I’m an avid party planner. An aficionado of fiestas, a jubilee junkie, if you will. If there’s a party that needs to be had, my hand is jabbing in the air, “oh, oh, me, me,” I volunteer, nearly falling off the edge of my seat. I jot down potential themes, text myself song ideas for the playlist, and pin menus on Pinterest.
But it’s almost as fun to dream up ideas for events that may, in fact, never happen. Galas, masquerades and barbecues have all been imagined in Technicolor detail.
One of my favorite events to fantasize about — one I certainly won’t lift a finger for — is my own funeral. Planning for the final event of my life began quite some time ago, when I was just a young child.
One afternoon, a vintage-style funeral processional, complete with horses, buggies and shining brass instruments, marched down the middle of a busy road situated just a half block from my home. The men’s highly polished shoes hit the pavement in unison, while the hollow sound of horses’ hooves clopped out-of-time. The hearse was a black, horse-drawn buggy, and the members of the processional, wearing suits of all black, marched along in silence.
“When I die, can I have a funeral like that?” I asked my mom.
“No,” she replied flatly, not one to mince words.
My chest puffed with defiance, annoyed at being told that my funeral — my very own funeral — couldn’t be whatever the heck I wanted it to be.
I began assembling ideas — songs for a playlist, activities for my guests, outdoor gathering places, charities that might benefit from contributions in the name of yours truly. My mental list grew and evolved. A costume funeral. No, no, a movie-themed funeral at a theater with my photo printed on popcorn bags. Some items dropped off; the New Orleans processional was one of many ideas tossed to the waste bin.
I’ve been fortunate to have only attended an average number of funerals. I gather ideas at each, refining my vision of a party I’ll only attend in spirit.
So, to whoever executes my grand plan, I offer these simple instructions.
One day, when I pass, remember I love you all.
Plan me a party, but remember, it’s not for me. (This does NOT apply to my birthday parties, by the way.) The party is for those who attend.
Attendees should spend less time worrying about me, what I was, what I could have been, what I did, and more about themselves and whoever else happens to be in attendance.
There will be a dress code. Please ask attendees to come and be comfortable in my honor. Wear their comfiest jeans, their softest T-shirts, cotton underwear, and for the love of the people, comfortable shoes. Whatever they’d wear to go out for pizza, that’s what will be appropriate.
If you have a quirky idea, a party favor, a questionable song for the playlist, a theme or otherwise unconventional but awesome idea, I urge you to go for it. After all, you only die once. #YODO
Overland Park mom and freelancer Emily Parnell writes alternate weeks.