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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Of Rosebuds and Funerals

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying.
For this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying

-Robert Herrick

True story: When I started working for my current employer, almost twenty years ago, I found the above poem sitting the pull-out desk drawer of my tiny cube. Now I didn't remember it word for word, and truth be told it was not until a few moments ago that I even tried to look it up. If anything, that proves that it was God, not two 20-somethings, that actually created Google. Anyway, I'm not sure what that meant for my career, life or anything else, but it seems like as good a place as any to write a line or two about a funeral.

Today was the funeral of my Uncle Frank. It was a wonderfully Catholic ceremony, full of the incense, water sprinkling and ritual that we Catholics do so very, very well. It was also a fine send-off for my Uncle Frank, complete with an ending military honor. Well deserved for a man who served his country with honor during World War II. Frank's actual nuclear (and truth be told extended) family is rather small...his three living children, the spouse and mother of his oldest son plus myself and my two brother were about it. There were, however, much more well wishers and assorted others who knew him throughout the years. Yes, it was a fine way to go out.

Going out, for tomorrow will be that's an deep thought. Sitting there in the ornate church, instead of thinking about Uncle Frank, I found myself thinking about who would be at my funeral. What would they be saying about me? Would I even want such an ornate affair, after all, I don't consider myself to be a terribly ornate person. Then it came to me, sort of: the funeral isn't for the dead person, it's for the living people. Uncle Frank has gone onto where ever he was going to, which I hope is somewhere with Aunt Anne (and I can hear her now..."well Jesus Christ Frank, it's about time"), so he probably didn't need the incense, sprinkling of water and the like. I think the ritual though is somehow important to the family, as something all of us do when someone dies. Its' as if the uncertainty that death brings somehow needs this certainty of death rituals to make it more acceptable. Personally...and this might get me in trouble with my cousin the Priest, but so be it...I don't know that the specifics of the ritual is nearly as important as the consistency of the ritual itself.

Regardless of the ritual at hand, there are a few things that I would insist upon for my funeral arrangements...for my ritual if you will:

MUSIC - I want music playing in the background at the funeral home. Katrina can DJ. I want ABBA, Beatles, Steely Dan, Pretenders, Roxette, Duran Duran, etc. playing in the background.

PICTURES - They had great pictures of Uncle Frank at the funeral home. I want that too. Note that I have a ton of them on my Seagate drive.

FLOWERS - I love flowers, but I hate the thought of some may just being throw away after a funeral, so I'm thinking I wouldn't want much there. How about giving the money instead to St Jude's?

COMFORTABLE SHOES - I can be dressed in a nice suit and that would be fine. But I insist on comfortable shoes. Nothing pisses me off more than having to wear uncomfortable shoes.

BAGPIPES - I'm not Scottish, but I love the sound of bagpipes, so I want Amazing Grace played on bagpipes at my grave site. I also want the song "Mull of Kintyre" by Paul McCartney and Wings played at my funeral.

TREES & RABBITS- I want to be buried somewhere near trees. I love trees. I also want plenty of rabbits to be living in the cemetery. It's kind of funny, but I've walked by cemeteries and seen rabbits hopping about their business, as if they are God's true caretakers to the place.

LUNCH AFTERWARDS - I want my family to have a luncheon for funeral guests after my services (which is something of a tradition around here...not sure about other areas though), but there needs to be a price for admission...namely, to attend, you have to first tell some silly, stupid and or otherwise funny story about me first. I want people to have one last laugh, on me.

I admit that the above sounds just a tad bit ghoulish, but that's ok. I don't attend funerals very often and I don't plan on "kicking the bucket" anytime south of 2064. But you know something? Sometimes it's good to take a step back and remember your own mortality.

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