Funeral Favors

Call me morbid, call me pale. I’ve spent 6 long years planning my funeral fare.

My grandmother, the great organist, died last year and her funeral was an amazing concert. A couple of cousins played the organ. One cousin played the piano piece that wooed my grandfather into marrying her. A few arias were sung.

I want Oh Divine Redeemer. And maybe something from Brahm’s Requiem. Could I have a whole choir sing something from Mozart’s requiem? That may be too self indulgent. I am in love with someone who plays the banjo so I’d like some banjo music, maybe a quartet–a bass, a fiddle, a guitar and a banjo. I like a number of old spirituals and could be persuaded by some gospel music as well. My funeral must have 5-6 spectacular musical numbers.

The night before, since this would be inappropriate for a church, I want a some indie rock band doing a show in remembrance of me. A local band that I am fond of would be fine. I would also allow for a bigger band than a little indie rock band, say, the Pixies or Radiohead.

I am still undecided on the open mic-ness of my funeral. My grandfather had a simple graveside service and we all told stories about him, a testimony meeting of sorts. I liked that. I don’t want sermonizing or a preacher. I just want stories. About how funny I am, or bumbling, or creative, or flaky. I want stories about how people loved me, or when they sometimes hated me. My godliness and my worldliness. There would have to be a time limit however, especially with all the musical numbers, and Mormons. Give them a mic and sometimes they can talk forever.

Everyone should come with a new article of clothing from a thrift store. It doesn’t need to be outlandish or ugly like most of my clothes but something from a thrift store. To commemorate my life of thrift store service.

I also want funeral favors. I am famous among my friends for self-absorbed birthday party favors. One year, t-shirts saying I heart Amri. Another year at my Asian themed birthday party, it was magnets. I Rove Amli. I’m thinking bumper stickers or pencils as the funeral favor.

I like flowers but am also for having people donate to favorite charities. I like people getting together to eat afterwards too. Funeral potatoes are quite nice especially if you can add sweet potatoes.

I would like to be cremated. I just heard on NPR on Saturday that they have new huggable urns. I could record my voice and when you hug the urn it would speak, saying: you feel guilty now for being mean to Amri, don’t you? or I’m sorry if you don’t go to heaven like me.

Has anyone else planned their own funeral? Is it morbid? What’s most important to you when people remember you at your funeral? And what do you hate about funerals? Should funerals be planned for the deceased or for the living? Should they indulge Amri or those she leaves behind? Any ideas for a better funeral favor? I’m open to suggestions.


  1. I’d like an open casket (if the circumstances of my death allow), no shirt, sunglasses, and suntanning mirror.

  2. CREMATION. Save people the money.

  3. Sounds like you need to set aside a bunch of mourning money and cultivate relationships with a lot of musicians. Is this some sort of surrogate activity to deflect thoughts from wedding plans?

    Having my body set out in a Jain Tower of Silence is strangely appealing. When my father dies, I hope to dig the grave by shovel with my sons instead of having a groundskeeper with a backhoe do it.

  4. A mistake in comment #3: laying bodies out to be consumed by vultures is a Parsi tradition, not Jain.

  5. Starfoxy says:

    Hey, this is a little off-topic, but does anyone know where the LDS aversion for cremation came from? Is it purely folklore or does it actually have some basis (even if far-fetched or convoluted)?

    In all seriousness though, I’d rather my body not be put on display even if I die a peaceful death. I think that is the most undignified thing for the persons memory and remains to be subjected to.

    Every funeral I’ve been to has been replete with small children staring in open mouthed horror at the body and daring eachother to touch it. Adults would do the same thing, but they’re too polite. Also the dead body never does the living person justice. I don’t want the last image of me burned into my family’s memory to be the yellowed expressionless face of my corpse. I’d rather that they just have a funeral *after* my remains are taken care of. I do like the idea of party favors though. Gives the grandkids fond memories.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    On the banjo, every year I go to a Christmas carol sing-along sponsored by the Chicago Tribune at the Old Town School of Folk Music, led by these incredible folk musicians. Last year they played some Handel to three banjos, which, as they said, was how he originally intended it. It was quite wonderful.

    I’m all for stories at funerals and not for sermonizing (pace Elder Packer).

  7. I came up with the idea during a decidely irreverent exchange during the funeral procession for my grandfather: I want tin cans and a “JUST DIED” sign on the back of the hearse.

