my dream funeral

someone once asked me what my dream wedding would be like.  i honestly don’t really know, but i do know that it will kick your wedding’s ass.  it will also involve some sort of choreography.  and twists.  and puzzles.  and a competition.  okay, something like that.  you’ll cry.  a lot.

anyway, i attended my grandmother’s funeral.  it was sort of a two-for-one deal, there was both a buddhist and a christian ceremony, and it was interesting to see not only how each religion honors the passing of the dead, but also how the asian culture approaches this subject.  as a modernized, americanized atheist, i had a difficult time identifying with much of what was going on, but it definitely did make me think about my dream funeral.  certain aspects of it were definitely disappointing to the point of almost being offensive, and i just wanted to document my funeral desires to hopefully eliminate some of the strife that occurred during the funeral proceedings.

SO.  TO THAT END, i would like to present to you my DREAM FUNERAL:



did someone break into the…. thing that holds the ashes?!  mausoleum!?


i’m imagining a potluck or a bbq.  just a normal afternoon hangout with food.  something low key that you can wear casual clothes to.  lots of alcohol.  simple; the less hassle the better.  i am not asking for additional work for anyone.  (okay, fine, short of planning and procuring alcohol.) (okay, maybe one or two nice flowers.)

(buddhist requirements are, in my mind, unsustainable in a modern world.  for 49 days, you read scripture three times per day.  around 5 manhours went into folding origami money for the deceased.  christian requirements are much less taxing, but still involved multiple hours of singing rehearsal and the church choir.  i do not believe this effort requirement is sustainable in a modern world.)


strictly, violently nondenominational.  people are free to take on whatever religion they would like and allude to it, but under no circumstances should anyone be proselytizing or at all disrespect other people’s religion.

(can you say religious strife in taiwan?  can you say, showing up late to the funeral that was not your religion?  can you say, prominently wearing a cross to a buddhist temple and insisting on chanting biblical scripture while everyone else is reading buddhist scripture?  ugh, tacky all around.  it was… disappointing to me.)


anyone who did not know me should not be there.  if someone does not want to come, nobody should force them to come.  okay, obviously if someone really wants to come who didn’t know me, they are welcome to come, but it has to be legitimate interest/desire in coming, and not just guilt tripping/coming out of obligation, which is, of course, the asian gold standard.

(two grandkids got a significant amount of grief for not showing up to the funeral.  people at the christian ceremony technically “knew my grandmother” because they tried to convert her on her deathbed, but we’re talking around 50 people who never really knew her until her last month or didn’t know her at all and were just required to be there as part of the choir.  the buddhist one was even more egregious, basically people from all circles of your children come up and bow to the deceased and to the surviving relatives.  it was hot.  this went on for an hour of basically groups of randos bowing all over the place.  we were on our feet for a very long time.  this was just so goofy.  i understand that there’s this ego boost to have lots of people at your funeral, but that’s just silly for so many reasons.)

on the note of “the number of people who come to your funeral” , people try to get the most famous people possible to write “blessings” or whatnot, and they actually got one from the president of taiwan!  how. what?!  alright.


LAUGHING IS ACCEPTABLE.  SMILING IS ACCEPTABLE.  funny stories are especially encouraged.  why do funerals have to be so sad?  let’s try to keep it light.  obviously, if there are people mourning, then there are people mourning, but if someone does something funny, or you want to take a photo, it’s okay to smile!

in terms of overall grieving…. sure, be sad for a couple days, but please don’t let it bother you forever.  i’m sure i would have wanted you to live a happy life and not for you to dwell on me.

(we were practicing this singing portion, and overall, it was just very funny for a variety of reasons (a taking-himself-very-seriously singing coach, a song that nobody really knew how to sing, a really high note that nobody really could reach) and we kept getting yelled at for not being super serious!)

what to do with the body

this is… wishful thinking, but basically everyone could take some of the ashes and bring them back to some place that meant a lot to both of us.  so, for example, mark would take it to that one ski run in tahoe.  or angeles would take it to chez carla.  or debbie/gary would take it to shi da.  or jim would take it to branner.  bristn; toyon.

but otherwise, the idea of planting a tree somewhere with the ashes seems really beautiful to me.

from the burial grounds where my body and THE REST OF MY FAMILY LINE can be buried.

in other news, photos of stuff getting weathered is awesome.


this will be covered in a later entry, but in short: crying/sadness are not required.  that should not be the goal, anyway.  it really bothered me that my cousins were being judged based on their eulogies.  which really just shows how much asians love to judge things.  fuck, is the best eulogy the one that makes the most people cry?!

basically: nobody should be required to give a eulogy; if nobody wants to give a eulogy, then there will be no eulogies.  if a eulogy is given, it can be about whatever the person wants to talk about and have whatever tone the person wants to use.  the eulogies should not be judged.

what will happen at this event

there may or may not be publicly spoken comments, but otherwise, just eating/drinking/hanging out, and maybe sharing some stories and memories about me.

