Monday, December 04, 2006
When I Go
After Wednesday I'll have been to three funerals in the past month. The first was a 22 year old, the second an 18 year old, and this next one will be a 19 year old. It's tragic and I wish that this wasn't happening.
Funerals don't usually bother me. Other than the obvious focus on the departed, they also cause me to think about my own death (may it be when I'm very old and have told many stories about life at the turn of the century to my great grandchildren). The crazy (and perhaps morbid) thing is that over the years and in the midst of much sadness, I have become quite a critic/connoisseur of funerals. I've come to love inspirational funerals that leave me with a desire to live life more fully (usually because people shared personal stories about the deceased), and I hate those funerals where when I leave I hardly feel like I've learned anything about the person (usually because some preacher who didn't know the person is talking about them, trying to come up with stories about a stranger, and then giving a quaint little "message" at the end). And the truth is that I'm self-centered enough at many of these funerals to actually have thoughts like, "When I go I want this to be done at my funeral" or "I want my funeral to be different than this"--kind of like an unmarried girl does at weddings.
So here's what I've learned about my own funeral from these others:
When I go I'd want to put off my funeral for as many days as we could. Actually, I'd like to have two services. One for my family and close friends, and another memorial type service done a little later. For the small one, I just want it to be whatever my friends and family need it to be. It's for them. The second one--well--it's for me.
I'd love for invitations to be sent...like to a party. I'd love for there to be tons of people (doesn't everyone want tons of people at their funeral?) Nothing like serious invitations, but through email and word of mouth I'd want all my old friends, former students, whoever to be invited. I'd like for it to be casual. No dressing up for the occasion. Obviously, I would want people to have respect for my family, but no need for suits or dresses (at either the first one or second).
Maybe we could have everyone bring some canned food that could be donated to feed the hungry. We might as well do something to make a difference while we're all together. And no, I'm not kidding.
I would want it to be "in the round". If my casket is there I'd like for it to be in the center. I mean, a funeral is one time in your life (?) that it's okay to have everything be about yourself...so why not in the center! Actually, I just want people to be able to see each other and communicate with each other--even if it's just with their eyes, their tears, and their smiles. I've never liked that church setup where everyone is facing the front...away from each other. And in light of the fact that most churches and funeral homes aren't setup to be done "in the round", it could take place in some old Gym or something. A meeting hall. Whatever. If we're still in Tulsa, Cain's Ballroom would be great! ;-) But I would want some of my friends who are are gifted at decorating (and making such places feel as sacred as they already are) to come and do their magic.
I would also want some of my friends who are good at putting productions together to work out a flow and a feel for this thing. I would love pictures to be running. Pictures of me growing up, loving my family and playing with them. As a matter of fact, I would love just to have pictures of my family without me...since I probably took the pictures of them anyway, and they are the best part of my life. The pictures of my family that I took could just have the caption, "Amy, have you seen this picture?! This is a great picture!" I would have someone MC the whole thing and a few scheduled speakers who are close to me, but also have an open mic for people to share. The MC might want to explain why things are being done the way they are. I'd like to have something for people to write on and draw on as a way of saying goodbye...a big sheet of paper in the center or on my actual casket. Notes, prayers, pictures...whatever people need to do to send me on my way. I've had the opportunity to know so many gifted students in music, art, and words. I would love for them to share something if they were able and thought it fitting. If this is done on something like paper, I haven't decided if it should be given to my family or buried with me.
I would want Scripture to be read.
I would want people to be given a chance to cry and sit in silence. Maybe part of the service should be in darkness and silence. But just a part of it...so it can be like life, which has its dark moments.
I would want to give a chance for God's people to commit to honoring God's promise that he would take care of those who sought his Kingdom first by committing to take care of my family in my absence.
I would like for there to be songs of praise to God. I believe that death has lost its sting in Christ, and I want my funeral to be true to that belief. I would love for their to be a sending out that challenges people to remember that life is worth living and that it doesn't end.
I would want it to be said that my last words to everyone were "I love you and I'll see you again"--even if I don't actually get a chance to say those words.
I would want to be buried in Pleasant Valley where generations of my family are buried.
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