An open letter to friends and family, regarding my wishes for funeral arrangements:
First and foremost, my funeral should be about me. ME, ME, ME. People aren’t coming to my funeral because they want to hear about God or Jesus or the Bible. They’re coming because I’m dead, and they want to gather together with other people who will miss me, for fellowship and comfort.
Therefore, let me state in no uncertain terms that my funeral SHOULD NOT BE A RELIGIOUS AFFAIR. If it will make my mother feel better, I’ll permit a brief — BRIEF! — sermon from a minister, provided he NOT ONCE mention Hell, or sin, or redemption.
Let him say that I was a good person and that I tried to live a good life, let him say I brought joy to those that knew me, blah blah blah, but don’t turn my funeral into an effort to validate anyone else’s religious beliefs or — and this really pisses me off — SCARE people into thinking that they’d better join up in a hurry in case they’re next. Clergy who try to RECRUIT at a funeral should be ashamed of themselves. It’s tasteless exploitation and there’s absolutely no excuse for it.
Next, let’s talk about mood. I’m not going to be one of those people that says that everyone should be happy and cheerful at my funeral. Let’s face is, all kidding aside, funerals are never overtly happy occasions, unless you hated the deceased and are giddy at the possibility of an inheritance (you’re not getting a penny out of me, you bastard, so piss off). If you want to be sad, I’ll take the compliment.
Frankly, I’d be a little ticked if everybody had TOO good of a time at my funeral — I’m friggin’ dead, you should be a LITTLE disappointed.
Now, I’m not sayin’ we need people wailing and tearing at their clothes (unless it’s performance art, in which case it’s permitted, if tastefully done) but a few sniffles here and there aren’t going to get me riled.
Regarding logistics… First of all, I want my funeral to be in Florida. I don’t care where I am living at the time, Florida is where my life as I know it began, and it seems fitting to me that my funeral be held there. If it’s 2025 and all of my friends and family and I are living elsewhere, I’m flexible on this point, but that’s a big “if” right there.
Now, I have very dear friends at different points around the country, and it’s very important to me that everyone be able to attend. If that means delaying a few days, fine, find a big freezer and toss me in it. If it means using life insurance money to pay for airfare for those that can’t afford it, that’s okay.
If you’ve got to sell my car to bail Damon out of the county lock-up for his drunk-and-disorderly charge from the night before (nothin’ but love for ya, little brother, you know that) then GO FOR IT. I want everyone there, by hook or by crook.
Anyone I’ve ever lived with — or spent more than five consecutive days intoxicated with — gets to attend. Period. If my pilot friends have to steal planes to go pick people up, everyone else has to chip in on their legal fees.
When it comes to speeches, first, remember my earlier warning about religion. Talk about ME, not God or whatever. And while it’s okay to mention that you’ll miss me (hopefully), please don’t turn it into a big woe-is-me session. Yeah, it sucks that I’m dead, but you’re not there to go on and on about me being dead. You’re there to remember what my life was like.
BE FUNNY. I’ll take some good-natured jokes at my expense, provided they’re tasteful (presumably my family will be there, so we don’t need to get too deeply into the drunken excesses of my youth, ANTHONY). Think of it as a PG-13 rated roast… That’s “roast” as in the Friar’s Club, not as in burning in hell for being queer or a Democrat or whatever people are going to Hell for these days.
Tell stories about funny or stupid things I did. Feel free to balance that with some stories about what a great guy I was, of course. Surely there’s at least one or two events in which I made a meaningful impact on your life, in a good way.
Now, onto audio/visual assistance. I take a lot of photos, and so do many of my friends, so I expect the place to be OVERWHELMED by visual rememberences. If you wanna put up some laptops with slideshows, perhaps set to music, that’d be great. Being so fond of storytelling, let me add that I’d appreciate any opportunity for people to go through photos (print or electronic, whatever) and share stories about when they were taken.
TELL STORIES, damn it. Remember. We had some good times, yeah? If you need material to work with, you can find a TON of photos of mine from pre-2006 at http://photos.yahoo.com/gatoruptown/ and http://homepage.mac.com/gatoruptown/ for stuff from 2006 and later.
