People should think about their funerals "early on," says Ken Hayes, vice dent of El Camino Memorial Park and Mortuaries, “You should think about dying as soon as you're able to reason with the rest of your life. Americans don't realize they're going die; they don t want to face death. Europeans, they talk about death. ”
San Diegans talk about death too, albeit reluctantly. We recently asked local folks how they foresaw their funerals, or how they would like their funerals to be. Though a few demurred (“I frankly find the subject — I’m sure there’s a proper adjective for it — from ‘morose’ to maybe ‘unspeakable’ ”), many tackled the opportunity with zest and described highly personalized scenarios, which are printed here verbatim.
Hayes himself recalls a few such unique requests from years past. “I can remember when I was with a downtown mortuary, and in comes some cowboys. They wanted cowboy music. The owners were very set in their ways about how funerals should be. They said, ‘Oh, no, we can’t have that. What will all the rest of the people think?’ And I remember saying, ‘Who cares what they think? They’re their friends. They’re probably listening to the same music.’” And a group of local bikers had their own memorable instructions for Hayes. He recalls, “I told them, ‘If you want to throw the motorcycle in the grave, you take it back out before you fill it up,’ and they said, ‘But that was his motorcycle.’ So I said, ‘Fine. You throw it in, it’s a symbol of the man, but out it comes when you’re through. You can’t put the vault in with the motorcycle in there. It won’t fit.’ ”
Hayes comments on a recent trend in funerals, “Unfortunately, we get a lot of young people in here — car accidents, drownings — and [their friends] will turn out for the service. They have no compunction about getting up and saying something about their classmate. What that shows is that the young people coming along right now realize that death is something that goes along with living, and they want to share their part of the living with the family.”
And a few San Diegans want to share their funeral requests with us — from dolphin-and-surfboard ceremonies to all-night beer busts. Though, if history and experience are any predictors, our survivors will chicken out and send us off with an event more sedate and traditional, despite our fantasies of Hank Williams tunes or taking the Harley with us to the great beyond.
Retired officer, San Diego Police Department
I was a policeman for 28 years, a patrolman for 15 years, in Southeast and Barrio Logan. After I go wherever I go, I want to be cremated and to have my friends take my ashes up in a police surveillance aircraft, dump me over that general area. But this plan probably is not going to come to pass because my wife decided that would not be a proper way to distribute myself over San Diego. So I settled for Plan B: I want to be buried among my friends and compatriots from the police department; and there’s a little part of El Camino Memorial Park that is kind of dedicated to law enforcement. My best friend Gene Spurlock is buried there; my best policewoman friend Julie Cross is buried there. And then there are a number of policemen buried there in the line of duty. (Milbum Stone, “Doc” Adams from Gunsmoke, is also buried there.)
But before they plant me, I want a military funeral — I rate a military funeral because I’m a veteran of World War II. I want a color guard of Marines. There are six: I want two white males and the rest of them to be comprised of minorities and females. That’s where I spent my whole life in the police department, in the minority community.
Next, I want a baritone male singer to sing “My Way,” and I want, when they get ready to put me in the ground, I want one bagpiper to stand on the hill and play “Amazing Grace.”
Psychic, astrologer, and Clairvoyant
I see my funeral as a ritual to celebrate completions. It is, in a sense, a graduation, and I would prefer that it be treated accordingly. The service would definitely be nontraditional. Friends and family would dress as elegantly or as if they were attending a Jimmy Buffett concert. The service would be held at the old lighthouse at the Cabrillo National Monument. My body would be cremated, with an aerial scattering. The location would represent my love of beauty, and the ashes scattered in the wind would represent my love of freedom.
A few words would be spoken as a summation of my life — a sort of final report card. I would hope that it would be said I was a person who broke the rules, loved a lot, triumphed over adversity, expressed myself flamboyantly, lived life with a passion, and made a difference.
The song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra would be played for reasons obvious to those who know me. As the service concluded, “On a Roll” by Chet Atkins would be played, because you can’t listen to it without smiling. Then it would be perfect if all attending would go someplace totally outrageous to eat, drink, tell jokes, laugh, dance, and celebrate life long into the night.
