Plan your own funeral...while you still can!
We've talked previously about a number of hobbies, pastimes and projects that you might embrace in retirement now that you have the time, and we've also talked about Estate Planning but here is one project I'm now suggesting which you might at first find totally obtuse, distasteful and completely off limits - planning your own funeral BEFORE you need it. Gruesome! I here some of you saying, how gross! - but I don't think it is, nor should it be! Not at all, quite the contrary, as this will be your unique opportunity to make YOUR funeral a memorable and joyous event ABOUT YOU, not a solemn and morbid affair with lots of sad accolades given in your memory. And don't you agree, it would be a wonderful legacy for you to leave behind, by being the sole architect, director and producer of what will most certainly be YOUR LAST HURRAH!!
Most of us will have had to organise funerals for loved ones in our lives and I'll probably be right in presuming that these were all very hurriedly and emotionally cobbled together in a matter of days, and in some cases, in a few short hours, after someone very close to you has suddenly passed away. In my own case, my dear Mum was taken at a very young age from cancer some 45 years ago and between trying to comfort my distraught father, still a relatively young man himself and my younger teenage sister, who was just discovering her mother as her closest friend and mentor as she was entering womanhood, I had much to do to organise (with Dad) the various complex aspects that go to make a memorable funeral. As she was unfortunately so very ill towards the end, it would certainly have been inappropriate to suggest discussing the details of her funeral with her! And when Dad, ostensibly still robust and enjoying his life when he suddenly dropped down dead at age 90 just a few years ago, I found myself frantically scribbling down a eulogy en route via aeroplane to his home on the other side of the country - I delivered it in an emotional funeral ceremony for Dad and I know he would have approved, but again, these were my words, not HIS!
And here's the key - whilst modern society now sees life expectancy on the rise, this is a huge generalisation when in fact we see on an all too regular basis, even in our own close-knit circle of relatives, friends and acquaintances, lives being snuffed out seemingly prematurely and often without warning! The harsh reality is that whilst most of us enjoy full and healthy lives, there are no guarantees that any of us will live to a ripe old age! Right, now that's harsh and morbid truth dispensed with - so on with the fun bit!
But what aspects do you want to include in YOUR funeral production? For me, and I would expect for
most, its mainly about the life journey - my dear family and my Christian faith that have made me who I am and the many friends and experiences I've had along the way - but for me, its also about my great love of music. Do you recall the funeral scene from that wonderful 2003 feel-good romantic comedy LOVE ACTUALLY where Daniel (played by actor Liam Neeson) farewells his screen wife Jo to the catchy 1970's hit "Bye Bye Baby" by The Bay City Rollers - take a peak at: - If you have not seen this film in its entirety, I heartily recommend it - it will surely lift your spirits and give you a renewed sense of staying connected!
She wants AC/DC's rock anthem "Highway to Hell" to play her out, whereas for me its the rousing church hymns and the earthy country music sounds that will likely provide my musical exit. My playlist will essentially come from a long list of favourite rousing and inspirational hymns but more on that later - while on my secular side, my musical taste is a broad palette indeed - from my all-time favourite Neil Diamond (I immediately think of I am..I said, Canta Libre, Beautiful Noise but on this occasion particularly the hauntingly beautiful lyrics of Morningside
- wow, there are just so many); Roy Orbison, Kenny Rogers, ABBA and the Bee Gees (even Stayin' Alive might be tempting at this point!) through the captivating musical operas of Andrew Lloyd Webber to awesome classics like Puccini's Turandot (who does not love the stirring and inspirational "Nessun Dorma") and Bizet's Carmen! But I'll keep all this for a later blog - let's get back to my all important funeral planning....
In preparing MY funeral, I will likely start with a chronology of events from my life, photos wherever possible and of course all of my favourite music in background. With today's technology, all of this can be easily done on my computer and dropped onto a portable medium - a DVD or a USB Stick - and left ready for use with those members of my family charged with sending me off.
Then its a matter of documenting the order of service for the church - to ensure my favourite bible texts are read and my favourite hymns sung. Definite Bible readings to be included are: John 3:16 - if you do not know this text I totally recommend your taking the time to read it. I had to learn it verbatim at Sunday School when I was just 12 - as a result I won my first Bible with this text inscribed inside the front cover. It's stuck by me ever since and I often quote it. And I recommend you also get a copy of Max Lucado's book called "3:16 The Numbers of Hope" published by Thomas Nelson - it is a roadmap for life and will certainly have a profound effect on you - and then of course Psalm 23 is a MUST. There are some other favourites but this will give you my gist.
I also have a long list of favourite hymns but essential inclusions will be the haunting gospel hymn, The Old Rugged Cross sung by Johnny Cash and the stirring anthem hymn How Great Thou Art, based on a Swedish poem by Carl Gustav Boberg in 1885. I would also be sure to include a video clip of this hymn in fabulous country style by accomplished country singer and former American Idol winner Carrie Underwood accompanied by iconic country singer/guitarist Vince Gill - a particular favourite of mine
...and I have a long list of other great favourite hymns (Amazing Grace, And Can it Be, The Great Love of God, When I survey the Wondrous Cross, Crown Him with many Crowns, Trust and Obey and many more) some of which I will be sure to include for all my "mourners" to hear, sing, share and enjoy during my funeral service - a service I will ask be lead by my dear long-time and treasured friend, Reverend Alan, and also my only newly-acquainted local Minister, for whom I already have the greatest respect. Both of these gentlemen, God willing, will hopefully be in my life until its end and both will be acutely aware of my funeral "plan" - their words will be in close concert with mine and their prayers, my prayers.
And with the service fully produced and directed, it remains to nominate the aesthetics which She and I will closely confer on, including where and how I will be buried. There are funeral homes which have a white theme, most have black and a few which have grey - I prefer grey, but because of my association with and affection for the marque, I will also want a Mercedes-Benz hearse and funeral cars so colour will largely depend on that - so whilst grey is my preference, I will accept whatever colour the Mercs come in - huh, colour is not so important after all! But I might well request as part of my funeral production that my nearest and dearest do not wear black, but dress in bright colours to reflect the good times we've all shared and savoured - and there should be lots of colourful balloons!!
But what about the box?? Look, I always like a nice maple (honey coloured) coffin - not too ornate and certainly not at all sinister looking! And I would want my shiny red old sports car to feature prominently in the cortege though I doubt it would carry my coffin (now there's another interesting prospect!!). Now if that worked, perhaps the box should be a signal red high gloss varnish to match the SL!!!! More thought required here! LOL
My epitaph should be simple - on Mum's we put "Abide with Me" (Her favourite hymn) and on Dad's I put "In God's Care" - perhaps mine might just read...."John 3:16" - a bit cryptic I know, but ever so meaningful to me! I will think on this some more before finalising MY funeral.
And will there be a wake?.....I would hope so and if I have my way, it will be held BEFORE I exit so I can host it! So there we are, and how hard was that?... NOT AT ALL!! And while I know I've probably forgotten some aspects here, remember I'm still designing the final production - and believe me , I AM having a lot of fun and a huge trip down memory lane!!! I hope you do too - so HAPPY FUNERAL PLANNING!
Once you've completed YOUR funeral plan, put it into an envelope with the digital media (your DVD, USB Stick etc) and attach it to your Will, all ready for use when needed. Be sure to inform those closest to you of its existence so that your every detail will can be played out on cue - just as you have planned.
...and remember...have a fabulous retirementLIFE!