By Lisa Sugarman
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Iím going to get straight to the point because, as usual, I have a lot to say.
I dislike funerals.
Iím sorry, no disrespect, really, but theyíre often awkward and depressing, albeit for obvious and unavoidable reasons.
See, weíve got all these rites and ceremonies that always have to be fulfilled as staples of traditional funeral services. And these formalities, especially when there are a lot of them, can make it pretty challenging to showcase the true essence of a person in whatever time is left over. So what I feel like we often see are stilted versions of what could and should be more authentic celebrations of a personís life and legacy and impact on the world.
I think, though, for most people (myself included), funerals are just an all-too-vivid reminder that weíre all simply employees at will and can be terminated, for lack of a better word, whenever The Big Guy decides itís time to let us go. So thatís why I think the majority of funerals have the same feel. Thereís this somberness because (A) no one wants their mortality held up and dangled in their face; (B) weíre forced to recognize that we just lost someone we care about; and (C) we have traditions that have to be satisfied. And thatís heavy stuff, no matter who you are.
But what Iíve noticed, as a general rule, is that there are a handful of emotions that are felt by the moral majority. Most people are usually pretty subdued, partly out of respect for honoring the funeral ritual and, I think, partly out of a fear of saying or doing the wrong thing under such delicate circumstances. I mean, naturally thereís this shroud of sadness that settles over people whenever mortality is concerned, and thatís because losing someone we love is just plain sad. But I just canít help but feel like a personís life should be truly celebrated after they die. In a way that captures the true spirit of who they were.
Now to my real point.
Last week, I went to a funeral that did exactly that. And Iíd be lying if I said it didnít alter my thinking on the ultimate potential of the funeral experience. Thatís because it was way more of a celebration of someoneís life than a somber sendoff that marks The End. And that I liked. In fact, I loved it. So much so that I found myself crying and belly-laughing in celebration of this womanís beautiful spiritóa woman, ironically, that Iíve never even met.
Thereís this saying, ďWe have a plan but God decides.Ē And in the case of my friendís stepmom Pam, that couldnít have been truer. She was in her fifties, out for a bike ride, and was struck and killed by a truck. Tragic is the only word that really comes to mindóthe only word that really seems appropriate.
But as tragic and unimaginable as her death was, the way her life was celebrated at her funeral was truly epic. There was more laughter and joy than I think Iíve ever seen at a traditional funeral. And thatís because, from what I gathered about Pam, she was a woman who insisted that feelings be expressed and never assumed. And so as a result, her funeral was part roast, part festival, and part straight-up laughter and applause. The likes of which Iíve never seen. So right there, even though I had never known her, I felt we wouldíve been friends if I had.
I suppose I was so taken by how spirited and joyous her funeral was because even considering peoplesí overwhelming grief, her friends and family still found a way to truly celebrate the essence of who she was in exactly the way she wouldíve wanted. They clapped. They cheered. They laughed. And they happy-cried.
The whole experience has really given me a lot to think about in terms of how Iíd like my own funeral to be. I know, itís a little bizarre to think in these terms, but I just want it out there so when the time comes thereís no confusion.
First of all, I think I want everyone in fluorescent colors. Something snappy to really perk people up. Next, only happy crying will be allowed. And there will be absolutely no mourning of a loss; only the celebration of a life that was truly and wholly lived. (Thatís because when I do go, I plan to be frigginí exhausted because of how busy Iíve been living.) Iím also thinking about having a chocolate fountain for dipping because chocolate, as you know, has magical properties. Beyond those few details, I think Iíll let the rest ride. Iíve always been a big fan of improv.
In the meantime, though, Iím planning on showering the people around me with some extra drippy emotions, so keep a towel handy. Itís gonna get messy.
Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at itiswhatitiscolumn.wordpress.com. She is also the author of ďLIFE: It Is What It Is,Ē available on Amazon.com.
It Is What It Is: Shower the people you love with love
By Lisa Sugarman