I was in the audio-visual control booth for a funeral at church Saturday morning. It’s a strange job, because on one hand I need to pay attention to the service, in terms of whose microphones get cut in at which time, while at the same time I have to stay detached from the emotional content because I can’t get distracted by the wonderful words the pastor is saying in tribute to the departed and not notice that she’s stopped talking and I need to cut in the guest singer. So in odd moments I thought about some of the things for my funeral in 10–20 years.
- No ties. Unless guests really want to wear ties. Or dresses or suits that have to be taken to the dry cleaners. Nothing too warm if it’s summer, nothing too light if it’s winter. Don’t pay attention to your sister¹ saying what you picked is not appropriate — I’m the dead guy, and the dead guy said it’s fine.
- I want to be cremated, that’s already written down. Burial seems so irrelevant, though, and scattering ashes seems so unkempt. Maybe if there’s some place that would make, I don’t know, pendents with a few grams of ashes, and everybody could take one on their way out? There are silly tchotchkes for weddings, why not funerals?
- The big thing now is to have photos of the dear depart’s life showing on a screen or screens before and after the service. I’m sure that’s fine for a lot of people, but I’m an awful subject for photos. Maybe they could put up some of my poetry? Hey, could those pendent tchotchkes hold a few ounces of me and some of my written stuff? I think the complete Conversations with My Wife would be good; that tells a lot about me. On a USB stick, or whatever they’re using in the 2030s. Erasable, so that people could repurpose them later.
- Lots of people like scripture read at their funerals. Totally understandable. But me, I prefer something from Earth Abides, a book by George R. Stewart:
In this also we are human, that we think of the dead. Once it was not so, and when one of us died, he lay where he lay by the cave-mouth and we ran in and out there, not standing quite upright as we ran. Now we stand upright, and now also we think of the dead.
So, when the comrade lies there, we do not let him lie where he died. And we do not take him by the legs carelessly, and drag him into the forest for the foxes and wood-rats to gnaw on. We do not cast him into the river carelessly for the stream to float him away .
No, rather we lay him where the ground is hollowed out a little and cover him with leaves and branches. So he shall return to the earth, where all things came.
Or else we lay her to rest among the tree-branches, and give her to the air. Then, if black birds come streaming from far to pluck at her, that too is right, for they are creatures of the air.
Or else we give him to the bright and hot cleanliness of fire.
Then we go about our life as before, and soon we forget, like the beasts. But this at least we have done, and when we shall no longer do it, then we shall no longer be human.
See, this is why I’m not big about going to funerals. Too many morbid thoughts. But like Yogi Berra said:
“You should always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”
¹Or my sister. Actually, my sister is more likely to say something. Ignore her, she’s just looking for a last chance to diss my sartorial disfunction.