  8. Paul Mortensen says:

    There’s a funeral home in Chicago that will creamate you and crush your ashes into a diamond. That’s the treatment laid out for me in my will.

  9. I absolutely do not want a procession of cars going down the road with their headlights on and everyone else having to stop and watch. I always get irritated when a city of 50,000 people has to stop and watch the funeral procession go by. I would rather have a much smaller funeral that doesn’t try to call the attention of the entire community to my death.

  10. Randy B. says:

    Starfoxy, I’m not certain where the aversion to cremation originated (I suspect it stems from certain ideas about the resurrection), but the practice is officially discouraged in the current GHI.

  11. re: 5, you should read Steve Prothero’s history of American cremation called _Purified by Fire_.

    There are some interesting and complex reasons for the resistance to cremation, which was seen as a “heathen” practice by antebellum American Protestants, who saw it as a blasphemy to choose to destroy the body that God would have to resurrect at the eschaton rather than allow natural processes to do so. It was also very important to have the bodies interred in cemeteries, together, almost like the idea of a posthumous ward–the people who would rise together (all facing the same direction, btw) to greet the rising sun/Son. I think they also had an image of resurrection conditioned by Jeremiah’s vision in which skeletons were clothed with flesh. Remember too that people saw the skeleton as the immortal aspect of the body, so a process which either destroys the bones or tosses them after cremation (as at lower heat) was seen as attacking the immortal integrity of the body. Mormons are not particularly different culturally from the Protestants in regard to cremation in both their initial rejection and their slow acceptance of the process.

    Joseph Smith would have been horrified at cremation, I’m fairly confident, on the basis of his personal writings about the nature of resurrection, the body, and his pretty furious rejection of the carbon cycle. I’m not saying this to recommend that people refuse cremation, merely noting what appears to have been historically true. One could easily counter that almost every American in the 1830s would have been horrified at cremation, but i think his antipathy was a little more intense.

    Amri: i’ll go to your funeral. I’ll try to get a stretch Hummer as a limo-hearse for you and play some tracks from the Cure’s Pornography album on the overhead speakers.

  12. As a diabetic I’m more aware of my own mortality than a lot of people are. Plus I’ve had a brother and sister die young (he was 34, she was 32), so I’m very aware of how close death is.

    I’ve already told my husband I want the song “Northern Sky” to be played at my funeral.

    Otherwise, I guess I don’t really care.

    As for open caskets, it really helped me a lot to see my brother in his casket, because it was so obviously not him lying there. Same with my sister. Not so much with my grandma, because she looked exactly like she did when she was alive!

    The nicest thing I know of happening to commemorate someone after they died was what my parents did the day after my sister’s funeral. They went back to the cemetery and distributed most of the flowers from her graves to other graves near hers. Because that’s how she lived her life–always giving stuff away.

  13. I’ve always wanted something funny. You can get the OU cheerleaders to appear for private appearances for some outrageous fee. I think I’d like to have them doing some kind of routine as my coffin is being opened and “Boomer Sooner” is playing. I would definitely want people standing and clapping for the finest fight song in America. If I’m buried in Oklahoma, having “Oklahoma!” playing at graveside would be pretty cool too.

  14. Amri, I LOVE the huggable urn!

    I’ve long wanted to be cremated. It just seems so much cheaper, so much more efficient…maybe my practical thrifty Mormon pioneer genes are coming out at last. But, the church recommends against, so I’ve told my husband just to make it quick and cheap. I don’t want to be viewed, and I don’t want to be embalmed. Just put me in the ground. I heard Costco sells cheap coffins.

  15. Mark IV says:

    In Cold Sassy Tree, the grandfather gives instructions for his funeral. He wanted to have backwards cars races, three-legged races, and cold soda and hot dogs. He reminded his mourners that “the first three words of funeral spell f-u-n”. He explicitly states that those cannot smile and be happy are not invited. Brigham Young also wanted no boo-hooing at his funeral.

    I want something nice from A German Requiem, and also Bach’s Komm’, susser Tod, and an a cappella rendition of Amazing Grace. I want a pizza party the night before instead of a visitation at the funeral home. I once attended the wake of a friend’s father, and I regret that our tradition does not provide for something as rip-roaring and full of life as a wake.