Director the Hemlock Society
At this point, I want to be embalmed and have an open casket. My first husband had his body laid out for three days in our living room; it was a great consolation to have him there. Then we had a wake, and all our friends came in and had a potluck dinner — I didn’t do anything, my friends did it all. He had a beautiful funeral with lovely music. A woman named Laura belted out “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” A close friend gave a eulogy, and in it he told a joke my husband had told him (my husband was very wry and witty). I would like to have a memorial service; my children would enjoy that. I like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” I wish I could find that Laura.
KPBS-FM interviewer and Announcer
Unlike Tom Sawyer, I don’t expect to attend my own funeral. At the same time, I have an aversion to the decoration of rotting corpses, especially if they are mine. Thirty years ago I remember an undertaker ripping a gold ring from the cold, dead finger of my grandfather, and I don’t want any such desecrations to happen to me.
I would anticipate a typical Unitarian memorial service with emphasis placed on my existence living on in the memories of those who knew me. My wish is that these memories will make the occasion a happy one. And I certainly hope the service would be followed by a really great party!
Novelist and former police officer
The question is not applicable because ever since I was invited to a Harold Robbins New Year’s Eve party, I’ve believed that I was one of those who would be spared....
John Vitro and John Robertson
Creative directors, Franklin & Associates advertising
Our funeral, which should be up' coming in the near future if it’s true what they say about stress and caffeine, will be short yet poignant. All the clients we’ve known and loved will (hopefully) say a few kind words about what full, rich, productive lives we spent trying to persuade consumers to pay attention to advertisements they weren’t interested in, about products they were even less interested in. We imagine these clients will then respectfully gather around our tomb-stones, read the final inscriptions, and ask if it’s too late to make a few small changes in the layout and copy.
President, Planned Parenthood
Ellen Payzant was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, and a community activist. She worked to better conditions for children and families, the community, and the environment. She believed strongly in the importance of family planning and actively worked to help people have loved and wanted children. Gifts in her memory may be sent to Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside Counties to further family planning efforts locally, nationally, and worldwide.
Navy Chief Journalist, Miramar Naval Air Station
A year ago, I was one of many preparing to be sent to Saudi Arabia as multinational forces gathered to repel Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces from Kuwait. A week before I was to leave, I had some dreams about what it would feel like to die — not what it looked like but what it felt like. Not physical pain or terror but a powerful sense of loss.
The following night my dreams contained instructions, a voice advising me to learn how to die. An impression of my life was visible as if it were a pool in the universe. All the water drained out, exposing everybody. The voice coaxed me to have dignity and stand up and die in the midst of the impression I had made. Not that I had been any better or worse than anyone, but that I had to be ready to take a stand and die exactly where I had made my mark. The instruction was a comfort. I was still afraid, like anyone, but I felt no panic. Yet, I made an oath that if I came back okay, I would never put myself through it again.
In the few days I had left in the U.S., everything I walked past, everyone I talked to had a different effect on me. Nothing was superficial, and it all had value. The guys in Miramar squadrons getting ready to leave with the USS Ranger would face the enemy, while I was to provide in' formation support from a staff in Saudi Arabia. If I was going to die, I was determined to make my mark giving them the best support they ever had. Pride is part of dying, foolish or not.
I walked through my house looking at things, touching them as if I were someone else coming in to dispose of them after being notified of the death. Somehow my senses took on the identity of a stranger, and I was looking at all my own personal effects for the first time. In a box under the computer table, I found carefully chosen birthday cards from a lifetime of birthdays that would come no more. In the back yard I saw an exceptionally good-looking border collie waiting in the grass. It seemed like he was rehearsing too — no wagging tail, looking very quiet and sad. On the bookshelf I scanned titles contrary to one another; stories about Tarzan, the wild West, collecting sea shells, a Judy Collins songbook, Ayn Rand novels, gardening books, Sport Science, The Pentagon Papers, and The Search for Amelia Earhart, not to mention Advanced Electronic Troubleshooting and According to Hoyle. A very big life and all gone. It occurred to me I would be remembered for exactly who I was.
I hoped I wasn’t a slob and shifted my gaze to the linen closet to see if I was neat. I looked in my checkbook to see if all was in order. The garage was clean and there was peace in the house. My dog had the saddest face. I was compelled to leave something behind for whomever found it, so I left a note that said, “I would very much want my family and friends to know how much I love them. Even though my life took some bad twists here and there, I have always been grateful for you. I’ve not been the most attentive as a daughter, sister, cousin, aunt, niece, friend — I don’t remember birthdays like you do, I don’t buy gifts for others, visit a lot or cultivate our bonds. I’ve mostly kept to myself, yet believe me, the bonds are very strong. Maybe I was nuts for going... but I’ve been a sucker for this kind of thing all my life. I don’t know why.”
