I love it when there is laughter at funerals and playgrounds in cemeteries. I love when someone’s final ceremony is not so much a mourning of their passing, but a celebration of their life. I love that, even in our arguably darkest times, humans are insistently hopeful people.
I don’t know if I’ve ever read about a culture devoid of at least some version of afterlife story. I don’t know of any collective society that sees death as more of an end and less of a beginning. Most humans, as a general rule, look at death not as a finality, but rather as a step towards something infinitely better. Many cultures see funerals as more of a rite of passage than as a final destination, and I think that that’s beautiful.
I know that it’s hard not to see death as a time for black dresses and tear-filled eyes. I know that if your young daughter giggles at a funeral that your immediate response might be to shush her—but I think that we, as a society, have taken that too far. Forcing solemnity at a funeral only reinforces the idea that it is something terrible rather than something hopeful. We, as a culture, have turned one of life’s greatest rites into something to be feared or despised, and I think that’s sad.
I hope, when I die (Not IF, but when, for there is no question that it will someday be my turn), that my loved ones smile and tell stories. I hope that tears are infrequent and only shed in disappointment because there will be no new awesome tales. I hope people remember the jokes I told (and don’t butcher them). I hope they read some of my work and grin.
I hope that I’m not buried, because I want the land that would have held a shiny rock with my name on it to instead be used for something better. A tree, a playground, a house. Something that speaks more of life than death. I hope, if they can use it, that my body is given to science, so a med student can use the last remnants of my life in order to learn how to improve and expand someone else’s. I’ll never meet them. Never know them. But I know already that I will love them as wholly as everyone else my path has brought me to. I want my end to be cloaked in love, not sorrow.
I hope that hope is left in whatever footprints I leave behind. That someone’s last memories of me will make them smile, rather than cry. I hope that my funeral will be as beautiful as my wedding—and that it has a similar air. Because I will only be walking down a different aisle, and I’m grateful that some of you would be willing to celebrate that with me.
I don’t doubt that someone will find this post depressing—that someone will wonder if I’m okay. Do not worry, for while I look forward to this adventure as much as I look forward to all the other joys that will come between now and then, I am not hurrying to start on the final leg of my trek. I will reach it when it is time, and I will smile as brightly as I did on the day I was wed, or as earnestly as I will when first I become a mother. But, should the unthinkable happen and I step forward into what awaits me sooner than expected, do not cry for me. But instead tell stories and share memories. Laugh and dance and sing. Let there be more joy than sorrow. More hope than despair.
I promise I’ll do the same from my end.