  16. Wait, John Mansfield did you just say I’m deflecting marriage plans? Puh-lease. I would never do that.
    I’ve seen (is it THE?) Tower of Silence in Mumbai. I thought it was lovely returning to the earth through the birds but all the Hindus I met thought it was ridiculous. The Pharsis are from Iran. Maybe that’s why.

    Brad Haas-Hilarious!

    Kevin–I love dancing and the banjo can always get me to dance. A little toe-tappin and head bobbin may be the closest I can get to people dancing at my funeral.

    I was in marching band in high school. D-train–a marching band doing Oklahoma with a color guard is a brilliant idea. (part mine and part yours) no cheerleaders, please.

    smb, please rent many stretch hummers. Maybe one for everyone that attends my funeral. Thank you for being willing to pay for that. You are a good brother. Maybe you can drive the Scion xB with speakers thumping the Cure through my hood.

    Also, is there a Church stance on cremation in places where you have to be cremated? like Japan? I don’t think the Saints there have a choice.

    I like open caskets. I’m not sure all the reasons why. They’re sometimes disturbing and they never really look like the person but I’m still drawn to them somehow. That said, that may be a choice I allow my family to make. Susan, I’ve had a lot of family members die and through that come to the same conclusion. I wonder why. I think this is also why I have so many things planned out for my own funeral.

    Also any and all parts of me that can be donated should be.

  17. Also, I am making friends with as many musicians as possible. I do not however want any Orrin Hatch music (please see link on the left of BCC home)

  18. How about doing like Hunter Thompson? Thompson’s ashes were fired from a cannon atop a 153-foot tower of his own design (in the shape of a double-thumbed fist clutching a peyote button) to the tune of Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man, known to be the song most respected by the late writer. Red, white, blue and green fireworks were launched along with his ashes.

    I think you could pull it off.

  19. Oh! And the ashes spray all over the people that love me?
    That’s delectable!

  20. I demand mourners, paid if necessary. There must be weeping and wailing or I am seriously going to come back and haunt all of you!

  21. greenfrog says:

    For the funeral, I want to be put stark naked into one of those coffins that can be half-opened, half-closed. I want a small video camera placed just under the edge of the closed half, and in the next room over, there’ll be big video monitors showing live all the faces of all the people who try to sneak a peek.

    For disposal of the remains, I’ve got a private deal with a friend of mine — he’ll sneak my body out of the morgue and deposit it far enough into the wilderness that coyotes, buzzards, and crows will get their fill long before those with an overwhelming desire to bury bones happen by.

    I rather like the idea of what is now me sometime shortly becoming the bright eyes of a coyote pup or the yellow-clawed feet of a baby vulture chick.

  22. Randy B. says:

    The GHI does acknowledge that cremation is appropriate where, like Japan, it is required. I’m not remembering the exact language, but it may be an even looser standard than “required” (perhaps impractical?).

  23. Just be careful if you do like they did for Donnie in The Big Lebowski, and watch for the direction of prevailing winds as your ashes are scattered.

  24. Amri,

    As per your opener, I am hoping for a reunion of the Smiths at my funeral, opening song: The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (opening band: The Dead Milkmen, opening song: Right Wing Pigeons, followed by Punk Rock Girl).

    The funeral pretty much writes itself from there.

  25. My dad does wood work as a hobby. He’s said before that he’s intends to make his own coffin. He thinks it’s ridiculous that funeral homes and coffin sellers get rich from people dying. I have to agree, but for some reason the thought of having a maple-stained particle board box (which, because particle board is cheap and he actually finds it attractive, is probably what his homemade coffin would look like) at the front of the chapel during the service is a bit disconcerting. It smacks of pauper funerals and unmarked mass graves. Dad’s pretty darn old and getting kind of feeble, so I don’t know if he’s going to get around to making his casket before time’s up. I’ve thought it would be nice if his sons could get together when he dies and throw together something nice for him to be buried in. It would seem wrong to spend hundreds or thousands on a casket.

    My grandma, who died last year, was cremated and her ashes were buried in a wooden urn made by my Dad on his lathe. I think the wood was pine 2-by-4’s (twobuhfers) glued together before the lathing and then stained maple. They hot glue-gunned a little wooden violin onto the front of it. Some of the Mormon part of her posterity was a bit disconcerted by the cremation thing, but I don’t know exactly why. It’s just not the way things are done.

    As for my funeral, I want irreverence. Maybe some fart jokes or something to lighten the mood.

