I was listening to some auld guff from a fella yesterday, some shite about death, his plans for his funeral, picking out the plot, selecting his coffin and planning everything down to the last detail. I thought ‘For the love o’ Jaysus, you’re a long way off dead yet, would you ever kop yourself on!’ In fairness I didn’t actually say it out of respect, he’s a bit closer to the tipping point than I am, (any surprises from my dodgy ticker notwithstanding) but it got me thinking about the whole thing. You know my own eventual demise and what sort of a gig it might be.
My problem of course, is that you can’t really let me off on any old notion. I’ll catch a tail wind and keep going and you know what? That’s exactly what I did… I started planning my own funeral. For some reason, I went straight to the eulogy, I don’t know why. Perhaps I’m dying (pardon the pun) to hear what people say about me. Nah! I think because when I thought of it, I immediately considered writing my own (bit of a control freak). You see the problem with eulogies is that the people who can best express what mark you have left on the world are those who are closest to you, for the only mark that really matters, is love. Now the problem with them is that on the day, they’d be understandably in bits with the grief so there is usually a competent stand-in who is good with words and able to hold their sh*t together without bursting into tears. The trouble with the competent stand-in is that they tend to be just that, competent. Me being me –I want something more.(for those developing a psychological profile – that’s control freak AND egotistical perfectionist)
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not interested in leaving a legacy or making any grand funeral gestures. I have often quipped that as far as I’m concerned, you can toss my shell in a ditch when I’m gone but of course that probably won’t do now will it? That being said, if someone is going to say something that’s relevant about me after I’m gone, then given that I think it would be too emotional for my nearest and dearest to do so, then perhaps those words should come from someone who knows me best – Me. I am a writer after all.
At this stage in the thought process, I have run with it. That’s me, I’ve even begun to organise flowers and pick out coffins in my head, so I had to stop myself before I started to write a graveside oration as well and compose a requiem mass for myself, complete with a musical interlude with Ukulele. Did I mention in any of my previous blogs that my mind runs along even at its steadiest pace, at around a thousand revs per second ?
I had to stop myself, not because I might get carried away as I clearly already had, but I re-focused on the eulogy – as if that wasn’t bad enough. It seems I had been drawn in to the type of contemplation that I had immediately dismissed as ’auld guff’ just a short time earlier? So I ignored the temptation to plan the coffin and thought again about what should be said about me once I had departed as it were. Now that I had put myself in the place to write my own eulogy I struggled with what to say.
Straight away there was the problem, of pride and vanity. Leaving aside the fact that the act of doing this in itself was both proud and vain in my head (I forgave myself on the basis that this was purely an intellectual exercise to keep me sharp) I couldn’t say nice stuff about myself at all! That’s quite an Irish thing in some ways. It’s like the Penneys jumper. (Sweater to the non-Irish among you- and for the unfamiliar, Penneys is cheap and cheerful from a clothing point of view). Someone will say “nice jumper.” You answer “€2.99 – Penneys” as if to say, God no I’m not one of those people who spend loads of money on myself, sure wouldn’t I be mortified if anyone was to think that I thought I was better than them.
Now in truth, I swing a little differently, neither understating nor overstating but in a very non-Irish way, I can take a compliment. If someone says “I like your coat” I tend to say “thanks” as opposed to “What this old thing? It was a gift from a tramp – he bought it in Penneys.”
Still I couldn’t start because I couldn’t say anything nice about myself in my imagined homage to my future dead self – see it’s all perfectly logical. There was this direction as an opener, although it is a bit of an oldie;
“A kind man, an honest man, a handsome man and a gentleman… all wanted to be here today but unfortunately they couldn’t make it.”
Nah, it had to be original. I considered apologising;
“I’m sorry I can’t be here today…” again way too naff. After a while – in my head a couple of nano seconds, I got into the rhythm of it. I started off talking about loss and those that I had left behind. (This is my imagined future remember – bleak as it now sounds writing it) I was in that space between my ears, I was eloquent and very much spoke about what matters most in our time of grieving. I was almost priestly, but with a touch of George Clooney about me and a sort of Irish sounding version of a cross between Anthony Hopkins and Alan Rickman. It was then I stopped myself. I had gone way off track again.
Now don’t get me wrong, It was good. But it was more like an opening chapter to one of my books than a draft of my eulogy. In fairness it wasn’t bad and I might just expand on it and add to my works in progress. Apart from the meander that took over, there was a problem with inflection. Now I know what you’re thinking. Inflection? Yes – inflection. No matter what I came up with, it wouldn’t be me. It wouldn’t be me because of the delivery. My words would not ever be enough, to express what I might want to say to the beautiful people I might leave behind. My words needed a voice. They would deserve more than some stand-in, reading my thought’s from a page. I write like I speak.
As I type this I am adding each and every twist, the rise and fall of my voice in my head and…well… how hard is that to translate to someone else’s lips. Then I thought, I could make a video to solve the rhythm and cadence problem, but really, would anyone want to be looking at my big old head on a screen after I’m gone at a service that let’s face it, after that – would be a tough act to follow.
But my head doesn’t stand still and by this stage of the thought process, I was working on the production quality, make –up, ensemble and content of the video in the back of my mind while at the front I was working on the music. I had wandered off again but music is a strong force and for a few minutes, I indulged myself.
Now holy music is quite sombre, I do like Ave Maria but that sends everyone off into tears at funerals. Fire Starter by the Prodigy would be good, but as I still hadn’t worked out the actual important stuff like burial or cremation – that could possibly be inappropriate.
Ideally of course from a vanity point of view, it should be something to send the room to their knees in grief, but I’m more of a keep ‘em laughing type of guy. Stayin’ alive by the Bee Gees is too obvious and some might even take offence. There is always U2 The Sweetest Thing, but Bono always got on my wick so I couldn’t have that as an abiding memory for people who knew me. Then it struck me. There is only one song – and you can’t steal this now – the idea is mine so if I end up at someone I know’s funeral and hear this – I’ll go mental – but it’s a lesser known Talking Heads song called Heaven. I think it is quite appropriate and very lovely. Near the end there is a verse that always makes me think of the heartbreak of leaving my darling Joanna behind. I get all lumpy throaty just saying the words so best not to linger for my melancholy heart doesn’t need any encouragement.
While I do harbour such thoughts , I rarely let them off the dock for they are dark thoughts indeed, but I remembered when I was close to death this song touched a chord and it seemed strange that I hadn’t thought of it straight away. The verse that hooks my heart every time is;
When this kiss is over It will start again
It will not be any different
It will be exactly the same
You have to hear it really. I guess the writer in me looks for the hook. In death, in parting, when I think of never ever seeing someone you love again, a kiss seems to be the thing that first comes to mind. It is what I would focus on if I were to write the moment. The parting kiss, the slow motion memory of lips parting never to touch again. Yeah, I had to stop there. I got the whole planning of the funeral thing now – but it’s not for me, not just yet. Way too much livin’ to do – I certainly hope so.
It’s amazing how easily I get distracted. I’m like the dog in the movie Up being distracted by a squirrel. What can I say? I confess I’ve a head that works the way it works. I guess if it didn’t work that way, there’d be a whole different bunch of people at my (eventual) funeral and I like the ones I’ve got. And just in case you’re one of them, if anyone suggest playing Eric Clapton on the big day – shut that down – tell them I said so. It’s just not conducive to a good shindig or hooley…
Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
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