Wednesday, October 22, 2008


1. Which is the best funeral you ever visited?

I don’t think I’ve ever been to the kind of funeral I’d like for myself, with the exception of the one we just held for our beloved golden retriever, Belle, who died in May of last year at the ripe old age of 15. We scattered her ashes in her favorite places: Cape Cod Bay, our garden, and under the boys’ fort in our back yard, where she loved to stay cool on hot summer days. Then we planted a dogwood tree in our fairy garden, and the boys decorated the site with some favorite rocks. We read some wonderful dog poems and had a good cry. And every year, when the dogwood tree blooms, we smile to think of the spirit of our fairy dog.

2. Which is the worst funeral you ever visited?

Probably my first, the funeral of a classmate of mine in high school, a girl so full of life who died of leukemia. I didn’t know what to think about it, didn’t have anyone to process with, and just cried a lot without understanding why. The last one I attended was for a young wife and mother of two little girls, a beautiful woman who died of breast cancer. It was tragic. I identified too much with her.

3. Did you make any plans for your own funeral?

Not formally, although I’ve got a little mental list of music I’d like played or sung when my ashes are scattered, like Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” and “Sing Me To Heaven,” a choral piece by Daniel Gawthrop, and Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus,” which is just one of the most beautiful songs ever written. And I want a big party, perhaps at the beach, then at my home, with eating and drinking and dancing. I want my photo albums out so people can take any photos they want for keepsakes, and I want laughing and crying and story telling. I want lots of living at my funeral.

4. What are your thoughts on burial in the soil versus cremation? Which is better? Which is better for you?

I too am registered as an organ donor, which you can do in Massachusetts when you get a driver’s license (speaks to the danger of driving, I suppose). I would like to be cremated and scattered in my garden, so that I can get right to work making the flowers grow, which is what I’d be doing if I were alive. It’s all about the circle of life, as far as I’m concerned. And there’s no sense just lying around when there’s work to do. :-)

My favorite thoughts about death come from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, where he asks what the grass is and comes up with some wonderful ideas, like “the beautiful uncut hair of graves.” He wonders about those who have lived and died before him, and concludes,

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas'd the moment life appear'd.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

5. And finally: Isn't it just odd that the word funeral starts with fun...? What are your thoughts on the very word? And what is the word for funeral in your language, if your first language isn't English?

I did a little searching on the etymology of the word, which always fascinates me. It seems that “funeral” comes from the Indo-European root dheu, which means “to close, finish, come full circle,” which I think is definitely appropriate. My grandmother died on her birthday, after being sick for some time. I think she did it on purpose. I always find it beautiful when babies are born into families around the time of a family member’s death. My second son, Jacob David, gets his middle name from my husband’s cousin, who baptized my first son, Jackson, but died shortly before Jacob was born. There is really no death…

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