Why don’t we ever plan our own funeral?

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I don’t want to bring you down, or be macabre or anything.  I only ask because when my father died recently, we realised that no-one in the family really knew what sort of a funeral he wanted. We were pretty sure he wanted a Christian service, but that was it. When my brother in law died a few years ago, it was even harder to say as we were pretty sure he didn’t want a religious ceremony, but had no idea what he did want.

Now, the obvious answers to the question I posed at the top are:

  • I don’t want to think about it
  • I don’t care – you can do what you like when I’m gone

but I think these are both the wrong way to be thinking.

If you have cared about how you have lived your life, I think you should care about how the ending of your life is marked. What are your religious or philosophical beliefs? I know I want my funeral to be as green as possible, for example, and that I don’t want people being sad for me, or spending a fortune.

If you love the people you are leaving behind you should care too. Help them out by telling them what you’d like, what sort of music or readings you want, what sort of a celebration. They’ll be missing you already, and upset, with a load of arrangements to make, so you can take some of those difficult decisions off their hands.

I’m definitely living life to the full and I am not intending to be leaving this life any time soon. Health and happiness is what I’m pursuing. However, I am going make sure my nearest and dearest know what I’d like, and I’ll suggest the music too. I quite fancy Morecambe and Wise “Bring me sunshine” as everyone leaves the service, but maybe that needs a little more thinking through …

By the way, dad’s funeral was great.  Lovely personal words from two of my brothers, nice classical music, a couple of hymns and a lovely atmosphere. Great to see family I haven’t see for years too.

Living well

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I must start by dedicating this post to my dad, Gerald Charles William Wistow, who died early this morning aged 88.  You might think I am a heartless beast to be writing a blog on a day such as this, but of course I have some thoughts in my mind that I am working through, so my reasons for writing are a little selfish.  And I really don’t mind if no-one reads any further!

I was with dad just a little more than 24 hours ago, and we were able to have a good chat, and to understand how much we mean to each other.  How fortunate we were that he had his mental facalties until the end. He was also clearly reconciled to his coming death, even happy about it.  So he died at home, in comfort and at peace.  And that is a very lucky way to go.

One of my heroes is George Harrison and watching Living in the Material World, the excellent film about his life, his wife Olivia explained that he had been determined to make a good death – to be as ready spiritually as he could be.  That really struck a chord with me.  It’s not necessarily about having strong formally religious faith, but I think an essential part of living well is thinking about your place in the bigger scheme of things, and how content you will be when the inevitable happens and you leave this life. What do you want your legacy on earth to be? What will you have left behind that you are proud of? And, whatever your religious and philosophical beliefs, will you be able to say with sincerity that you have worked out what your principles are, and have tried your best to live by them?  To my dad,  raising his family was the most important thing, and he took an interest and delight in news of his grandchildren until his very last breath.

I am happy for my dad.  A good, honest life, and in the end a good death.