Two days before I was to fly out, I was held back for the emerging priorities of real war in the ’90s — instantaneous information support for Miramar. I was disappointed but got over it quickly. Real war and the potential for death and loss have no time for whiners. I would not want to be remembered as the one who almost went to fight Iraq and whined when she was left behind.
Director Blackfriars Theatre (formerly Bowery Theater)
The proceedings will begin with a New Orleans-style jazz funeral procession, with two bands playing their numbers in alternation and improvising together. One is to be a traditional African American, Preservation Hall' style group; the other a Klezmer ensemble playing the jazz of my great' grandfathers in Europe. All music is to be appropriately uptempo.
Upon arrival at the gravesite, the bands will briefly pause and then render a special arrangement of “Dixie,” combining both musical styles (which are fairly similar anyway). After another brief pause, a cantor will sing El Molay Rachamim (God full of mercy) in the slow, traditional Jewish style.
Then a personal friend, whose name will be found in an updated casting file attached to my will, is to recite just the first four lines of the “All the world’s a stage” speech from Shakespeare's As You Like It. He (or she) will then say, “Let us remember Ralph Elias,” and ask for silence, to be maintained for six minutes.
The silence is to be followed by a fiddle solo of “House of the Rising Sun” in the style of Vassar Clements — an audiotape will be included with the casting file. Following this, the traditional Kaddish will be spoken by my immediate family, at the conclusion of which the bands will strike up “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and depart.
KFMBTV sportscaster and former San Diego Chargers player and coach
I’m going to set aside a nice amount of cash for my friends and family to throw one hell of a party, somewhere good. It would be casual — come as you are, act as you want. And I don’t want a bunch of people sitting around crying and grieving. I want them to say, “He had a great life, he’s going to a great place now, let’s celebrate.” I wouldn’t mind having my ashes spread at sea; we’re running out of land in San Diego anyhow.
San Diego City Councilman, Second District
After some deliberation, I have decided that I’d like my funeral to coincide with the 50th anniversary celebration of the “Twinports” on Otay Mesa in the year 2050. The ceremony should be modest in size but include a fly-over by a squadron of the latest in civilian hypersonic aircraft from the Twinports facilities.
Steven L. Brezzo
Director, San Diego Museum of Art
I would not plan a funeral; I would have a little party at a bookstore somewhere down in the Village in New York, hung with Max Beckmann prints. Have a nice little vintage wine decanted, with a Charlie Parker tape as background music. Hors d’oeuvres would be peanut butter on Ritz crackers, and everyone would get to select the book of their choosing and return home with it.
Mario Acevedo Torero
Artist and member of the San Diego Commission for Arts & Culture
In order for me to speak of my funeral, I must first reflect on what my life has been and what I would like it to be remembered as.
It would be like an art opening — a retrospective show with all my best paintings and banners hanging and candles and incense burning around a chair that my dead body is strapped to. My chest is exposed through my clothing, and it has been hollowed out so that in place of my heart is a picture of Christ with a burning heart (which is lit up by a light or candle). My forearms and hands are sitting on the chair’s arm supports with my hands open, and in one I have a three-inch diameter replica of the earth and in the other one, a “soft” gun (like Dalí’s “soft” clocks).
I am dressed like a cosmic Simón Bolívar, with a button of Che Guevara pinned to my jacket. Jimi Hendrix music is playing, featuring the double album Electric Ladyland. My head is propped up so it is straight, facing forward, with shades on. I am sitting on a golden king’s chair on an altar-like pyramid surrounded by portrait pictures of my family — my mother, father, sisters, and their children, wives, my children, some of my closest friends, and pictures of Picasso, Dali, and Gauguin.
I have a Mayan hairdo, and the backing of the headrest of the chair is an Inca-Aztec-like sun god image coming through a pink cloud formation with golden rays emanating out four or five feet, creating a multi' pointed star. The base of the chair has on both sides (right and left) a fountain of water spouting two feet up, with the water running on a track, unifying into one track, and pouring down the front of the stairs toward the base of the altar, where six steps (one foot each) lead into a small, lit up pool of water lilies with four live carps swimming in it. The edge of each step of the pyramid like altar has pulsating converging lights.
