When I’m dead and gone, stash me on ice.
Let me go without additives, preservatives, or artificial colors. If I’m gonna be displayed, let’s make it prompt and timely, so there’s no need for preservation.
And if I’m on display, let’s skip the ostentatious, garish, or flamboyant trappings; I’ve always preferred things plain and unadorned. If I have to be boxed up, put me in a white pine box made by friendly hands and keep it simple. Stick a Guinness in my hand and slap a pair of Groucho glasses on me and I’ll be fine.
Whether the box becomes my kindling doesn’t matter a bit to me. Once I’m roasted to a fare-thee-well, do what you will with my ashes. I always thought the compost pile was a nice place to end up, since I spent countless hours marveling at its energy and industry. Or you could dump me straight into the garden; who could ask for a better place to be reinvented than a garden, maybe as a beet? (Ashes are good for root crops, so I always heard). Granted, that might make some squeamish, so I leave my final disposition up to you—again, it won’t matter much to me.
As for a service: I have lived my life mercifully free from the ravages of religious leanings, and grant such things no significance. They didn’t take up space in my life, and shouldn’t clutter up things afterwards. So please—no religious trappings of any kind to muddy up my departure. Now, spirituality—that’s another matter entirely.
If folks want to expound on their personal feelings, that would be dandy. I’d just prefer ‘organized religion’ be barred at the gate by a burly bouncer with no neck and wraparound shades. Let’s not confuse ‘religion’ with ‘spirituality’ for this particular event. To you who ascribe to a particular fashion or flavor of religion: Let’s just agree to disagree. There’s no point in fretting about it on my account—if we’re at this point, I’ll probably have the answer you’ve been looking for, and you won’t. (PS: Unless, of course, you can find an Evangelical Atheist minister to preside).
This is what I want for my send-off:
If people want to speechify, that’s okay; it certainly won’t bother me. If long, pointless stories are to be told, they should be off-color and at my expense. The guest list should be as inclusive as possible, but let’s just set the tone by saying: “Bicycle couriers.” Need I say more? This should be a courier party—nothing less.
There should be lots of women weeping and wailing, keening and rending garments and throwing themselves on the ground. I have set aside a small fund to compensate them for their troubles—look in the bank files, listed under “Children’s Inheritance.”
Let’s not forget music—lots of music. It should be sad and tragic: Barber and Tchaikovsky; brooding Beethoven, Dvorak and Smetana. Throw in some Clash, Zeppelin, some Muddy Waters, Rory Gallagher and the Pogues, lots of Motown—and whatever good dancing music seems like fun at the time. Good damn luck finding a DJ, and oh—did I mention loud? *
There oughta be lots of drinking. I want a fierce, ferocious wake, with fountains of fine ale flowing like rivers across the floor; endless bottles of Irish whisky, and lots and lots of champagne. I want everyone in attendance to be wracked with anguish and unable to work for a day or two after—from their horrible pounding hangovers. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVznnoptsmM
And dancing? You bet—lots of dancing. I want a loud and boisterous party where everyone relaxes, laughs, flirts and has a good time while they forget the guest of honor. Make the neighbors call the police—then invite the whole lot of them in for a drink.
I want fire—lots of fire. I want a nice big going away fire, flames and sparks leaping up way into the dark sky. A funeral pyre would be just swell—or even better, a real Viking-style funeral, with flaming longboat pushed out onto the waves, me as its Captain, first mate and crew. But I’d settle for a nice roaring bonfire, since it’s probably hard to find a body of water that allows Viking funerals nowadays. Roast some weenies, toast some marshmallows, and stuff your faces with s’mores—what are fires for, after all?
Obviously, fireworks would add a certain ‘je ne sais quoi,’ in my opinion. Or even better, a bonfire and fireworks. Things that soar and explode and scream, to warn the otherworld I’m on my way and they’d better be ready. The best result would be some combination of singing, dancing, eating, drinking, fire and pouring whisky onto the fire to satisfy the spirits—but I’ll leave those details up to you. And don’t forget the song, which goes like this:
“Gimme that old time religion, that old time religion,
Gimme that old time religion, It’s good enough for me”
“Maw and Paw were druids, they drank fermented fluids,
Danced nekkid in the woo-ids, It’s good enough for me!”
Hey, you know me, just a good old-school Celt—a pagan wandering in a world of Manichean dualism. I’ll probably be around, checking in with you from time to time when the distance between worlds is least. Certainly at Beltane, the great feast of lust and desire, and Lughnasa, the high summer celebration; at dark Samhain, when spirits move most freely, and in the deep cold of Imbolc.
Light the fires, raise your glasses and look to me coming. I’ll hear you call.
*Addendum: "The Night that Paddy Murphy Died," Great Big Sea; "Body of An American" The Pogues; "Funeral for a Friend/Love lies Bleeding," Elton John, because it's 11 minutes long and it's a great song, and "What's So Funny...," Elvis Costello, just because I said so, and it's my party, right?
**Addendum #2: "Solace" by Scott Joplin, the Joshua Rifkin version...just an achingly beautiful song from both a composer and performer who need greater recognition. Joplin was the American Bach.
***"Ashokan Farewell," Jay Ungar & Molly Mason.
Crap. I'll just need to burn a friggin' CD and staple it to my will, otherwise who knows what'll get played, right??