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: