A lot more.
And since I was ordained online for fun nearly a decade ago, several of my friends have asked me to officiate at their weddings. Each ceremony has been completely unique and generally befitting the folks making vows to one another. I’ve quoted Flogging Molly, read poetry, witnessed love come walking in to music played by both friends and Muppets and have even had a perfectly timed clap of thunder put the fear of God in my heart as a bride’s mother blessed the rings. Each of these has felt like a real celebration of life and love, and it has truly been an honor to be chosen by so many friends to “do the honors”.
Years ago, I was invited by the family to read a eulogy at a friend’s funeral. He had passed unexpectedly and too soon. Unfortunately, this seems to be the fate of many of my comrades. It was painful and I stuttered and blubbered through most of what I had written. But, at the end of the day, I felt some level of catharsis for having done so. This was a first for me. Every funeral I had attended to that point had followed the same format. Preacher. Music. Preacher. Procession. Preacher. Music. Preacher. Procession.
A few years later, I attended a life celebration for another friend. This one also broke significantly from the same old song and dance. There was music and art and the mood, while somber and certainly sad, was also one that facilitated a great deal of gratitude and reflection amongst the grieving. Having attended far more funerals than I care to attempt to count, mixed amongst the standard script of “he looked so good, they did a good job” I’ve also heard lots of complaints from grieving friends and family. “Can you believe they put her in that?” “She never wore makeup like that.” “He wasn’t religious, why did they get that Baptist preacher? And what about him turning the service into an old school revival?” “She hated that song, I can’t believe they played that.” “He wanted to be cremated, not buried” and so on.
Often this is a result of premature death and a family left in shock attempting to discern what their loved ones wishes might well have been. Always it is due to a lack of a written testament of such. More often than not, I leave these services determined to ensure that such issues do not arise upon my demise. But, life tends to get in the way and its never actually happened. Currently, I am healthy as a horse and happy as a clam. But that doesn’t mean that I might not get hit by a meteor, ran over by a bus, choke on a chicken wing or simply croak in my sleep tomorrow. As such, what follows can be considered my living will—or at least the most up-to-date chronicle of how I’d like to be seen off for the afterlife (if there be any such thing).
First and foremost: no preachers. Unless Eddy Green converts to Catholicism or becomes some sort of Zen Buddhist monk for a minute like Leonard Cohen, I don’t want anyone proselytizing to my friends and family or pretending to have known me and/or the state of my soul. Rest assured that I’ve done my best to live a good life mostly without any ritual or religious instruction. If that’s not good enough then well, as the Grateful Dead so eloquently sang, “I may be going to Hell in a bucket baby, but at least I’m enjoyin’ the ride.” Personally, I’d prefer to replace this part with story time. Most of my friends and family have great tales to tell on me and a lot of them have continued to get better with age (the tales AND the friends and family). I’d never want to force anyone to stutter and stammer through such a thing if they were all grief-stricken and whatnot, but if they felt so inclined I think it would benefit everyone in the long run to laugh and/or cry together while reminiscing about some of my greatest hits (and misses).
Second: Music. Lots of it. Songs about love. Songs about life. Songs that will make people cry and songs that will make people laugh. Danielle knows the ones that move me and the ones that make me move. Having been blessed with a lot of talented musicians as friends it would be wonderful if any should survive me that they play a tune or two, but again, I’d never force such a thing on anyone so perhaps ask them kindly and see what happens. Also, art. Maybe cartoons of me, and/or a big badass oil painting like the old royals, Presidents and whatnot used to commission. Maybe a slightly surreal nude portrait (tastefully done, of course) of me lying on a Muppet-skin rug (preferably Animal). Whatever. Get creative. And make it weird. And funny. A thing’s not worth doing if its not worth doing weird and funny.
Third: I do not want to be buried. The idea of being shot up with formaldehyde and/or whatever else they use, made up and then sealed in an airtight vault under the ground for all eternity (or until the Earth explodes) really just creeps me out. Burn me up. I understand that cremation really freaks some folks out. Set their minds at ease by reminding them of the “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” thing. Maybe even play a clip of Will Ferrell singing “Dust in the Wind” from the movie Old School.
Finally, I am not opposed to a memorial marker somewhere. But I’d prefer it to be sculpture and not a standard slab of marble with my name carved in it. I spent many hours soaked in booze, tears and snot while clutching a tombstone with the name “Carl Root” etched into it and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. So, should anyone feel the need to make some sort of memorial space for me, perhaps it could be a tree with a sculpture beneath it? Currently, I think I’d prefer it to be somewhere near the old man in Root’s Branch cemetery in Manchester, KY but that's pretty out of the way, so maybe another one could be placed somewhere closer to anyone who might want to visit such a thing.
If I haven’t ridden in a hot air balloon by then, I’d like to leave the funeral home (or wherever this celebration of my life might take place*) that way. Since I’m probably not going to befriend Johnny Depp in this lifetime (or anyone else with that kind of loot) it would be pretty badass if someone could load a shot of me into a 12 gauge shotgun shell or two and fire me out of the old Mossberg in mid-air.
(*If there are no legal obligations to having this whole shindig take place outside the creepy confines of a funeral home, I’d prefer it. Ideally, they could just put me in a coffee can and let friends and family transport me to a place more conducive to the shenanigans above.)
O.K. then! Hopefully this wasn't too weird for anyone. Now that its on the Internet it must be true.