"Don't Surprise Me At My Funeral"

Do you ever think about your own funeral? Maybe I am weird, but I do sometimes.

I once went to the funeral of an acquaintance, a man in his mid-sixties who died of a heart attack. As I entered the church, to my surprise, I was greeted by a jazz band playing loud music. The tone was festive, the people were wearing brightly colored clothes, and the air was almost celebratory. More than once we were told “this is how he wanted it,” almost as a veiled admission that something was amiss. I mean, blame it on the deceased. Even the dead are entitled to bad taste.

Ever since that experience, I have given much thought to how I want my funeral to be. So if you attend it one day, and somebody says “that’s how he wanted it,” bring these notes and feel free to cross-reference them with the funeral. Feel free to protest too, if things don’t go as I asked. I don’t want my funeral to surprise me. So here are some notes to my funeral:

First of all, while the “jazz funeral” is at one end of the spectrum, at the other end are the uncontrollably sobbing and screaming that goes on in some other funerals. I want neither. Sometimes in Christian funerals people are so quick to play the “absent from the body, present with the Lord” note that they end up suppressing what is a natural, genuine human feeling — the pain of losing a loved one. So at my funeral, I don’t want people to put on an artificial face of comfort but neither do I desire for them to “lose it.” If you are sad, show sadness; if you are happy, show happiness. Just don’t embarrass me at my funeral.

Secondly, don’t go looking for highlighted texts in my Bible. First of all, while I own many Bibles, most of my Bible reading is done online these days. Also, I am not one who likes to mark books — I am still old-fashioned about approaching books with a certain reverence, whether sacred or not. And when it comes to the Bible, I have never been a “highlighter” because when I used to read more from the printed text I never liked to condition my mind to only look at passages I had previously highlighted. I always want to discover the hidden treasures in this precious Word.

Don’t look for favorite verses. For all my adult life I have tried to read three chapters of the Bible every day plus one chapter of Proverbs, corresponding to the day of the month. So I like them all, but you could say that if I have a favorite it is a book and not a verse. The most practical and true to life lessons you can find in the Bible are in the Book of Proverbs. Just like the Geico commercial, five minutes of Proverbs can save you from ruining your life — a slightly better advantage over saving 15% in car insurance…

Thirdly, I have seen a lot of dead people in my life and no matter the expertise of the funeral home, none of those people looked as good dead as they did alive. And I haven’t seen anyone who was already bad turning out to be prince (stiff) charming in the casket… So by all means, no open casket for me. I would rather prefer that the last image people have of me is one of the time I was still alive.

Fourthly, cremate my body. Some Christians are afraid of cremation because they know that God is going to do something with the body in the resurrection. So if my start-up kit is nowhere to be found, how will they be able to rise again? Silly. Don’t you think that the same God who created you might just have an idea of what your DNA is? God doesn’t have to be a grave-digger to revive your fine constitution. Plus, Paul said that this will be a spiritual body not a physical one. I don’t care where you spread my ashes, all I care about is that I reduce the costs for those left behind.

Finally, a program note. No long sermon. Music is okay, but no favorite hymns. No exaggerated eulogies. I don’t want people to make me a saint when they talk about what I did. If anybody talks, my preference would be for them to talk about who I was and not what I did. Look for people who can say that felt my  heartbeat. Find someone who cried with me at a long intersection in their lives, someone who saw me when tragedy struck and when life was good. Let them talk about how I handled those situations.

Then, if you have a moment to spare, show this video by Rev. E. V. Hill, part 3 of the sermon “If I Only Had One Message to Preach” (don’t play parts 1 and 2, only part 3). You may wait until the funeral or you may chose to watch it now. It’s about 8 minutes long.

How about you? Which notes will you leave for your funeral?

Ivanildo C. Trindade