer, looked up the word funeral, and found that most people don’t even know that the actual funeral is different from the way we dispose of our bodies. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. A funeral is meant to be a ceremony. A ritual just as important as our births or our weddings. A special day for us and our family.
As a culture, I think we’ve lost touch with the importance of ceremony and ritual. Maybe it’s because religion is starting to taper off in many urban areas.
Or maybe it’s because our trend towards consumerism which asks us to buy things to make something memorable, rather than to come together with people in our lives in these key life moments.
Even the new wave of interest in our mortality as a culture doesn’t really consider the ceremony around it. People are talking about green burials, becoming human compost, or degrading in a mushroom suit… but how do we close the chapter of our lives emotionally, spiritually, mentally?
This is where the importance of writing down your ideas for your most ideal funeral ceremony comes in. If you’re picking up what I’m putting down, here’s a little homework for you. This is a basic exercise I used to write down my funeral wishes, and it does NOT include any legalities or anything. This is something you’d want to take care of a funeral professional you trust in your area.
Take a piece of paper and write on top of it “How I want to be remembered” and follow these 5 steps:
1. First, disposition.
How do you want your body to return back to the Earth? Burial? Cremation? Shot into space? Let the reader know. More importantly, let them know why. This will make it easy for your loved one’s to follow your wishes — because there is a deeper meaning behind them.
2. Get clear on the experience you want to create at your funeral.
Use the 5 W’s – Who, What, When, Where and Why to tap into the “mood” of your funeral. Do you want it to be casual? Large? Exciting? Musical? Have fun with this, and leave the how up to the funeral directors.
3. Create a mood by diving into the 5 senses.
Continuing with the theme of 5, let’s use the senses to fill in some of the details of this experience you’re creating. What do you want your funeral attendees to be seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting and hearing? This will create some more details on the mood of the event. Think about songs, poems, quotes, foods, flowers, and anything else that comes up. Fill in what you feel passionately about. Leave out what you don’t.
4. Include some mementos or photos that are meaningful to you.
These will be significantly valuable for the loved ones you could leave behind.
5. Give your wishes to 3 loved ones, just in case.
This will ensure they’ll have them. Or, even better, to a funeral professional whom you know you’ll end up working with.
Finally, congratulate yourself.
Have a celebration. What a wonderful thing to celebrate! It takes someone who really knows themselves to sit down with their funeral wishes. So pat yourself on the back.
Me, on the other hand, will have a beautiful dinner with my beloved to celebrate the amazing life I am living now, in this moment, so that when I look back on it in my final moments, I can be happy with the work of art that is my life.
What are your funeral wishes? Tell me a little something in the comments below!