The pyramid itself (six to eight feet wide by six feet high) has rainbow colors, each step a different color moving up from purple, red, orange, yellow, green, and light blue. The portraits sit over the steps, along with other offerings brought by guests and mourners. The room I am in is painted dark purple grey, and on the altar sits my personal belongings, including my hat, yellow radio, and gloves. People will enter the room through three small openings, 27x27 inches each.
See you there, and happy Día de los Muertos....
Columnist, Los Angeles Times
As a humble servant to my readers, I ask only for a dollop of dignity befitting a man who tried to do his duty for Times-Mirror and country four times a week and never missed a deadline.
A 30-day period of national mourning decreed by the president, a full plate of KPBS documentaries and newspaper feature stories exploring my canon, and a gangland funeral with acres of flowers and miles of limousines will be sufficient.
Please allow Hulk Hogan, Russell Baker, Uncle Fan (the chief cook at my favorite Chinese restaurant), and a golf pro at Torrey Pines Golf Course to be pallbearers. Tell the pro I’m still working on my four-iron shot.
A commemorative elegy would be fine. “O columnist! My columnist! Our fearful trip is done” has a nice ring.
I’ll be eternally grateful.
Daniel L. Muñoz
Publisher, La Prensa San Diego
A happy occasion. No — a joyous occasion, where I will lie surrounded by family, friends, and the curious. Mariachi music will play continuously, Mexican antojitos will be served along with tequila, cerveza, and sodas, and no one will be saddened by my demise.
I wish no one to be unhappy, as death signals the end of my time in hell, and the time has arrived to go to eternal happiness. Death holds no fear but rather one of anticipation as I know that soon I will be seeing so many of my friends and family that have left.
I leave, but my reincarnation has already been laid in the bodies and souls of my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The line will continue through eternity. As I have carried the line from the days of my ancient forefathers, so will it continue in my children.
The “Rolodex Madam”
All the people listed in my Rolodex would be required to attend the cremation ceremony of me and the original Rolodex. The combined ashes would then be flown first class overseas and scattered over the Philippine Islands.
Chef, Malcolm’s First Avenue
At first I thought it was a joke: the Reader asks me for my thoughts on my funeral, with the notes due on my 40th birthday. When I realized they were serious, I started to think, Odd, isn’t it, that so many of my friends in their 20s and 30s discuss this all the time and have already planned their funeral arrangements.
Having been to far too many funerals this past year, I’ve had a chance to discover likes and dislikes. Definitely liked the haunting eeriness of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” out on the water. Loved the handing out of photos in healthier times. Hated the funeral home guy in a bad suit standing up to dismiss us with “Thanks for coming” and the souvenir six-inch rulers with the mortuary’s name printed on them.
For me, since we’re definitely talking cremation, we can eliminate the funeral home altogether. Why should a funeral have to involve the disposal of remains? Friends could gather anywhere (I know lots of party planners).
I really like the idea of opening with a video, pre-recorded, where I could break the ice with a few funny anecdotes. Anyone who wanted to could get up and say a few words. Tell some stories. “Remember the time she hit that waiter with a chicken?” My best friend Kate should say some deep, serious stuff.
Of course, we’d wrap it all up with one more great food event — wine, chefs trying to outdo each other, that sort of thing. My kids Josh and Danielle could decide what to do with the ashes. I know they’d think up something strangely creative and perfect.
Owner; Saffron restaurant
Death is a transitory state of life; it’s like one of those big moments we all must experience. Having lost both my mother and a companion during these past couple of years, I live with the constant thought of my own death.
During some dark moments, death seemed like a welcomed relief from pain. And yet, what ultimately pulled me back each time was the unbearable thought of the suffering I would inflict upon those whom I love. I could not do that to them.
And thus, if ever I am to go, my funeral will be a ritual for those I love to have as a beginning of a new step toward grieving and healing, as it has been for me.
I have lived most of my life by the Pacific Ocean in California. The place that has given me spiritual comfort and strength is a cliff overlooking Blacks Beach in La Jolla. Whenever my soul needed to be soothed, I would walk to the cliff and watch the ocean. I love the strong wind arising from the canyon. I would like to be cremated, with part of my ashes scattered over the horizon. A small amount of the ashes would be buried either in my back yard under the large Chinese elm tree or someplace where my daughter would so wish; someplace where she would find the comfort if ever she should need it in the remembrance of me.
