Friday, June 27, 2008

How Fine a Thing to be at One's Own Funeral

"How Fine a Thing to be at One's Own Funeral"

No....I'm not talking about the 'Yikes, now I'm a ghost!' kind of being at one's own funeral. I've got a different idea. What if you COULD actually be there at your own funeral...or at the "rehearsal" of it? What if you planned a party with your funeral as the theme?

Now wait, don't think I've gone off the deep end...(well, you can if you want, I suppose....but listen...)
I had a friend years ago, who was known for ( among other things) his many varieties of home made wine, ( Dandelion, Peach, Strawberry, etc. ), and his long, blond/brown hair, which he wore tied back in a braid as thick as my wrist. (this figures later in the story) He also sported the requisite 'mountain man' beard and moustache , like many of his friends at the time.
One year he invited everyone to a big party that he referred to as his ' Wake'. There were some awkward jokes about why he was having a 'wake' for himself but he was a guy who was kind of hard to know deeply and his sense of humor tended toward the wry or sometimes caustic. At this 'wake', toasted him as we drank all the different kinds of wine that he made, and we laughed and talked into the night. Before we left, he did say that he wanted everyone to drink up the last of his home made wine "when the actual time came," whenever that would be.
As it turns out, that's just what we did. About 6 months after that first 'wake', we were all unexpectedly gathered again, in the presence of our friend's cremated remains. He'd fallen asleep at the wheel one night on the way home. His volkswagen bus hit a telephone pole, and the driver's seat was not bolted to the floor. Yeah. We all pondered similar things about that. But he was gone. And he'd left us our instructions. Which we did improvise upon.
Thinking about this now, I have to say that his was likely my most favorite funeral.
We hiked through the February snow to a gorge filled with Hemlock trees--a place he'd turned many of us on to-- and we stood circled near the adjacent river talking about who he was to us. I played a song on my guitar and sang...others read poems or just shared memories. A few tossed a single rose or other flower into the moving water. Then his best buddy pried the lid off the metal cannister which contained what was left of our friend. None of us had ever seen 'cremains' before. There was a silence as Bill fumbled a bit with the lid. He opened it and looked down for a very long 10 seconds or so then looked up at us and said quizzically "You'd have thought there would have been"
All the tensions 'poofed' at that moment as we shared a good chuckle and then passed the tin around and each took a handful. We scattered his ashes all around that place and after a few more words hugs and tears, made our way back to finish off the remaining varieties of our vintner's harvest.
Many tears and toasts for our friend and his strange kind of forethought.

So I'm just asking...what if we did this kind of thing more often? I mean what if it was more culturally acceptable to have a funeral rehearsal? Like we have rehearsal dinners for weddings and such? I'm just asking....(it's my job!)

I've got more thoughts on this idea...different perspectives, conversations and further imaginings...which I'll put in the next post. Feel free to share your own stories or thoughts...or plans for your own shindig!

love, Marian

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I know he's dead... But I don't want Change.

"I know he's dead...but I don't want Change."
I was listening to a story on NPR about a small town in Romania. There was a mayoral election, but the front running candidate who had been a popular mayor there for many years took ill and died while the voting was still going on. I mean during the election. Amazingly, when the votes were all counted, the dead fellow had won by 23 votes!!
Yes, that's right. They elected a Dead Man.
The reporter asked a resident of the town-, a man who voted for the deceased- why he voted for a man who was dead.
He said, "I know he's dead...but I don't want Change."

Well, that about says it eh?
I don't want change either. I mean, well, I do, yes. I say I do. I can think of lots of things that I want to be different. My very mission is about *changing* the way our culture faces Death. But inside of that, I find all these little ways that I am resistant to change. Ways and habits that I'm comfortable with. Things I don't want to have to learn to do differently.
I'm changing the way I am marketing my creations. I've begun calling them burial and cremation shrouds, and I am changing my market....moving further into the arena of pet shrouds.
I'm changing the way I see my business...and myself in it. Changing the furniture around in my studio. Changing the companies I buy fabric from. Changing the designs little by little all the time. I keep thinking I want it all to 'settle down' into some 'reliable' process or product or market. But I'm not sure I really want that. I think something in me likes to keep 'fiddling' with it.
It's a funny kind of push and pull, this change thing.
So I have no clear 'conclusion' here about the subject of change. I like the sign I've seen on a tip jar in a restaurant "If you fear change, leave it here." Though here's another change...folks on the street who ask for money don't ask for 'spare change' anymore...they ask for 'a buck' or 'a couple of bucks'. Change.
Like I said. I don't have a conclusion to these ruminations. But I do know one thing.
I'm not voting for the dead guy.

Happy Solstice, Friends.