I’m ready to put the fun back in funeral, at least my funeral when it happens which hopefully is a very long ways away.
After all, the longer it takes to arrive, the longer I have to plan. But first thing’s first — professional mourners. My loved ones can’t be trusted to do the job properly. Sure, they might politely sniffle or stutter their way through a perfectly acceptable and dignified eulogy that includes only the good stuff but that’s not a fitting last hurrah. I want full-scale wailing and howling. Maybe even some chanting. A bonus for any mourner who faints. I want throwing themselves on the ground overcome with emotion. No dry eyes and no empty seats. I want mourners who will help make my send-off the event of the season. And besides, a fiery Viking-style fete is probably a little harder to finagle.
Just imagine the looks on the faces of the folks in attendance who actually know me as they sneak questioning looks at those they’ve never seen before, wondering how I ever collected such an eclectic mix of friends and family. I’m willing to shell out some extra cash for the mourners who want to stretch their acting chops even further by sharing stories of how they knew me.
Ah, that Michelle, I remember when we were in ’Nam. That’s where she got that metal plate in her head.
I never knew Michelle had an Asian stepfather 10 years younger than her. Or a glass eye.
Ever hear about that time she won the Olympic medal in curling? Oh, probably not. She was never one to brag. But there was that time she staved off nuclear war in the 1980s.
Hey, if fictional “Breaking Bad” character Walter White can nab an obituary in a New Mexico newspaper as though he were real, why should anybody think ill of my hiring professional mourners? Or maybe it would be more interesting to hire non-professionals. There are actual rent-a-mourner companies but now I’m thinking those seeking a quick buck through a Craigslist gig might be more fun.
In any case, despite protestation to the contrary, most people I imagine want a bit of a say in how they are remembered because if you aren’t the one doing the talking somebody else is. The children of a Nevada woman who died recently submitted an obituary later deemed so “mean” the newspaper that published it yanked it from the online version. To wit, “On behalf of her children whom she so abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth ... .” Yikes.
Remind me, along with the hiring of mourners, to retain the person who wrote William McCullough’s obituary in Georgia. The 61-year-old man is described by his son as adoring and having been adored by ladies: “There isn’t enough space here to list all of the women from Freddie’s past. There isn’t enough space in the Bloomingdale phone book ... . He attracted more women than a shoe sale at Macy’s. McCullough died rushing into a burning orphanage to save a group of adorable children. Or maybe not. We all know how he liked to tell stories.”
Now that’s a way to leave one’s indelible stamp on the world and bring smiles to an otherwise grave situation. Forget the adage that dead men — and women — tell no tales. It’s the last time to spin a really good yarn.
So bring on the self-authored obit (unless somebody more creative than me is up to the job) and line up the mourners. Life and death are full of unexpected events and I don’t want to be caught off guard. But I also hope there are a few legitimate weepers in the house, too, when the times comes. It will help cut down on costs, for crying out loud.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.