Father Nicholas Christiana
My funeral will have the theme of “Bridge over Troubled Waters.” I took that from the Simon and Garfunkel song. I strive to live my life by taking care of myself and being a bridge for others.
Invited to celebrate the Liturgy would be priests who have had a role in my developing as a person. Since I have not asked them personally, I will not give their names. Also, the men and women of the AIDS chaplaincy program, with whom I have the privilege of ministering, will be asked to join the celebration.
The music for the Mass of Resurrection will be very upbeat. I have not made a request yet, but I would be privileged to have the choir from Christ the King Catholic Church, San Diego, sing. Their music and presentation is filled with the Spirit. Songs that I would use for the meditation would be “Bridge over Troubled Waters” and “Be Not Afraid.” Other songs will be of their choosing. The Scripture readings would consist of I Corinthians 13, which is Paul’s treatise on love, and Matthew 25:31ff, which is entitled “The Last Judgment.” These two readings reflect how I strive to live my life now.
Due to my present physical condition, it is unfortunate that my organs cannot be used for transplants. My body will be cremated. The ashes will be disposed of with dignity.
Because I’m a big fan of the ocean, that’s where I’d like to end up being — living, I guess, sort of scattered among my friends the dolphins. They usually don’t like you to throw full-on bodies out there, so first you have to be burned up — that’s okay; hang out with the flames for a touch. Probably a good way to do it would be to have the folks who wanted to be part of the celebration to get on surfboards — big, Long ones, nine-footers — everyone paddle out about a half mile, and that’s where the ceremony would take place. Then just sort of have a few words and be sprinkled into the water.
It would be nice if I died when I was old so there wouldn’t be a huge amount of sadness during the funeral. “Well, this guy lived a neat life, and he made it to the age of 70,” so there could be a bit of humor among the ritual. Oh God! What if it was in the middle of winter when it happened? People would have to wear wetsuits....
Mario De Blasio
Manager; Goodbody’s Mortuary
I would like my funeral ceremony to be a combination of the traditional and the new. I would not want to deprive my family of the healing experience of going through a funeral ceremony. We have to understand that the funeral is not so much for the deceased as for the spiritual and psychological needs of relatives and friends.
I want my funeral to be a festive celebration of a life completed and the beginning of a new one. I want my family and friends to remember and share the good times they had with me.
When I did a cross-country bike trip ten years ago, I gave to my close personal friend Buck Parker my funeral instructions. I’ve been to a few traditional Christian church, organized-religion deals and thought they were lacking in vitality, humor, and the acceptance of death as part of life.
So my instructions to him are as follows: I don’t want to be buried in a coffin; I want people to carry me, hopefully, like, in a sheet — I have this Dale Earnhard race car blanket that would be nice. It would be good if it was a full moon, raining, bonfires, and dogs howling. They can just be carrying me in the sheet while they sing, whatever song they’re singing — possibly an Elvis song or maybe a Pogues song. I hope there’d be much drinking, philosophizing, wrastling, wagering, and extemporaneous pontification during my demise. I fully expect a demise, and I expect most everybody else will too.
Essential ingredients for the Falken-thal Farewell: Loud music, strong drink, wild men, and wilder women. I want everyone I’ve ever talked to there. After a lifetime of broadcasting and politics, the San Diego Convention Center may be the only place big enough.
My friends Rachel Gardiner and Laurel De-Haan will be your hosts. Food by El Indio ... Beverages by Liquor Bam ... Music provided by a wide array of old college pals from my SDSU days at KCR radio. The playlist: danceable music from punk to Porter, and plenty loud.
I want my guests to talk about me behind my back just like they do now, swapping barely factual stories about me. I want hearty shrieks, laughter, new romances, strangers dancing with each other, and glasses lifted again and again in my honor. When everyone reluctantly begins to leave, I want them to barely have the strength to do so!
There would also be a very private party arranged by Rachel and Laurel for a select group: all the men I’ve had “meaningful” liaisons with over the years. I’d give anything to get them together in one room, circling each other and trying to figure out how they measure up. It would drive them crazy, and that’s the point. They’d all deserve it. The array of ages, physical types, and ethnic backgrounds would dumbfound them. It’s one of the few things I wouldn’t have the nerve to pull while I’m alive.
No burial, no services. My family can scatter my ashes at sea on a beautiful day and enjoy the sun and wind and water. No one should put their real friends and loved ones through the agony of a lengthy, dour funeral, to say nothing of making them wear uncomfortable shoes.
