In his January 16, 2012, TIME article, Over My Dead Body, Joel Stein shares his various and unrelated thoughts about funerals, which got me meditating on my own ideas about funerals. In my end-of-life planning my funeral is literally an afterthought (joke). It is profoundly important to some.
The first time I gave any thought at all to my own funeral was on a hiking trip in the Adirondacks in my twenties. My companions (fellow classical musicians) and I stopped for lunch on a scenic pile of boulders and someone brought up the subject of his own funeral. He wanted his funeral music to be Siegfried’s Funeral Music from Wagner’s opera, GOTTERDAMMERUNG, performed live by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. This triggered all of us to come up with our preferred funeral music. Other choices were the final trio from Strauss’ DER ROSENKAVALIER, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Pie Jesu”, and “Amazing Grace”.
As soon as the discussion started, my mind leaped to a memory of walking alone in New Orleans. Suddenly, the street was filled with hearse, brightly dressed mourners, and a loud and raucous jazz band. The crowd was singing and dancing up a storm. I joined the parade and danced along with them for about five blocks. It was fab! That became my funeral music choice while resting on a mossy boulder. I would love to rent those mourners too. The living would really enjoy it!
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE BODY?
Neither of my parents wanted a formal funeral. They both donated their bodies to science and their remains were cremated. I, too, am an organ donor and hope parts of the dead me can be put to good use for the living. Recycling is a great thing.
Cremation costs vary from about $700 to $4000. Funerals vary from about $5000 to $100,000. The cost of the funeral for North Korea’s Kim Jong Il last month is incomprehensible. For me, I am happy to forgo the funeral and leave more for my survivors to spend.
We had a very nice memorial service for my father. We knew he would have liked the attention and it was meaningful to my mother. We never had a memorial service for my mother. She told me she had no use for one, and by the time she died few of her friends were alive to attend.
For me and my siblings Mom doesn’t need “…no stinking service”. We remember her every day in our individual ways. My husband and I planted a garden in our back yard to memorialize both of our mothers.
WHAT ABOUT THE REMAINS?
The siblings and I have not yet agreed on where and how to scatter our parents’ remains. My father’s cremated remains are in an urn on my sister’s bookshelf. I am the curator for my mother’s remains. We are not sure we want to scatter them together.
In many ways my parents had a great love affair, but my mother really needed more time away from my father. She didn’t get it until after his death. I would like them to have “visitation rights” but not have to spend ever moment of eternity together. A solution will come to us eventually, but we don’t want to do anything until we are sure we have it right.
For myself, I want my remains to be scattered at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas. It is probably illegal to do so, but I am counting on my survivors to pull it off. I love to think about resting throughout eternity in a sanctuary filled with free-roaming, wild, but protected critters.
Don’t forget to tell your survivors what you want. Otherwise, you may get what they want. Make sure to select your own music too. It will make you happy while your are still alive to know you can depart this world listening to your own playlist.