Tuesday, June 8, 2010

When I linger no longer

It would seem to most quite morbid to think about your own death in detail. In particular, to prepare arrangements for your funeral when you're perfectly healthy. But it's something that has always been on my mind, and something I think is actually quite important.
As a kid I was surrounded by death quite a bit. My childhood home was right next to the town cemetry, so my brother and I would spend afternoons and weekends wandering the graves, making up life stories for the brave soldiers, beloved grandparents, and sweet children 'sleeping' next door.
But it wasn't just the neighbours that kept death in the forefront of my mind. My family has long had a history of illness - my nanna had breast cancer and suffered a number of strokes, my granddad was run over by a tractor and suffered mental illness, my mother has been pronounced clinically dead on 8 separate occassions - meaning we frequented hospitals quite often as kids. As a result the fickleness and fragility of life was never something I was shielded from.
I watched as my mother suffered through heart and brain surgery, as her best friend fought off breast, throat, lung, skin and finally bone cancer, as my nanna spent the last month of her life in a medical coma after a severe stroke. And then I stood by as, one by one, we buried each of my grandparents, boxing up their lives as though they were a theatre production that had run its course.
The thing that stuck in my mind, even at thirteen, was the agony, the distraught emptyness that seemed to hang in the air as my mother chose hymns for the funeral, or my uncle struggled to write a eulogy that could honour my Granddad when all he wanted was to have him back.
Funerals hurt. That doesn't really need to be said. But the thing is we - living, thriving, breathing human beings - avoid that pain until it hits us, or our loved ones, square in the face. I don't want that. I don't want that for my husband, or my children, or (God forbid) my parents. So I've planned my funeral as I'd plan any other event in my life. I know that I want to be cremated, and that I want my funeral in the early evening. I am adamant that Amazing Grace would be the absolute worst choice for my funeral song ever. Instead, I'd like something that celebrates the people who have come to see me off. That thanks them, and offers them joy and peace. And, most importantly, something I would have listened to myself, if it were them and not me no longer here.
I heard The Parting Glass the other night while watching some late-night TV. The gent singing is Luke Macfarlane whos voice, I think, makes this version more beautiful and haunting than any other I could find. I knew immediately that this was the song I would like playing as I say my final goodbyes. It is sad, true, but it speaks of a full life and bequests love and joy to those remaining.
I will smile from whereever I end up to know my life is toasted with a good whiskey, a smile, and this song:


  1. I feel really lucky that I have not had to deal very much with death. Because of my bizarre family, I actually have/ad six grandparents, but only my father's father has passed away so far. I didn't go to his funeral because I never had much of a relationship (if any) with him. I've only been to a handful of funerals. The funeral of an 18-year-old friend was the worst.

    I think it's sensible to plan your funeral, even if you're young and it seems strange and morbid. It helps to take some of the pressure off your family, and none of us can be sure when our time will be up.

    I, too, want to be cremated. But I told my mum I wanted her to play "Ice Ice baby"!! ;)

    Let's hope it's a long time coming for both of us. xoxxo

  2. With the hard-drinking, heavy-partying life I live, I'm sure I'll be gone before you. But if not I promise to boogie hard to "Ice Ice Baby" in your honour :)