Recently, Roger Ebert, one of my favorite bloggers, wrote about the deaths of people close to him - deaths that seemed to be coming at an increasingly rapid pace. At one point he suggested that “in an important sense all that we are is how we are remembered.” Hmmm.
On top of this, I found myself chatting last night with an end-of-career friend about his retirement, and so all of a sudden I’m feeling obligated to think about the connection between retiring and dying. Given that I expect to retire in a few years, I’m hoping this connection won’t be swift and relentless.
It may be a design feature of human nature that we resist entertaining the theory that the universe can go on without us. In any case, if I am going to entertain such a theory, I feel I should at least offer guidance to those I leave behind as to how I should be remembered; I think I should be remembered with a somewhat festive funeral ceremony.
The idea of a festive funeral calls to mind that old Hollywood story about the comment made regarding the huge crowd that showed up for Louis B. Meyer’s funeral: “Give the people what they want, and they'll come out for it.”
But, no kidding, I insist that my death, should it ever come, not be taken too seriously. In fact I have a list of specific demands concerning my funeral that I will now publicize for the first time (though I realize I may be providing false hope here to my archenemies who will only find it cruelly dashed as I stubbornly continue to live and breathe).
I once told Darla that I liked the idea of a New Orleans style funeral accompanied by a Dixieland band, but I’m afraid that might be too complicated and expensive. So, as an alternative, I suggest that my iPod, "Ransom," be used for background music. Maybe by then I’ll have set up a funereal playlist, but if not, just let the Ol' Ransom do its thing. I’m confident that everyone in attendance will have no trouble adjusting to the sounds of the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” and Wanda Jackson’s “I’m Busted,” while contemplating the essence of my life.
The venue for the ceremony should not be so large as to accommodate more than a few hundred people. Modesty demands this.
I insist that everyone present laugh and cry at least once during the ceremony. The crying can be in the silent inner reaches of the heart, but the laughing has to be audible. Actually, if Antony and the Johnsons' version of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” should come up on Ransom, tears will surely be forthcoming, even amongst those who are there just for the food. And, by the way, the food should be good – Darla and I are of one mind on this point.
Everyone attending must wear a preposterous accessory of some sort. It may be a flower in the hair, a bodacious belt buckle, a shawl of outrageously gaudy decorative coloring, an inappropriate hat or tiara, a red guard arm band, a pair of da-glow cowboy boots or any other such thing as long as its ridiculousness is evident for all to see. I will allow D to take a pass on this point, only because she is of an unusually shy nature (so shy that a number of people have opined that they suspect her of being ensconced in a witness protection program of some sort).
All others must comply.
At some point during the ceremony, someone should refer to me as “an icon.” Whether it be a cultural icon, an American icon, a cosmic icon, or whatever, I leave to the discretion of the speaker. This should only be done once, however. Modesty again.
Different people have different ideas about what should be done with the body following death. I’m really not sure, though cremation seems reasonable and I have a hunch that this makes environmental sense as well. Not sure what should become of the ashes, though.
One thing I insist on. My body must not be embalmed and allowed to lie perpetually in state. I know that Chairman Mao is doing this and, actually, that’s one reason for my insisting that I not follow this path. When I had a chance to view the Great Helmsman’s corpse in its mausoleum in Tiananmen Square, I was surprised to behold a pale, bloated, whale-like figure which brought immediately to mind the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. That I don’t want.
Chairman Mao, Lying in State (Artist's Rendition)
Well, my dear survivors, treasure these instructions and someday, let’s hope decades from now, I charge you to put them to use.