Monday, March 11, 2013

Planning Your Own Funeral

I was recently seated next to my wife at the funeral of a longtime and well venerated member of our ward. This hard working, dedicated family man had lived a long life. His wife and sweetheart of 6½ decades appeared to be close to following him across the veil. Wonderful memories were expressed. Fine musical numbers were presented. It was all very dignified and proper.

Then one son rose to sing a song that he said the children had been told for years had to be sung at their father's funeral. He said that the children had never been told how or why their parents came to love the song Somewhere, My Love. Somewhat in jest, he proposed a "rumor" that his parents danced to it on the night they first met.

I wasn't sure that could have happened. I seemed to recall that the song was related to the movie Dr. Zhivago. I remembered watching the movie on TV with my family as a child. I was ignorant of the political and interpersonal dimensions portrayed. All I knew was that the movie lasted for-stinking-ever.

As the number began, I whipped out my handy-dandy smartphone and quickly discovered that the song was released some 20 years after the decedent and his wife had married. I smirked and showed this find to my wife. The singer could easily have discovered the same information with a minute of research. A little too arrogant and cynical, no? Does modern mobile technology render this kind of peevishness too easy? I probably should just have kept the phone in my pocket.

As I sat through the meeting, I reflected on my father's funeral. We had plied him for his thoughts on the program prior to his death, but he simply refused to say anything about it. He finally told me that the funeral was not for his benefit, but for the benefit of the survivors. His only wishes were that his sons plan everything and that our mother be completely relieved from worrying about even the remotest detail. That ended up working out great.

When my father-in-law was preparing to pass on, his only desires as far as his funeral went were that it be only a graveside service and that it last for less than an hour. He hated long meetings. That worked out fine too.

Years ago I thought I would develop very detailed plans for my own funeral. Maybe something like the scene portrayed in the song Forest Lawn that was popularized by John Denver. Although I hope that this event is yet in the distant future, I now think I like my father's approach better. Unlike my father, however, I have a handful of minor requests for my children. (All of which are subject to my changing whims.)
  • Testify of the Savior's Atonement.
  • Get the cheapest casket you can. You will honor me best by saving the money for more valuable matters than a box that is going to be buried under six feet of dirt following a few hours of display.
  • May there be both weeping and laughter, but hopefully more of the latter than the former.
  • Have some kind of (spiritually appropriate) music that reminds you of me. (Probably no progressive rock.)
  • Read something that I have written. (Maybe not the flashlight poem.)
OK, so it's a little macabre to discuss your own funeral. As it happens, my wife and I have already purchased our funeral plots (so as to reduce burdens when that time arrives). As the plots are not far from my parents' plots, I often take the opportunity to lie down on my plot when we visit Dad's grave. That creeps my kids out, but it doesn't bother me one bit. Death is a natural part of life. It need not be approached with fear.

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