Director; Ecological Life Systems Institute
Basically, I would like to be composted. If you look at the way the ecology of the planet works, we’re all basically products of recycling. Every molecule of our body has all been recycled over and over again down through time. And when we fill people up with poisons and bury them in boxes and caskets, all we’re doing is slowing up the process of getting back into the system again.
At this point there is no legal way to be composted. It might become a new type of entrepreneurial activity. But short of that, my next choice would be to be cremated. The drawbacks of that is it uses up fossil fuel energy because you have to create the heat. That, of course, would add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. If the ashes were distributed into the environment, at least the micronutrients that our bodies contain would get back into the system again.
San Diego City Councilmember, Seventh District
I thought it would be nice to have my ashes strewn over Cowles Mountain, where I can keep my eye on my home, watch the children enjoy Mission Trails Regional Park, and count the cars traveling along Mission Trails Parkway.
Dear Family and Friends:
If you are reading this, then you have obviously opened the envelope marked “Steve’s Funeral Instructions.” You are either incredibly nosy or I have died.
I just want to tell you what I want my funeral to be like. I really don’t want you to cry, but it’s okay if you do. I always cry at funerals, even funerals of people I didn’t know. But have lots of music and try to celebrate as well. Have someone play “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” on flute or violin. Invite Bono in to sing “A Sort of Homecoming.” Brother Bobby can do “I Shall Be Released.” Club of Rome should definitely lead a sing-along of “Roses to Moses,” and everybody can try to think of words that rhyme with Steve.
And you must have the funeral with trees. I want my body cremated and the ashes buried at the foot of a fruit tree. I will nourish the tree and become part of it. Every year in the fall, you can come eat the fruit and play the songs, and you will have visions filled with my memories. Bury the ashes of Trudy and my two little sons there as well, and we will live together forever in our family tree.
Keep singing our songs as the years go by and love each other just a little bit more to make up for what I can no longer give.
Rabbi Arthur Zuckerman
Congregation Beth Am,Solana Beach
My feelings are that a person is put on this earth for a specific period of time. It is our goal to accomplish as much as possible. So much so that my feelings even about sleeping are different than the average person’s. The average person sleeps eight hours a day, and if you stop to think about it, one third of your life you just slept away. I try to sleep between four and six hours a night, which allows me to do reading, writing, and thinking.
It is my understanding that we are able to make up certain losses that we have in life. Time is not one of them. And therefore, time to me is very valuable. A major portion of my time I spend with people. I consider myself first and foremost a teacher. The Aramaic word for teacher is Rabbi, and that is how I perceive a major role of rabbinics.
Since I don’t know (nor do I believe any of us do) how long we are destined to be on this earth, it is imperative that we make the most of our time. When I do leave this world, I would like it to say on my tombstone more than the words born, existed, and died. I would like to feel that I have made a difference. I would like to feel that I had an impact on modem-day Judaism and American society at large.
And finally, with regards to my two sons, Nevo and Amitai, I would hope and pray that they would continue the heritage of our people.
Club and KCR radio deejay, record producer
Throughout our lives we try to avoid consumer bear traps, yet when our bucket is booted, we all slap down dead presidents to pay for burial sites and body housing. The idea that people in the death industry capitalize on our misfortune kills the joy of designer epitaphs. Chances are, the overpriced obligatory caskets are recycled as soon as the procession is over, and our cadavers end up inside Happy Meals.
Besides, the problem with a headstone is simple. For the first couple of days there’d be plenty of tears; a month later these tears will convert to internal knots and pangs of remorse. And after about a year, you’ll be raking in flowers and maybe even a token thought. Three years later, some affectionate cohorts will be having a flesh picnic eight feet above you, while carelessly crushing your floral arrangement. In the words of Jim Thirlwell, “The inscription on my tombstone reads WISH YOU WERE HERE.’ ”
Author of Living With Hope: Dying With Dignity
My last rites will take place at the Rep, which will have achieved worldwide renown for producing my play. First, Sam Woodhouse will sit on the stage in corduroy pants and talk philosophy. Doug will nod. Jack O’Brien will kick himself.
Next, news anchor Maria Velasquez will interview long-time Mayor Ron Oliver about my contributions to the business community. George Storey will say a few words about my incredible negotiation skills. Roy Bell will read the will.
