But I've been to enough funerals and burials to know that they're usually wasted on the person being laid to rest. The people left behind – those still alive, in other words – get to have all the fun. As sad as the occasion is (and I mean absolutely no disrespect to those grieving the loss of a loved one), a funeral presents a wonderful opportunity to celebrate someone's life: who they were, what they loved, and the legacy they left behind.
Why would I want to miss that?
So…I want my funeral service before I die. And I want it exactly like this:
I want to be surrounded by my family, friends, and pets. My kids are at the top of that list of course, followed by my father, who is 92 and shows absolutely no sign of departing this world any time soon, and photographs of my mother, who died in amazing peace a year ago this month. I have four siblings, two sisters and two brothers. They'll be there, too, hopefully all telling stories about fun times we had growing up (like the time my oldest sister conned me into standing in the corner for her…). I want to know what everyone remembers most about our life together; I want to tell each of them why they made that life so special for me.
I want to be sitting in a chair big enough to accommodate my two cats, who are never satisfied no matter how much I pet them; I don't want anyone to get upset when my dog runs around and tries to snatch food off their plate.
Speaking of food, it should go without saying that the meal will be first, potluck, and second, primarily organic and vegetarian, though served with some of the delicious poached haddock that was a Friday staple in our house growing up. Can most of the fruits and vegetables come from my local farmer's market, please? My favorite cake in the whole world is the fruit-filled yellow creme cake at Whole Foods. I want a big one -no little cupcakes or dainty cookies, certainly nothing overprocessed or packaged in plastic. Let's put plates of goat cheese drizzled in olive oil and baskets of fresh fruit everywhere. And of course, organic chocolate, maybe Equal Exchange's exotic chocolate and spice mixes, definitely Lake Champlain Chocolate's organic truffles.
Serve the refreshments on all the reusable plates and platters I've amassed over the years. Really, I've got enough for a couple of hundred people at this point. You'll find dozens of cloth napkins and loads of silverware in the Gypsy Style duffel bag I keep in the coat closet; you can get reusable cups and mugs from the stash I share with a couple of neighbors.
Fill the room with cuttings from my garden, especially the native hydrangeas, Black Eyed Susans, gerberas, hollies, and Purple Coneflowers I love. Light tall golden tapers made from beeswax; string twinkly LEDs around the balcony. Don't forget the music. I hope my father will play his fiddle; I'm sure my sister will play the guitar. Let's definitely have a sing-along; I'm still a sucker for folk songs, Dylan, Springsteen, and four-part harmonies. If you make a songbook, just please print it two-sided on recycled paper.
Let's not belabor my modest achievements in life. I'd prefer to hear people recite their favorite poems or funny limericks they write for the occasion. I'll have to read a few things from Walt Whitman and Mary Oliver, but I'll try not to choose anything too schmaltzy.
In lieu of presents, I think I'll pass the hat for a couple of my favorite causes: protecting the Arctic Wildlife Refuge from Oil Drilling, supporting food safety and nutrition education at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, keeping women and children safe at the House of Ruth. Please give generously.
Once I'm actually gone, of course, I hope my burial will have as little environmental impact as possible. Skip the fancy casket made from mahogany or some other endangered wood species. If you make it quick, you won't have to use any nasty embalming chemicals on me, either. Truly, I want to become part of a garden somewhere, though getting buried in our backyard would probably freak out my kids. Maybe if I start talking to them now, they'll get used to the idea.