  26. No, not particle board. I meant wafer board. Big difference. My dad loves the wafer board. He made wafer board cabinets for our living room.

  27. Tom, I built our dining table out of 2x4s and wafer board. I lot of people have found the look of the polyurethaned surface interesting. Most guests don’t get a chance to think about it, though, because my wife covers it with a tablecloth when people come over. Did your mother do anything to hide the wafer board cabinets?

  28. John, It’s not possible to hide the cabinets. They’re pretty prominent: floor to ceiling in two corners of the room. I don’t think my mom objects to the look. It’s not all bad, actually. It’s not a choice I would make if I had the money to make a different choice, but for the cost it’s not a terrible look. The walls of this room are still 70’s wood panel. The doors of the cabinets are kind of cool. They’re framed by maple shaped nicely with a router and the center panel is unstained, finished wafer board with beveled (I think that’s the word) edges.

  29. rleonard says:

    All I want is funeral potatoes at my funeral and brought by nobody related to me.

  30. HP/JDC–you pay me money and I’ll be so loud, you’ll hear my mourning in the Spirit World.

    Greenfrog! I’m sure you have a fine body but think of the children! Mortified that they have now seen a dead man’s, um, shoot now I’m embarrassed.

    Big Lebowski lesson noted. Thank you.

    Tom, I actually think there are laws as to what the type of caskets because of sanitation issues. It is a racket though.

    Talon, I’m so at your funeral.

    Funny open casket story: My aunt died when I was 10 (she was 32 and I thought she was old at the time, stupid Amri) We went to the viewing and my brother dared me to go touch her. I didn’t want to but I’m a sucker for a dare. So I dragged my feet over to the casket and reached out my hand to touch my very first dead body. When I touched her, she shocked the hell out of me. A HUGE blue spark so big that everyone in the room noticed. I ran away screaming.

    I wouldn’t mind doing that to a niece or granddaughter when I die. It’s just so funny.

  31. Oh! I should get temporary tattoos that say
    I heart Amri.
    Perfect funeral favor. And the symbolism! Oh the symbolism!

  32. I just have one question:

    How does one get invited to your birthday parties?

    (Got a good laugh out of “I rove Amli”)

  33. Nor do I want any crying at my funeral. Just plaintive ululating.

  34. Wow. Now I want my dead body to be wired for my viewing.

  35. I’m going to be twinkled, no need for a funeral.

  36. Funerals are for the living. I can plan and plan and plan until I’m blue in the face, but in the end, I want something that will benefit the living. I won’t really care, ’cause I’ll be dead. Maybe I should ask my heirs what they would like to see, and plan it that way.

    I heard there is a study in North Carolina somewhere in which cadavers are left in the woods and examined regularly to study how they deteriorate. A forensics research project. That would be cool.

    I don’t like the idea of leaving my body to a medical school or something, because I don’t really want a bunch of wannabe doctors poking around in there.

    On the other hand, my grandmother has donated her body to a research project to study the brains of the very, very old. She’s 96.

    There was a great essay on All Things Considered late last year about how who we heard from after Katrina was a lot like peeking in at our own funeral. How we heard from people we didn’t expect to, and didn’t hear from people we did expect.

    It IS kind of a shame that I’ll be dead for my funeral, because I wonder who will show up, and what they will say. And, of course, who won’t show up. I’m self-absorbed like that.

  37. My parents told me that cremation is out because we’re supposed to wear our temple clothing when we’re resurected. It never quite made sense to me. I think I’d like to be cremated and have my temple clothing in a little rectangular box burried with my urn. That way if I do get put back together and need to get dressed sometime in the future I won’t have to look too far.

    For funeral favors I think a ouija board with a card saying “keep in touch” would be great. Somehow, I don’t think it would go over too well with most of the people I know.

  38. Should we really wear temple clothing in the casket? If so, shouldn’t that preclude an open casket funeral?

  39. I planned my funeral the first time when I was in high school. This was not teenage angst. I was the only semi-competent pianist in my small Utah town, so I ended up going to all the funerals to play the piano for 5 or 6 years, even missing school for them. I developed pretty strong opinions at the time. I decided that I wanted nothing but an hour of my favorite hymns, sung by people who like to sing. (Not your normal mormon congregation) At our women’s retreat in Denver, we do a lot of singing, for fun, and I’ve decided that I want that bunch of women to come do the singing.

