At My Funeral

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When I die…

Do not read Psalms 23.
(When the priest asked what he should read at my father’s funeral, it was the only thing I remembered, but found no comfort from it.)

I always think we should have played Three Dog Night’s Joy to the World.
Dad would have liked that.

So sing! Go ahead, sing at my funeral.
But no dirge please, and no nonsensical lyrics about heaven and angels, thank you very much.
For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Sing Green Day I hope you had the time of your life!
Or Simon and Garfunkel Time it was, and what a time it was…

cause every little thing gonna be all right

Read a poem.
One of Emily’s perhaps — she wrote often and unfearfully of death.

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

Charge my mourners as Thoreau charged:

that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of
our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world

Carve Edna on my tombstone:

I would I were alive again
To kiss the fingers of the rain

Or spread my ashes beneath a stalwart, old maple,
so its roots can comfort me in sweetness,
and I resurrect each spring:

From my rotting body, flowers shall grow
and I am in them and that is eternity.

Then drink! Drink whiskey, my friends, and say Amen.

Look not too far ahead! But go now with good hearts! Farewell, and may the blessing of Elves, Men and all the Free Folk go with you. May the stars shine upon your faces!

• • •

In order of appearance: Genesis 3:19; Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life), Green Day; Bookends, Simon and Garfunkel; “Because I could not stop for death,” Emily Dickinson; Journal entry, February 28, 1840, Henry David Thoreau; “Renascence,” Edna St. Vincent Millay; From my rotting body quote, Edvard Munch; translated quote, The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien.

Photo: Ghost Town, Terlingua, Texas, DeLinda Fox, 2004

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14 thoughts on “At My Funeral

  1. ditto for me! i’ve sung for three funerals: both my maternal grandparents (“i walk through the garden alone” for my grandmother, and an obscure but lovely hymn for my grandfather – but of course both times i did it for my mom) and again for my boyfriend, mark, who died at 44 – for that one, my brother played guitar and we sang the eagles’ “Seven Bridges Road” and it felt good, mostly because the old parson preached fire and brimstone – at a funeral!!! it wasn’t right to tell us we were all going to hell as we were mourning the sudden loss of a loved one…

  2. a lot of thought provoking moments in this post. I’m remembering playing a game called “Life” I think it was, years ago, and I got the question “what would you like put on your tombstone” and I answered “She was a great friend”. I still would say that.

  3. In a sightly unfamiliar place a while back I took a shortcut across a graveyard and was struck by how sombre and mournful everyone seemed to need to feel. Perhaps it was because I did not know anyone there and had no pre-existing emotional attachment but as I looked over the many gravestones it became so very clear to me that these were all people more or less the same as the rest of us but who just lived in a different time. They struggled, worked, played, laughed and cried just the same as you and I. Most importantly, the majority of them certainly did not go through life with morose frowns on their faces. Why, then do we feel the need to always be so down when we pay visits? It seems to me that it would be so much more appropriate if the general mood was a bit more upbeat. Dignity is one thing but we don’t have to bring it to the point that a visit is necessarily depressing! To me it seems like graveyards should be more park-like; serene,pleasant and in harmony with nature.
    And, yes, agreed. I, too, hope that when my time comes that those who gather around in remembrance do so with at least a bit of a smile as they think of the laughs we shared.

    1. I totally agree about cemeteries! When my Dad was young, he lived across the street from a cemetery, and used to play there all the time. We did, too, when we would visit my Grandmother many years later. Now, I sometimes walk my nephew in the cemetery he lives across the street from – they are so quiet and hallowed. Spiritual? And in that alone, there is much joy.

  4. That was the premise behind some of the lovely cemeteries, a place people could visit and feel as if it was a park, not just a burying ground. Mt Auburn is just one famous example of this, but almost every community has one truly beautiful cemetery.

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