Today, I died. Well, okay. I didn’t actually die in real life. I died in my mind.
You see, when I made my List of 50 Things Before I Turn 50, I added “Plan my funeral” as number 16. It’s something I’d thought about for a while but had always put off until now. Today, I took the time to plan out what I wanted my funeral to be like.
Making funeral arrangements
Many people don’t plan their funeral ahead of time. Maybe they don’t want to think about death and dying. For me, I’m a planner. I know I’m going to die someday, and I want to be prepared. I also don’t want to leave my family with the burden of putting together my funeral during an already difficult time.
When I mentioned to my youngest son that I was making my funeral arrangements, I made the mistake of telling him that I wanted my body to be cremated. Immediately, he told me that there was no way he would let my body be cremated. And that’s when I realized how important making my funeral plans would be (I also decided not to be cremated).
My first funeral
I attended my very first funeral when I was 20 years old. Actually, I attended two funerals that day. The funeral I attended in the morning was for a friend who committed suicide and the funeral in the afternoon was for a relative. This made my first funeral experience very overwhelming. My recollection is that I cried all day long. I also remember being very disturbed by the viewings that preceded the funeral services. Up until that point, I hadn’t even known viewings were a thing. I just thought you went to the services and that was it.
With “Mormon” funerals, viewings are often held the night before and the morning of the service. Typically, the body lies in a casket (usually open) with family members leading up to and lining up after the casket. Viewings are a time for friends and family to say their final goodbyes to the deceased and offer words of comfort to the relatives left behind. At the end of the viewing, very close friends and family gather in the room for a prayer before entering the chapel for the services. I understand why people like viewings, but they give me the creeps. First thing on my list was to get rid of the viewing at my funeral. I really don’t want my stiff body on display with poorly applied makeup to make it look like I’m peacefully resting. No need to creep out children (or adults).
Another thing that bothers me about funerals is all of the money spent on the casket that is just going to be buried underground. This feels like a major waste of money, and I hate wasting money. I’d rather be buried in a pine box. I also don’t want to be buried with any jewelry on (again, a waste).
One of my friends recently gave me a great idea. She told me of a family that painted the casket. Since most of my kids are pretty artistic, why not have them each take a panel of the pine box, and paint a scene on it? This way, they can feel better about burying me in a plain pine box. I think this is perfect. Maybe they should start now so they don’t feel rushed. Something tells me they aren’t going to go for this.
Viewing…check. Casket…check. Now onto the funeral services…
Years ago, I went to the funeral of someone in my neighborhood and my bishop (pastor) spoke. It was such a beautiful talk about Jesus Christ and life after death that I’ve never forgotten it. So, when I was making my funeral plans, I emailed him to see if he would be willing to speak at my funeral. When he replied, he said he’d be happy to speak. However, he also mentioned that he would likely die before me. I guess that could pose a problem. Maybe, he could record his message now, and it could be played at my funeral? That’s probably a little weird so I should have a backup plan.
As I continued to think about the service itself, I tried to think about some of the funerals I’d been to in the past. What made them memorable? Well, the funerals I remember the most are the ones where I felt spiritually fed and uplifted. I still cried a lot (I’m a crybaby), but I left feeling resolved to live a better—more meaningful—life. That’s how I want people to feel when they leave my funeral. So, that made me think about what I want people to think about after they leave.
In Clayton M. Christensen’s book, How Will You Measure Your Life, he examines the daily decisions that define our lives and encourages readers to think about what’s truly important. He says, “When I have my interview with God, our conversation will focus on the individuals whose self-esteem I was able to strengthen, whose faith I was able to reinforce, and whose discomfort I was able to assuage—a doer of good, regardless of what assignment I had. These are the metrics that matter in measuring my life.”
“Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people.” — Clayton Christensen
Measuring your life
Thinking about my funeral made me wonder about my life and how I (and others) will measure it. It made me wonder, “How do I want to be remembered? Will people think I was a doer of good? Will they think about the positive effect I’ve had on their life?”
All this talk about death and dying was making me feel depressed. Even though I believe in life after death, it’s still sad to know you’re leaving loved ones behind. But, planning your own funeral ahead of time relieves loved ones of this burden. In case you’re a planner like me, I’ve included a funeral planning worksheet for you. I found it to be really helpful but also sad to fill out.
While I don’t think I’ll die any time soon, I’m grateful I still have half my life to think about what’s truly important. I hope people can say I was a doer of good. Here’s to 50 more years!