MUSIC. Feel free to play some cheesy we-will-miss-you music. Slow soft songs about friendship and love and whatnot, that’s all good. But can we please also get some music with a BEAT, damn it? Play some of my favorite stuff. Balance some showtunes with some 90s rock. The classics.
Do not allow any religious music to be sung or played, under any circumstances. The only hymn I want to hear is “Santa Fe.” Any questions? Will, Thijson, Damon, and BJ had damned well better all sing something. I don’t care if it’s as a group, or individually, or dueling friggin’ pianos, but I spent the best years of my life listening to you four make music and I want everyone at my funeral to enjoy it also.
Hey, speaking of music, somebody make Will get up and sing the “I’ll Cover You” reprise from Rent. Bonus points if a bunch of people in the audience jump in with the chorus towards the end, like in the funeral scene of the movie.
Any other opportunities for my friends to show off the creative talents that inspired me should be in full force at my funeral. Becca Schramm and Josh Maynard, draw something for me. Austin gets to be the interior designer. Giles, dance. Thijs gets to be the DJ. Justin from Charlotte gets to play piano. Brandon from Charlotte gets to do impressions, including some of me (shudder).
Somebody hook up a couple of X-Boxes and get a wild Halo tournament going. Anthony even gets to use the needler.
Oh, speaking of needles… if any of my inked friends want to get one last tattoo with me, I’m all for it. As long as you all agree on the choice of tattoo, I’ll take it, provided it’s not on my face. Seriously, how cool would that be? Hell yeah.
Okay, RECEPTION… Rent out a corner of some restaurant/bar. I want an open bar tab, damn it, even if it means selling my worldly possessions. Use my credit cards before the companies get wind of my untimely demise. Everybody gets to be DRUNK at my final party, but it’s okay if you do it at the reception instead of the funeral (gotta give a nod to family sensibilities, after all).
I want casual observers to think this event was sponsored by Jack Daniels, ya get me? Make sure Mom gets at least two drinks, something fruity and stronger than it tastes.
Seven years of good luck if you manage to pile some tables together and do a smashing rendition of La Vie Boheme up on top of them. I WANT SONG AND DANCE at my reception, damn you. If people get tanked enough, I won’t object to an impromptu Time Warp, but it better be drunken and sloppy.
As for something a little more delicate… If at all possible, go for an open casket. Dress me to the nines, with a nice dark suit and the sort of bright, colorful tie that drove Mom nuts. DO NOT CLOSE THE CASKET until every person there has had as much time as they want up there. There’s no rush — y’all don’t have anyplace better to be.
Afterwards, I’d like to be cremated. I thought it was brilliant, dividing Ginger’s ashes and giving portions to loved ones and scattering some at places she loved. Toss some onto Cocoa Beach for me, some at White Sands, and some at Central Park (I’ll take any excuse to go to NYC).
Beyond that, I’m negotiable. Obviously I’d like my mother and father to be able to each take some and either keep or scatter as they wish. Others should be given the option. Frankly, I’m all for offering up tiny portions to anyone who wants one, but I’ll leave the details up to my parents and those closest to me. Bonus points if you can get a chunk of me shot up into space, a la James Doohan (if you don’t know the story, look it up)
Did I mention that I don’t want this to be religious? I swear, my corpse will come crashing out of the coffin and strangle anyone who mentions Jesus Christ as anyone’s personal savior and the consequences of being a nonbeliever.
HAPPY TALK that doesn’t exclude anyone based on their religious beliefs or lack thereof. I am not a religious person, so don’t let anyone make me out to be one — on the other hand, I respect everyone’s individual choices about religion, so as long as you’re not attributing anything to me or offending anybody, and it’s MILD and BRIEF, it’s okay if it will comfort my mother.
Remember good times together, sing and dance, drink heavily. LAUGH as much as realistically possible. Celebrate the time we had together, and set out to continue having good times. Make sure you throw a little extra fun in there to account for my share.
In closing, let me just say that there’s nothing like a HORRID display at a funeral to make you think twice about your life and your death. It’s crazy to think how suddenly someone can be gone… I’m very thankful that I’d been talking to Matt quite a bit before he died, but I know there are others out there that I haven’t kept in as good of contact with.
Let’s do better, shall we? If I were to die tomorrow, I’d hate for anyone out there to not know what they meant to me.