by Erika Ray
My family has given me powerful advice throughout the years:
Never start doing the checkbooks, shaving your legs, or mowing the lawn. You’ll never stop. -Mom
Always be on time. -Dad
We’re all going to die. -Mom and Dad
That last bit of wisdom has led to countless discussions during family meals. What should be said at our funerals? What songs will be played? Tiny bits of masking tape are stuck to the bottom of precious family objects. The name on the tape is the new owner when Mom and Dad kick the bucket. We will die. We might as well plan for it. We aren’t so arrogant that we think it will make the event any less upsetting. We hope it will squash family arguments in a time of mourning, but that’s a naivety we cling to in order to have these discussions. We simply talk about it. And as our parents get older, it seems to come up more often. Maybe we do it to accept death. Maybe it’s because my parents dealt with death early and our lives were changed by it. Maybe it makes interesting conversation. Maybe it’s a way to make sure our loved ones are celebrated in a way they’d be happy with. Maybe we’re just a bunch of morbid assholes. Maybe we’re realists and understand we have one last event to plan. Maybe we do it because there should be something fun about death. It doesn’t really matter why we do it, we just do. To me, it’s one those important discussions you should have on a regular basis. Similar to our parents’ reminders of where the Will is located, life insurance policies, and what to say when their security system alarms. Every few months, these topics should be discussed. Or so I thought.
The first time we started discussing death in front of my husband, I thought he was going to drop dead at the dinner table. He kept saying how the discussion was morbid and sick. We were stunned by his reaction. Hadn’t he had a similar discussion with his family? “But you’re going to die,” we kept saying. This didn’t help because that was the problem. A problem he didn’t want to have and certainly not one he had to discuss while he was busy living. He made me realize not all families are obsessed with the End. Until college, I thought this was a typical dinner conversation. Nope. His family is normal. They don’t discuss dying or the plans associated with the finality of life. But he’s coming around. A few years ago, he scribbled his name on some tape and slapped it to the bottom of the pool table.
In the event that a truck runs me off the road tomorrow and my husband is beyond grief-stricken, I’ll list them here. Be strong, Friends. Force him to carry out these wishes. I want one last party.
- Hold it in a church. I’m not religious, but they usually have really good acoustics. Plus it adds a feeling of class.
- Go ahead and cremate me. Let’s get this straight. I’ve never seen one dead body look fantastic. You’ve never seen one either. There will be flying cars before there’s a good-looking dead body. I will not have people stand over me saying, “They did a nice job with her. It sort of looks like her.” The last lie we ever tell a person. Instead, prop up a beautiful Black & White photo of me. If I start to get really wrinkly, I’ll take one and email to someone. It will resemble this one. I don’t care if people are offended. I’m dead.
- I’d like very specifics mourners. Please pick your roles now and practice. Here are your options:
- I want one woman who can’t be consoled. She must wail loudly. Her partner must hold her up. And right before she gets to my picture, she’ll gain composure. She’ll smooth her dress down and she’ll begin to hold her head high. But that will last for only a few seconds, she’ll fold with grief.
- I want one person bawling and when they get to my picture, grief turns to anger. Screaming, “Why’d you have to die?! You asshole. Why?!!” He or she will have to be escorted out and the escort will quietly apologize to Mark and the boys.
- I want one stoic person in big black sunglass to walk up to my picture. Produce a small box of wine from her coat. Pour a little out. Kiss her fingers and point to heaven.
- I would like the following songs to be played at some point during the day:
- Last Goodbye: Jeff Buckley
- The Thrill is Gone: B.B. King
- Dynamite: Taio Cruz
- Nothing Compares 2 U: Prince
- Fancy: Reba
- Dirrty: Christina Aguilera (you’re welcome for the link)
- Ring of Fire: Johnny Cash
- Please don’t let the pastor of the church give the eulogy. I hate going to funerals and the speech starts, “I met Bob at the hospital. He loved his family and his family loved him.” None of that fake personal shit for my funeral. Write it as if I were sitting in front of you. Write it honestly and don’t worry about offending the crowd. They’re my friends. Tell people how I loved to cuss when I shouldn’t. How I couldn’t stop myself from sharing my opinions. How when I became obsessed with something, I wanted other people to join me in the glow of obsession. How I talked with strangers in Target. How sometimes I talked on my cell phone while using the toilet, but always told the other person I was running water for a drink. How I had stinky feet. How daily hair washing meant it was time to get my roots touched-up. How I couldn’t sing to save my life, but it didn’t stop me from pretending I was a diva. How I loved a good story. Bring the crowd down and end it with how I loved my children, family, and friends. That always goes over well.
- At the After Party, which will be called After Party and not Wake, there will be drinks. I’d like extra extra dirty martinis to be served in mason jars with three large olives. The olives should be stuffed with blue cheese. I’d like a keg of Summer Ale by Sam Adams and plenty of lemon slices. And a really good IPA.
- Scattered around the After Party will be cards with reminders of my fabulous life so people have good and solid talking points. For example:
- Remember when Erika’s tent broke on the camping trip and it poured that night. And she woke up in a pool.
- Remember when Erika threw a fit about having to do Swim Team and she hid under her bed screaming so loudly Mom & Dad were worried about the neighbors?
- Remember when Erika took porn classes in college because she thought it’d be fun to minor in Pop Culture?
- Remember how she was once obsessed with stripper stories, quilting, cows, Katy Perry, and blogging?
- Remember how she told those strangers she was majoring in Scatology, was the producer of a Reality TV show, got married and divorced a month later (She forgot the lie, so she had to get divorced quickly)
- Remember how she was awesome most of the time…
- I’ll let my loved ones choose the pictures, but plenty of Halloween pictures should be used.
- If people want to cry, that’s ok. But if it goes on too long, send them to a specific crying area. Please have the room blasting “Remember the Time” by Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston songs.
- Family and friends, pick the food. I’m dead. I could give a shit what y’all eat. That’s one detail I’ll let slide. Scratch that. Just have buffalo wings as one option.
Got it? Print this out and stash it somewhere. When Mark says, “No. We’ll have a dignified ceremony.” Gently remind him that I was anything but dignified. He’ll be in shock. Once you remind him, he’ll be on board. Throw the party and then get on with your life.
Deal? Thanks. I owe you.
If you want something at your funeral, this seems like a good place to make those wishes known. Also if you’d like to be a mourner and have a role you’d like to play, run it by me. I’m open to all sorts of drama.