    But I’ve added to the program recently too. I absolutely do not want to be embalmed, and locked in an expensive coffin and vault. I want to be cremated, so I’d like to have a New Orleans jazz procession, to the actual place of the funeral, my parents’ farm perhaps, and then a Viking funeral pyre, after the hymn singing.

    If you look at statements about cremation over the years, they have become less anti-cremation, a trend I think will continue. I think it’s mostly a old folk belief that the body is desecrated by it. Growing up in Utah, I was told that the prohibition against cremation was because the body needed to be ready for resurrection…. but there are way too many things wrong with that idea.

    And, one funny note. Tony Hawk (the skateboarder) lives a few miles from here, and he wanted to scatter his father’s ashes in the places where he (the father) was happiest. So Tony and his brothers took some out to sea in the traditional surfer’s memorial, but scattered the rest in… the Oceanside Home Depot. After that was in the paper, Home Depot responded by telling the paper that they do not want any human remains scattered in the store….

  40. 38
    Every funeral I have been to has been open casket, all w/ temple clothing.

    I don’t mind open casket funerals…I actually think they validate the fact that the body is just a shell, the spirit is the essence of the person. Also it gives opportunities for teaching moments wtih the children. At least it has for ours.

    If anyone is interested in a discussion on this topic (which helped educate me to different options and sales pitches to watch out for, look here, here, here and here.

  41. p.s. that article/conversation had the GHI entry:

    “Generally, cremation is not encouraged. However, in some countries the law requires it. The family of the deceased must decide whether to cremate the body, taking into account pertinent local laws governing burial or cremation.”

  42. Matt Thurston says:

    Love your opening line. You could have picked a score of Smiths lyrics to open your “funeral” Blog post with. For example…

    Oh Mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head.
    And as I climb into an empty bed,
    Oh well. Enough said.
    I know it’s over – still I cling I don’t know where else I can go…
    Over and over and over and over
    Over and over, la …
    I know it’s over
    And it never really began
    But in my heart it was so real…

  43. Amri, I’m with whoever asked how one can be invited to your bday parties? :)

  44. If there is a pre-funeral viewing at a mortuary, I want a recording of Mozart’s Requiem to be played, along with excerpts of Bach’s Wachet Auf, Ruft Uns die Stimme.

    At the funeral, I want to have someone start singing “Danny Boy”, only to have my wife interrupt the unsuspecting singer and say:

    “Danny-boy?!?! You’re at my husband’s funeral, singing about some dead stiff named Danny-boy? You really are a massive bonehead. Get lost! I’d say ‘Don’t quit your day job’ but you’re awful at that too.”

    I also want her to interrupt any speaker who gets boring or preachy with a loud “NEXT!” Or possibly “Your story has become tiresome. Now is the time in Capt. Obsidian’s funeral when we dance.”

  45. Matt Thurston says:

    Susan M (#12) Northern Sky by Nick Drake.
    Amri (#00) Pixies and Radiohead.
    smb (#11) the Cure’s Pornography album.
    Talon (#24) The Hand that Rocks the Cradle by Smiths

    All good ones…

    You know how newlywed couples make those wedding CD’s to hand out at their reception? They invariably contain the song “The Way You Look Tonight”, and/or something by Frank Sinatra, U2, and Coldplay?

    Would it be too morbid to make a funeral CD to hand out? Probably. But I could easily find myself spending a week planning, choosing, and arranging such a CD, not unlike Rob Gordon (movie) or Rob Fleming (book) from High Fidelity.

    I won’t speculate on what songs I’d include right now, but the song “The Promise” by Tracy Chapman was played at a friend’s funeral and it was both haunting and uplifting at the same time. The song still gives me chills when I hear it to this day.

  46. My friend was an avid baseball fan. At the end of his funeral service, the organ player gently and quietly played, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” :)

  47. Funny that today’s the day I seriously tried to catch up on Mormon blogs.

    My mother’s funeral service was this past Saturday. I did the planning for it, along with my sister and brother. It was held in my ward, so I was kinda the point guy for it.

    Mom talked to me about the program for her service a month or so ago. I told her that we’d plan it the way we wanted it to be, and she wouldn’t have to do anything for it. However, if she wanted to make suggestions, we’d consider them, and, as it turns out, we used all the suggestions she had.