Lorraine Ortiz will sing country songs, and Laura Preble will sing the blues with Richard James playing bass, a cut from their latest album. Dennis will read poems from my book, featured in all 26 of his D.G. Wills franchise stores. Sue Garson will be in Azerbaijan.
Dorene Whitney will see that my funeral garb reflects the best of fashion, and Tom Gable will choose the wine. Carol Sonstein, famed portrait photographer, will come back to take society photos for the Selfs. David Nelson will make an appearance as a friend, but Phyllis Pfeiffer will write the obit herself.
Jim Hammond, a legend at Christie’s auction house, will fly in from Paris and create a sculpture for my burial urn. He’ll sprinkle some of my ashes into the cappuccinos at Lulu’s.
And the rest of my former lovers will sob hysterically.
As for me, I’ll be radiantly present, hovering over every heart and whispering, “See, I told you to believe in God!”
Freelance writer former cohost of Sun-Up
Forget the funeral. I hope there’s not enough left after “harvesting” whatever could still be useful to another living body. My heart, my corneas, whatever still works after serving me well for years and, knock wood, many more years. I’d like to make appearances after my death in operating rooms across the country to the tune of “Take All of Me.”
Jeff and Jer (Jeff Elliott and Jerry St. James)
First off, we do believe in purgatory, the way station between heaven and hell. We have a feeling that God places the gates to heaven somewhere in the Horton Plaza parking garage. He doesn’t tell you where, and you must wander for weeks on end, searching. Banana 3. Watermelon 1. Kumquat 4. This we believe to be true.
Should we happen to go together, we would like to be revitalized by audio-animatronics and placed on the set of Chuck E. Cheese pizza in Scripps Ranch, where we’d do three shows an hour with Chuckie and cast.
After that, our plans differ...
Jeff: This creeps some people out, but I bought my plot five years ago. It’s important to me that I know for sure that I’ll be buried beside my family — parents, grandparents, brothers — on a hillside in my home town in Ohio. So much of what I am comes from those people and that place, I know that’s what I want. I own two plots, in case I ever convince a woman to go down the aisle with me again, perhaps she’d be laid to rest beside me. If she doesn’t choose to, we’ll probably give away that spot to the 12th caller on the air.
Jerry: I plan to die one day before Jeff and sneak into the plot he bought five years ago. I know that’s dishonest, but I’ll be dead, and frankly I won’t give a damn. If that doesn’t work out, because of my love of animals and the sea, I’ll probably join the Neptune Society and have my ashes scattered across the ocean. If there’s a still wind blowing that day, don’t eat lunch at George’s at the Cove.
John C. Gill, M.D.
Death is such a messy business. I should know — I see enough of it as an emergency department physician. To quote a sonnet by John Donne, “Death be not proud.” No, it’s usually a tawdry, depressing time for all involved except the deceased. God only knows how he feels.
Therefore, I’d like mine to have all the excitement of a Mardi Gras. I would dispense first with the body. Call it a boating accident, lost at sea, a plane crash. Something short and painless. I would insist there be merriment, music, and mugs of strong ale rather than mourning, moralizing, and mumbling. People would say things they dared not say in my presence. There’d be a menagerie of misfits. A little old man picking lint off his clothes, too mangy to be asked who he was. A woman sporting blue bouffant hair heaving her cookies in the comer flower pot. The mayor, of course, dying to leave and wondering how she got here in the first place. Trapped by literary license, I’d say.
Just as the crowd, embarrassed by irreverent revelations and discom-posed by these bizarre surroundings, was about to decamp, an amazing thing happens. The little old man throws off his thrift shop outfit, and I emerge.
Physically unscathed but verbally abused by my own mourners, I utter those immortal words: “I’m afraid rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Better luck next time.” And beat a path out the front door to my awaiting Lamborghini.
My first choice: stuff me in a Hefty bag and toss it off a cliff. But if the sentimental insist, go to Plan B — an open-casket affair. Lay me out in a pine box sans everything but a Jack Kerouac T-shirt. Cover the sides of the box with butcher paper. Provide plenty of pens. Tape mourners’ mouths shut. All communications must be in writing — except for occasional giggles. Everyone files by the casket, looks in, jots down impressions of what they’ve just seen. First thought, best thought. Those particularly moved are free to scribble on the corpse. Haiku only, pls. When everyone’s finished, the funeral becomes a publication party, the casket now my final poem. And probably a best-seller.
After all, I’m dead.