Welcome to my funeral

He has his last public appearance all figured out. If you want to change anything, you'll have to do it over his dead body. DAVID SWANSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER


I am in my casket, I am in a dress shirt, tie and sports coat.

This is my funeral. People are saying nice things about me. At least I think so. I can't hear.

Showering accolades on the departed is mandatory, right? No lie detectors allowed. Remember Mark Antony spilling about Caesar? (Not implying I am Caesar, but I do carry a toga well.)

What a shame the deceased can't hear this - the impact he had on lives, the good works she inspired, the causes fought, the memories created.

Funerals are wasted on the dead. They are really for the living.

If you put on your funeral before you die so you could enjoy the accolades, that would be pretty bizarre. But planning and producing your own funeral? That's already here.

It's no more eerie than writing your will, which some people think is bad luck, sort of tempting fate. Those dying without a will - intestate, the lawyers call it - can create confusion and conflict among heirs. Nothing fuels family feuds faster than the sweet smell of money.

I have planned my own funeral and have learned a surprising number of people have done the same. (Not millennials. They don't believe they will ever die.)

When I go, the chapel will be decorated with items inspired by my occupation and interests. Scheduled speakers (I've made a short list) will be followed, Quaker open-meeting style, by anyone with something to say (except ex-wives). I've provided a music playlist - the Supremes, the Beach Boys, Cher (go ahead and laugh), John Denver, the Beatles - plus light refreshments. A later wake at the Pen & Pencil Club is funded by my will. I have done everything but prepare the egg salad.

I have directed where my ashes will be scattered. (That's a secret because it may anger my boss and gross out my colleagues.) Before scattering, selected loved ones will be invited to reach into the urn for a scoop of Stu.

Take a bit of me home with you.


Even my father planned his recent, modest departure. Is this a trend?

Yes, says Brian Levine of Joseph Levine & Sons, with funeral homes in Philadelphia, Broomall and Trevose.

In the early '90s about 10 percent of his clients preplanned. The figure today is 35 percent, "and it keeps going up," Levine says.

Etiquette expert Lydia Ramsey helps explain why.

"Most of us would like to be remembered for who we were and the way we lived," she says. "You can control who speaks for you," plus pick the appropriate scriptures and poetry.

"It takes the pressure of planning our funeral off those who are grieving the loss," she says.

"Baby boomers know what they want and they are going to get it," adds Levine, citing a client who videotaped remarks to play at his funeral. "We have flat screens around the chapel for that," Levine says, adding that he can play any music his clients leave in his care.

Dad wasn't that elaborate.

To unburden my sister and me, he had purchased the plot (next to Mom, of course) and the (cheapest) casket. He requested that my sister read quotations from Eugene V. Debs (socialist, labor leader and presidential candidate) and wished "The Internationale" (the socialist anthem) be played. (Try finding that on iTunes.)

Perhaps out of modesty, he did not write an epitaph to be added to "husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather" on his tombstone.

There were many things we could say, but (at $12 a letter) my sister and me agreed this would say it all: SOCIALIST.

Some think highly detailed funeral arrangements are (literally) the last gasp of a controlling, Type A personality.

I call it thoughtfulness.

Because I will be cremated, I need no epitaph. I started planning so long ago (two wives, that's how I keep count), I was going to write a final column to be read at the service. (No anonymous "comments" allowed.)

But today - videotape! Alert hair, makeup and wardrobe.

This is going to be a production! Business casual. Free admission. See you there.



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