    These ideas are all interesting, but here are some of the realities of funerals you might want to keep in mind before telling anybody who might actually need to carry yours out:

    1. The things you want to do might not be of interest to the folks in your life when your funeral takes place. Me, I love to dance, and I would like to have dancing involved with my funeral (probably at a reception afterwards). However, it would be more practical to let it be known that I would like to have a moment in my memory at the next evening of dance for the styles of dance I like to do, and inviting people to join in a dance in my memory then.

    2. Big productions are time consuming and expensive. Sock away the money for them if you really want them to happen, and make sure there is somebody who will want to do them. If there isn’t, then forget about it.

    3. The funeral is for the living, not for you. You don’t even have to attend. But the people there will be grieving for you, even if they are very strong and are not afraid of death. My sister and brother and I were not weepy around this time — my sister and I were in the room when Mom died — but we still have been having some strong emotions around this event. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a celebration that expresses your personality at all — the best services will have that touch. It just means that you need to be aware of your audience and their needs, especially when you no longer have mortal needs.

    4. The timing of your death is not likely to be certain with a lot of lead time. This means that you may die a week or so after a descendent is born (for Mom, she had two great-grandchildren born a day apart less than two weeks before she died), or some other event that may make it impossible for someone important to you to attend your service. Not everybody can drop everything and travel to where you will be on short notice. Rehearsing of musical numbers will be something done in a stolen half-hour here and there a day or so before the service at most.

    Some years ago an acquaintance from a BBS (when normal mortals had never heard of a BBS, let alone the internet, and dinosaurs and 2400 baud modems roamed the Earth) committed suicide and, in her suicide note, asked that the members of that community attend a dance she frequently went to and dance to a particular song. It turned out that she had put a mix tape together, and the last song on the tape was Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, and I was deeply offended by the triteness of “Life Goes On” at that moment. I think back on it, and I’m still annoyed by it 16 years later.

    Anyhow, a few thoughts from somebody who just faced what you’re talking about. I do think you’d be better off setting aside a few bucks toward buying your burial plots and a marker (when you figure out where they will be) than worrying about the intricacies of the services. Services last a few hours, but a burial plot and a marker will last a great deal longer than that.

  48. That’s all good advice from Blaine. I’m sorry for the recent loss of your mother.

    Some years ago an acquaintance from a BBS (when normal mortals had never heard of a BBS, let alone the internet, and dinosaurs and 2400 baud modems roamed the Earth) committed suicide and, in her suicide note, asked that the members of that community attend a dance she frequently went to and dance to a particular song. It turned out that she had put a mix tape together, and the last song on the tape was Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, and I was deeply offended by the triteness of “Life Goes On” at that moment. I think back on it, and I’m still annoyed by it 16 years later.

    I would advise against indulging self-murderers in this kind of thing.

  49. My grandfather built his own coffin soon after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He built several, actually. He kept giving them away. They were pine with black fabric inside. People also had their pictures taken laying in them! He was a big practical joker. The coffin was brought to the cemetary in the back of his best friend’s pick up truck instead of a hearse. Otherwise, it was a pretty normal Lutheran funeral of an 84 year old man.

  50. Re: #45
    How about this for a morbidity-minded funeral mix (based on a skim of my iTunes):

    –Band of Horses, “The Funeral” (“On every occasion/I’m ready for the funeral”)
    –Blind Lemon Jefferson, “See That My Grave is Kept Clean”
    –Will Oldham, “You Will Miss Me When I Burn”
    –The Clash, “Death or Glory”
    –Hank Williams, “The Angel of Death”
    –Bob Dylan, “Tombstone Blues”
    –Wilco/Billy Bragg, “Another Man’s Done Gone”
    –The Stooges, “Death Trip”
    –Built to Spill, “Randy Describes Eternity”
    –George Harrison, “Art of Dying”
    –Rev. JM Gates, “O Death, Where is Thy Sting”
    –Belle and Sebastian, “Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying”
    –Bonnie Prince Billy, “Death to Everyone” (“Death to everyone is going to come/it makes hosing much more fun”)
    –The Shins, “We Will Become Silhouettes”
    –Neutral Milk Hotel, “In the Aeroplane Over Sea” (“And one day we will die/and our ashes will fly/in the aeroplane over the sea”)

  51. Matt Thurston says:

    Greg (#50)

    You and I need to get together and swap iPod portfolios…

  52. Steve Evans says:
  53. Funerals should facilitate the grieving process for those left behind. I’ve been to several funerals (not a lot) and I think the most effective one was in Russia, where funerals are still primitive and probably more reminiscent of how they used to be in America. (smb can correct me here) The body was set out for viewing all morning, and then we went to the cemetary and everyone had the chance to say something final. (This funeral was for a young mother, so there was more pathos than might have been for an older person.) Then the cemetary workers nailed the coffin shut, lowered it into the open grave and filled it in, while we were all standing there. The finality of it all was overwhelming, but it made (for me anyway) an easier grieving because it was so final. I think that note of finality is what makes a successful funeral. Facilitated of course, by great music and other personal touches.

