One of the reasons I know I’m getting older is that I read the obituary notices in the newspaper every day. Even if I’m in a hurry and don’t have but a minute to glance at the paper, I make sure to read the obits. I hate it when the obits are full of young people. I like it when all the dead folks are in their 80’s and 90’s. It gives me hope for a nice, long life. Days like today, where the obit page is full of people in their 40’s, make me nervous. My parents use the obituaries as a planning tool for their social calendar. Somewhere around age 60 dinner and a movie became dinner and visitation. It seems like Baby Ruth and Zeke are at the funeral home every time the doors open. Of course, they live in a small town and they know lots of folks, but if they got a card stamped every time they walked in the door, they would have earned a free vault by now. I’d rather have a root canal than go to the funeral home, although, I am slowly getting over my “oh, my God there’s a corpse in the room with me” fear. (I think I read too much Stephen King at an early age.) What little time I have spent there and the things I see in the obituary page have helped me to form some strong opinions about my own funeral. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, make sure my family abides by the following. I’ll be haunting somebody’s *** if they don’t.
1. Obituary-No flowery language please. Don’t write that I “went to be with the Lord”, that I “was called home” or that I “passed onto the other side after a brave fight against a lengthy illness”. I hope I’m with the Lord, but that’s no excuse for horrible writing. Keep it simple. Just tell them I died and for heaven’s sake, tell them what killed me. I don’t want anyone speculating about the reason for my demise. If I have a nickname, don’t include it in the obituary. The obit page is full of goofy nicknames like Dog, Lightning and Tater, and I don’t want to be remembered as an animal, vegetable or mineral.
2. Visitation-Don’t prop me up at the funeral home for everyone to weep around. I hope you’ll miss me, but I’d rather you celebrate my life than stand around and cry for three hours. Please attend a party in my memory at a local rental hall. There should be plenty of food and drink. Some circus peanuts. At least three flavors of margaritas and dancing. The music should be lively, plenty of Jimmy Buffett, reggae and classic rock. Make a toast to me and have a good time on my dime. The Zeke’s and Baby Ruth’s of my generation will appreciate this.
3. Funeral-I need all the church I can get, so you’d better roll me in there for my final send-off. Be sure to tell everyone to dress casually; shorts and flip-flops. It’s what I’ll be wearing ‘cause I want to be comfortable wherever I’m going next. They can even wear their Parrot Head gear. Close up the coffin because no one looks good as a corpse. Besides, people say stupid things like “doesn’t she look natural” or “didn’t the Jones Brothers do a good job with her makeup”. Gag. Oh, and make sure my hair looks okay. I don’t want someone from the corner Cut ‘N Curl giving me a do that looks like something Aunt Fanny would wear.
4. Music-Three songs at the service: Rod Stewart’s “Sailing”, Bette Midler’s “Sailing Away” and Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer”. Tip to the sound engineer: if you don’t cut off the Rod Stewart song promptly, you’ll run into the next song which is “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” and that could be inappropriate. Funny, but inappropriate. We’re in church, so we should also play a hymn, but I haven’t picked that one yet. I want something upbeat. Maybe the Rev. James Cleaveland’s “Get Right Church”. I like to run to that one. When we get to the cemetery I want you to play Jimmy Buffett’s “Tin Cup Chalice” and drink a toast like the song says. Parrot Heads are used to BYOB so there should be plenty to go around.
Those are the basics, the non-negotiables. Everything else is up for grabs. Hopfully, people won’t even recognize these songs by the time I need ‘em. I realize some of you don’t like to talk about this kind of thing, but after reading today’s obituaries, I figured I’d better write down some instructions. There were four nicknames, two sappily written send-offs and five, count ‘em five people in their 40’s who died. It made me a little nervous.