I thought I would be much, much older before so many of my friends died. I thought I had more time. That’s the thing, isn’t it? We always think we have more time.
Well, we don’t. That’s just the thing. Cherish every single moment because while time is not finite, our lives are. We are so delicately, so miserably, so beautifully finite.
I am sad to say I have had more experience with funerals* and wakes and ‘celebrations of life’ than I would really like to have had at this point in my own life. And I have something to say about it right now. It’s not politically correct. It’s not going to make anyone feel any better. If you’re the sort of person who needs trigger warnings, well, there are probably triggers all over the damned place in what I’m going to say.
When I die, I goddamned well want people to be sad. I want you to mourn. I want you to grieve. I want you to sob and to wail and to gnash your teeth. Because grief and sadness have a place, an *important* place in our lives. We have to learn to let go of hurt, and the only way to do this – seriously, the *only* way to do this – is to grieve. To let that sadness wash over you in wave after wave of throat-stabbing, chest-heaving wave. To cry so bloody hard your tears dry out and your nose is raw from wiping away all the snot.
Grief is raw, it’s visceral. It’s not *pretty*. But it’s beautiful. Grief is one of those things that bind us to one another. It’s one of those things we have all experienced. Every one of us has lost a friend, or a pet, or a family member, or, what the hell, a beloved gewgaw, gadget, or toy. It’s okay to grieve for lost things. It’s okay to be sad. The purpose of grief, then, is to embrace that sadness fully in order that we can move past it. To experience it so that we don’t drown in it. To learn to swim, in other words.
I get what we’re trying to do when we say we’re going to have a “celebration of his/her life”. I know we’re trying to focus on all the great things our loved one did; all the awesome ways they made us feel good. We’re trying to focus on the good memories in order to ameliorate the heavy, bleak white and scarred landscape that our souls become when we lose someone. But at some level, that’s completely missing the point.
A while ago, for reasons that I only understand in terms of listening to what the universe is saying (I will not beg forgiveness for my understanding of how the universe works. I’ve done enough of that, frankly.), I wrote my father’s obituary. My father isn’t dead. I am terrified of having to face my father’s death, and I woke in the middle of the night and thought, “I’d better jot something down now because God knows I won’t be able to when the time comes, and since I’m the last member of his family alive (other than the kids, of course), I’d better do this now.” So I did. And I wept the whole time. My sobs shook the bed. I also haven’t…told my father that I’ve written his obituary. That would probably weird him out, so maybe let’s just keep this between you and me, okay?
You are bloody well right that I expect people to be upset at my father’s wake. He is a great man, with a great many friends, and his life has touched many, many others. He is a giving, caring soul, despite his many ‘accidents’ with my (former) pets, and I expect he will be mourned. He is utterly irreplaceable. What we will be grieving is that we will no longer have the chance to sit with him and hear his laughter. We won’t be able to make any new memories. The only way we’ll be able to be with him will be to tell stories.
Now, stories are powerful strong, and a good story can bring a man back until you can damn near see him. But not strong enough to feel his arms around you or to just sit at the table and talk. And that’s why we grieve. That’s why we NEED to grieve. And wakes and memorials are the time when we all grieve together. Where it’s okay to show our vulnerability. Our sadness. We are strong together in our weakness.
So when I die, you motherfuckers better be sad. You had better grieve and mourn and for those of you who don’t, well, I probably pissed you off right good and never got the chance to figure out what I did wrong. I do plenty wrong, and I do wrong things often. We all do.
I love having you in my life. I love spending time with you, or chatting with you or talking to you, or reading your words. You are important. You are brilliant. You are worth it. I have no idea if I’ll miss you when I croak. But when I do, I want you to be sad *together*. If there’s one thing I want my life to have done, it’s to have brought people together (with or without Very Awkward Verb Tenses). I want to have made a difference, however small.
So. Just so’s you know. I don’t want any of this “come and celebrate cenobyte’s life at blah-blah-blah”. I want “look, we’re all pretty miserable about this, so let’s all be miserable about it together, okay?”
And of course, part of this is spurred by the possibility (however real or imagined) that there will be five non-family members at my wake, and three of them will have been hired according to the tenets of my will, as traditional keeners. YOU KNOW I’LL DO THAT.
*I want to note here that the purpose of religious funerals is very specific, and that is to note and celebrate (in the sense of the word that means ‘observe in a religious rite’) the journey of one’s soul to whichever nirvana to which your religion adheres. So I’m kind of not talking about religion-based funerals in this little rant, although I’m sure I have something like that burbling away somewhere.