as my life revolves around TV/VIDEO, i thought it might be fun to show the following two episodes/movies.

two representations of death that mean a lot to me 

the office – michael scott’s goodbye

“no, he wasn’t sad.  he was full of hope… and he said he was just real excited to get home and see holly.”

i have cried once in the last year, and it was during this scene.  (teared up a couple of times, but this was the only time i cried.  chris breakup narrowly escapes one year.)

even now, i’m not entirely sure why this is so compelling.  if i haddd to write an essay about it, it would be something about how michael’s departure was like a death, that it would be really devastating to be robbed of the ability to say goodbye to someone for the last time, that you can still say goodbye even after the proverbial security gates and proverbial mic removal, that nothing is final.  that pam and michael were both being very strong for each other, despite the poetic situation of them both.  the storytelling trick/surprise was well played.

big fish – final scene

“the strange thing is that there’s not a sad face to be found; they’re just so glad to see you.  to send you off right.”

despite not particularly liking the movie, i think this scene is absolutely beautiful.  i showed it in my visions of mortality ihum.  additionally, at camp kesem (will talk about this more later), i talked about this during a cabin chat.  i totally forget the prompt, but i ended up talking about this scene and getting choked up.   i think it was “if you could have any dream, what would you dream about”, and mine was something along the lines of “i would have all the people i have loved and we would get together and have one great night together doing the things that we shared.” which…. i guess sounds corny now.  but, true to its name, was fairly magical in my mind.  okay, just imagine it in a cabin with a candle.  AND IT BEING SUMMER CAMP, summer camp is such a weird conflux of things.

but the tone of the funeral (either the fantasy one or the real one) would be exactly what i would want.

only tangentially related

i think this is a really solid, interesting article about death.  don’t really have a whole entry to write about this one article, but thought i’d share it while we were here.

NYT – The Good Short Life

I HAVE wonderful friends. In this last year, one took me to Istanbul. One gave me a box of hand-crafted chocolates. Fifteen of them held two rousing, pre-posthumous wakes for me. Several wrote large checks. Two sent me a boxed set of all the Bach sacred cantatas. And one, from Texas, put a hand on my thinning shoulder, and appeared to study the ground where we were standing. He had flown in to see me.

We obsess in this country about how to eat and dress and drink, about finding a job and a mate. About having sex and children. About how to live. But we don’t talk about how to die. We act as if facing death weren’t one of life’s greatest, most absorbing thrills and challenges. Believe me, it is. This is not dull. But we have to be able to see doctors and machines, medical and insurance systems, family and friends and religions as informative — not governing — in order to be free.

i don’t know whether it’s because i’m just younger or if sentiments are changing, but i definitely hear a lot more “god, life is just not worth living when you get older”.  the idea of confronting death does seem quite daunting.

i do think he’s lucky that he was diagnosed with a disease where it was fairly clear the road that lied ahead.  in that the road was a tough, if not impossible one.  if he had a better prognosis, that almost would have made it worse.

i really like the idea of a pre-posthumous wake.  can i have one?  i actually think we should have one every couple of years.

….does anyone want to know how he plans to kill himself?…

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5 thoughts on “my dream funeral

  1. imcgaia says:

    My boss’ wife’s aunt passed away last week. Today, they are having a Celebration of Life for her. Making her favorite foods, listening to her favorite music, etc. And spreading her ashes. I thought this all sounds wonderful. No one else I’ve expressed this thought to has really had any response.

    I’m not sure whether I’d want to be cremated, but I would definitely want whatever ceremony happens to be called and considered and internalized as a Celebration of Life, rather than just a mourning of my death.


    re: pre-posthumous wake every few years. i assume you’re talking about when you’re “older”?

    • imcgaia says:

      PS I would probably make a requirement that the eulogies at my funeral/celebration of life NOT include the words “…will miss her.” Reasonable?

      • james says:

        indeed, probably would not be in the spirit of the event 🙂

        pre-posthumous wake: yeah, maybe when i’m older. or right now!! i don’t know. i think we/i need to do more celebrating of the ways others’ have contributed to our lives.

  2. imcgaia says:

    true that! the folks in Oracle were so good at it! my main fear with pre-posthumous wakes at this point in our lives is that they would kind of turn into birthdays — aren’t birthday supposed to be celebrations of our xx-years on earth? and if everyone has pre-posthumous wakes…. do we become inundated? there are only so many new things to say each year for friends’ bdays…. would this turn out the same? i’m just throwing the thoughts out there. i think your point it a very good one.

    now that i think about it, everyone likes to feel appreciated. i think birthdays show that people care about you, while a pre-posthumous wake would show that they appreciate you. subtle but important difference.

  3. […] last of the three entries harkening back to the original 3 entries that launched the blog.  my dream funeral, a blog entry about my visit to taiwan in 2011 for my grandmother’s funeral.  (yes, this […]

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