Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Funeral

Olivia Streeter Reed passed away on May 8th, 2011. What was she doing during the weeks before her passing? Why planning her funeral of course! But first, the story:

I was asked to sing at a funeral last Saturday. I did not know the deceased, but I had met one of her children before, who has several children of her own now. I said yes, as I believe in sharing my talents, and because I like to do my part to help bring some happiness to those who mourn.
The funeral was held at St. Johns Episcopal Church in Glasgow VA. Just help you put this into perspective, Glasgow has a population of 1,046 (down 94 people according to the 2000 census). Their only retail store is the Glasgow Wal-Mart (which is actually a Dollar General. But they honestly call it the Glasgow Wal-Mart). The church was across the street from an apartment complex that I am 99% sure was at one time a small elementary school (it even had little covered breezeways. No way it wasn't a school once). In short, it is a tiny, and beautiful place.

The funeral service was lovely. There were hymns sung, prayers said, scriptures read, and remembrances given. And during the one remembrance, I learned about Ms. Reed's funeral planning. There was to be a reception after the funeral. She decided what food would be there, secured the venue, and made sure directions from Glasgow to Lexington were printed. AFTER the funeral I was approached by the husband of Ms. Reed's daughter, and he offered me an envelope with my name on it. I thanked him, but assured him that I needed no payment, because I was glad to do this for the family. He offered it to me again, this time saying, "Oh, this isn't form me. It is from Ms. Reed. She had this all planned out. The money was all set apart from her estate before she passed." I accepted the envelope and thanked him.

Now, I didn't know Ms. Reed, but apparently she knew who I was. And she had even planned me to sing at her funeral (I didn't actually get the call to sing until Monday, the day after she had passed, so someone took her instructions VERY seriously). I decided then and there that I was very sad that I did NOT know Ms. Reed, and that I await meeting her in the future. But I digress.

On the drive home, I thought about how well she had planned this. How she had picked the hymns. She had picked the songs that I was to sing. She had secured her favorite pastor from Northern Virginia to officiate in the service. It was all figured out and letter perfect. And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do the same thing. So here is the plan for when I die:

First of all, no one is to wear black. Its dreary. Everyone will wear white preferably. It will say such on the invitation. My family will sit in the front near the casket, which will be open so everyone can see my beautiful red hair (which I will still have thank you very much.) The opening prayer will be given by a member of my family. My current bishop will officiate. He will welcome everyone and thank them for coming to celebrate my life. The word "funeral" will not be used at all during the service.

I then want Samuel Barber's Sure on this Shining Night sung by my sister Taerra. For some reason I kept picturing her singing it. Apparently I will die young (No older than 40), naturally of something tragic, and she will most likely be in her vocal prime, so it will be epic. I then want my best friend (TBA, but I think I know who it is now. I do not foresee things diminishing between us, mostly because I am too selfish to let go) to tell two or three stories about me. Nothing touching. Just funny stuff. Then that person will sing the song of their choice. Other people may be included if desired. Something light, but heartfelt. I trust this person. Don't screw it up.

Then a small choir (most likely my family) will sing Homeward Bound by Marta Keen. Then my Bishop will read my personal testimony which will be prepared beforehand. Then a slightly larger choir (probably still my family, lets be honest) will sing Pilgrim's Hymn by Stephen Paulus. Then the Bishop will announce a moment of silence where people can cry and blubber all they wish. This is to get it all out of their system.

To help shock the congregation from their emotional torpor, the choir will then sing Bach's Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden. It will be accompanied by the Organ and may be sung in English if desired. They should not be afraid to be as loud as they would like. Following the number, any of my siblings who would wish to do so may share a story or two or three about me from childhood. It should be a funny thing. Be nice guys. The bathroom curtain story is off-limits.

Then the bishop will say some final words. It should be about how I am now with Heavenly Father and QUITE happy, thank you very much, so everyone should quit sniffling and get on with their lives. The choir will then sing How lovely is Thy Dwelling Place by Brahms. Then a closing prayer.

Here is where we come to the alternate endings:

Ending #1 - My body is taken to the cemetery for a quick burial. My family just needs to say goodbye and put my body in the ground, cause IMMEDIATELY after the service there will be a reception. With LOTS of good food. I dont really care what. It just has to be yummy. And there needs to be Cheesecake for dessert. Several kinds.

Ending #2 - This is necessary. Because if things go as I REALLY want them, I will actually still be alive at my funeral. Either I will be in the last stages of the terrible disease that, although it has destroyed my body, has still left me with my cheerful and delightful attitude, or the horrible accident that damaged me beyond repair (most likely because I was saving a small baby from some inexplicable horror which then befell me in my heroism) is taking its final toll. SO, after the service which I rather enjoyed, there will be a reception, as outlined above. The only difference is, there will then be a roast. The roast is ONLY ok if I am still alive and there. If I am in a coma, no roast. There will be jokes and laughing. We will then go home and remember the wonderful evening. When I really die people will call each other and let each other know. No Facebook, no email, no texts. Phone calls or personal visits only.

While I was a bit jokey, this is actually how I would like things to go. I think it will be nice and It fits me.

And I planned it so you had BETTER do it.


  1. This is the best thing I've ever seen.

  2. Although I quite enjoyed reading this post and I'm glad you have everything figured out, I do NOT want to discuss the possibility of you dying!!!

  3. You do realize that the reception will inevitably be a roast either way, right?

  4. Wow, Nate. I am super excited for you to die!

    Just kidding. But seriously...sounds like fun...

  5. You want to be alive during your funeral? There's something fishy about this. I can pretty much guarantee we will wait for your death to celebrate because, let's face it, we don't want to have to deal with the eye rolls that will come if we do anything incorrectly :)

  6. In the meantime I think you should make better friends with the children of this woman and ask some nonchalant and probing questions. It sounds like a family worth getting to know in detail...

  7. I'll show up just in time for the cheesecake.