  54. I just heard Mozart’s Requiem last night. Some of the text (which is the old Latin text, he didn’t make it up)
    Tuba Mirum
    The trumpet, scattering its awful sound
    across the graves of all lands,
    summons all before the throne.

    Death and nature shall be stunned
    when mankind arises
    to render account before the judge.
    The written book shall be brought
    in which all is contained
    whereby the world shall be judged.

    When the judge takes his seat
    all that is hidden shall appear,
    nothing shall remain unavenged.

    What shall I, a wretch, say then?
    To which protector shall I appeal
    when even the just man is barely safe?

    Remember, gentle Jesus,
    that I am the reason for your time on
    do no cast me out on that day.

    Seeking me, you sank down wearily,
    you have saved me by enduring the
    such travail must not be in vain.

    Righteous judge of vengeance,
    award the gift of forgiveness
    before the day of reckoning.

    I groan, like the sinner that I am,
    guilt reddens my face.
    O God, spare the supplicant.
    You, who pardoned Mary
    and heeded the thief,
    have given me hope as well.

    My prayers are unworthy,
    but you, who are good, in pity
    do not let me burn in the eternal fire.

    Give me a place among the sheep
    and separate me from the goats,
    let me stand at your right hand.

  55. The only thing I’ve determined so far is that I’d like a New Orleans-style procession, with a jazz band that starts out bluesy, but then breaks out into Dixieland. I like the idea of being celebratory of the life and the spirit. I also like the idea of horns and a toe-tapping tune.

    I’d also like to latch onto the funeral eve Pixies concert idea.

  56. This kind of discussion always puts me in mind of John Denver’s song about being buried in Forest Lawn.

    I’ve been sorta fond of thinking that my old carcass would end up out in the wilds somewhere. Maybe provide a good meal for a pack of coyotes.

    But I agree with the sentiment that funerals are for the survivors. When I’m gone, they’ll do what they want anyway.

  57. I wrote this after hearing one too many bad funeral sermons, so that I could have one I liked when I died.

    Funerals are hard to do.

  58. The Requiem is an old Catholic prayer for the deceased that was first set to music in about 1460. The Latin text is gorgeous. The first two lines:

    Requiem æternam dona eis, Domineet lux perpetua luceat eis

    Grant them eternal rest, O Lordand may everlasting light shine upon them.

    The scene from Amadeus where Mozart is in bed dictating the music to Salieri for the confutatis section gives me chills every time I see it.

    Confutatis maledictisFlammis acribus addictisVoca me cum benedictis.

    Oro supplex et acclinis,Cor contritum quasi cinisGere curam mei finis.

    When the wicked are confounded,Consigned to flames of woe,Call to me, among Thy Saints,

    I pray to Thee, kneeling and hopeful,Heart contrite, like ashes,Help me in my final state
    (Sorry if my translations are a bit sloppy)

  59. Brandon says:

    On the topic of cremation explored above: an ironic discovery. The second one in modern American history actually took place in Salt Lake City in 1877.

    The body was Charles F. Winslow’s, a non-Mormon doctor from Boston, Massachusetts, who died of heart failure on July 7th, 1877.

    When Winslow’s friends read his will the day he died, they discovered he wanted his body to be burned and his ashes placed in his late wife’s coffin, so they had a special furnace built just for the occasion and announced that the doctor’s remains would be burned the next Thursday. But his children interfered, and threatened to sue, forcing the ceremony to be put on hold until things could be ironed out and a new date—July 31st—could be set.

    Winslow’s cremation ended up being a first-rate spectacle. Police were on hand to cordon off the furnace and keep out the mob of curious onlookers that showed up to watch. Some people even jumped the barricade to get a closer look.

    There were no comments from church authorities at the time regarding the cremation.

