I’ve always said that, if I were sick with a terminal illness and had an acknowledged limited time, Baskin Robbins would know my name, and would have my double-scoop peanut butter and chocolate sugar cone cued up when they saw my face.
(Mortality is easier to think about if you don’t have to sweat the calories, it seems.)
But on a serious note: I do often ponder what I’d do if I were faced with being declared terminal. Travel? Become a recluse? Indulge my sweet tooth? Go out in a blaze, with wild hair and tattoos? Live out my days just the same as always?
One thing I have considered, and that I’ve talked to my clients about as well, is hosting my own funeral while I’m still alive. I think it would be a wonderful experience, to gather everyone who might otherwise come to a funeral together for a period of love and remembrances and farewells about me that I’d get to participate in, with the added bonus of freeing those people from expensive and disruptive last-minute travel, black clothes, somber tears, and missed opportunities for us to say the important final things to each other.
If I were to do it, I’d want to set up an open house, one I could plan far enough out to make it easy and convenient to travel to, at a time that wouldn’t disrupt workdays or important events or anything, and add in elements of hospitality–food, drinks, music, photography, remembrance trinkets. I don’t think I would choose to go all the way to having an actual funeral/church service, although I’ve said for a 20 years that Holden Evening Prayer would make the perfect funeral service for me, so if the party was at night, vespers would fit right in! But I would want to leave plenty of time for a moment with each attendee, to make sure I had said everything that needed to be said, and time for general enjoyment as well.
I was reminded of this plan recently when I read about a terminally ill woman from Kentucky doing just this when her stage IV pancreatic cancer appeared to be encroaching on her life.
Photo from richmondregister.com
In late 2015, Donna Cook hosted a gathering in her house that brought friends and family to see her and celebrate her. An article in her local paper describes how friends stopped by Donna’s living funeral to share stories with her and each other. The presence of Cook’s extended family allowed pictures, hugs, and laughter with cousins, grandkids, and other relatives together, which Donna was still present to witness and participate in.
The center of attention herself told the newspaper that the effort was definitely worth it.
For the coming days, Cook plans to spend the rest of her life with close family and friends, knowing she has made peace, shared love and enjoyed company with so many.
“This has really been something special, and I am blessed to have seen everyone,” Cook said.
Sounds wonderful, in a lemonade out of lemons way, doesn’t it? Definitely something to consider on the trail of ‘a good ending’.
Are you curious about planning your own living funeral? Or maybe a more traditional one? I can help! Leave a comment here, or reach out at http://www.marileeparsons.com