    Stephen Prothero has a few details on the cremation in his book (cited above), but not many details. You can find more in the SL Tribune if you look for it.

  60. Sorry about the formatting in that last post, the preview showed it differently. Let me try again:

    Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine,
    et lux perpetua luceat eis.

    Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
    and may everlasting light shine upon them.

    Confutatis maledictis
    Flammis acribus addictis
    Voca me cum benedictis.

    Oro supplex et acclinis,
    Cor contritum quasi cinis
    Gere curam mei finis.

    When the wicked are confounded,
    Consigned to flames of woe,
    Call to me, among Thy Saints,

    I pray to Thee, kneeling and hopeful,
    Heart contrite, like ashes,
    Help me in my final state.

  61. The ice cream truck is a brilliant idea. Since I am being cremated, it would be nice relief from the heat.

    A Death/Funeral CD would be perfect. Y’all’s lists are grrreat. I would like songs that make people cry. In case they don’t cry enough at my funeral. Arcade Fire has an album named Funeral. It, however, does not make me cry.

    If one is cremated, is all clothing removed? Or could I be cremated in my temple clothing? Is this a stupid question? I’m not sure.

    And gst and Blaine, I’ve had some friends over the years commit suicide and I am still very willing to indulge them. Anything they want/ed, I would bend over backwards to give.

  62. Oh, and of course everyone’s invited to my birthday party! And funeral (though that should go without saying).

  63. Matt Jacobsen says:

    I haven’t read all the comments yet, but I’m in the pro-cremation crowd. I’d also like my ashes to be used in baking some really nice desserts for the funeral. Is that illegal? There’s just something nice about my remains continuing on in the lives of those who love me. Should my family alert the guests of the special ingredients beforehand?

  64. Matt Jacobsen says:

    Oh, and for music I’d like Siegfried’s funeral march from Wagner played live.

  65. Amri,

    Wow! We both wrote on this subject today. I wanted to drop a note and say, interesting post – and to let you know that I didn’t see yours until after I posted mine, so you were certainly not one of the folks to whom I was referring when I criticized cremation: You are making memories with the ideas of recording your voice and such. (I was criticizing the idea of just want to disappear into oblivion)


  66. “Anything they want/ed, I would bend over backwards to give.”

    ditto. It often makes my heart ache to read and/or hear people say things like “self-murderers.”

  67. My music:

    Bainton – “And I saw a new heaven”
    Byrd – “Justorum animae”
    Harris – “Bring us, O Lord God”
    and “Faire is the Heaven” if there’s time
    Victoria – “O quam gloriosum”

    St Anne (O God our help in ages past) — a classic
    O quanta qualia (O what their joy and their glory must be)
    Sine Nomine (For all the Saints)
    and just for fun
    Monk’s Gate (He who would valiant be), but including the hilarious verse about hobgoblins and foul fiends.

    Let this serve as an internet memorial should I pass before my time. Not sure where the choir would come from to sing all these tunes.

  68. I use the term “self-murder” not because I haven’t known people who have done it, nor because it affected me any less than it did you.

    The term, a legal one, is at least as old as Blackstone:

    SELF-MURDER, the pretended heroism, but real cowardice, of the Stoic philosophers, who destroyed themselves to avoid those ills which they had not the fortitude to endure, though the attempting it seems to be countenanced by the civil law, yet was punished by the Athenian law with cutting off the hand, which committed the desperate deed. And also the law of England wisely and religiously considers, that no man hath a power to destroy life, but by commission from God, the author of it: and, as the suicide is guilty of a double offence; one spiritual, in invading the prerogative of the Almighty, and rushing into his immediate presence uncalled for; the other temporal, against the king, who hath an interest in the preservation of all his subjects; the law has therefore ranked this among the highest, crimes, making it a peculiar species of felony, a felony committed on oneself. … The party must be of years of discretion, and in his senses, else it is no crime. But this excuse ought not to be strained to that length, to which our coroners’ juries are apt to carry it, viz. that the very act of suicide is an evidence of insanity; as if every man who acts contrary to reason, had no reason at all: for the same argument would prove every other criminal non compos, as well as the self-murdereer.

    Commentaries, Book IV, Chapter 14.

    I stand by my point in #48 that we do no favors by fulfilling any part of a person’s stupid suicide fantasy-made-reality, like the one Blain recounts in #47.

%d bloggers like this: