Do you think it’s ironic that the word funeral has ‘fun’ at the start? I do. But I also find it inspiring. I’ve been to way too many funerals (or is that ‘saderals’?) that were devastatingly bleak, bland and boring and that’s why I’m making it my mission to make end-of-life send-offs more personal, memorable and definitely, more fun.
Yes, when someone we love dies or we are dealing with a terminal illness, there will be immense sadness and grief, but, thankfully, the massive downer and black on black ambience around ‘funerals’ is slowing dying out too. More people are taking charge to ensure personalised services that are entertaining, enjoyable, respectful and comforting.
Australians often tend to avoid talking about the whole process of death and dying. That’s why if you mention to friends and family that you’re planning your own ‘after party’ or one for a relative, you might receive some strange looks and be on the end of an awkward silence. But planning a FUNeral can be very empowering and shows you’re not afraid to think of yourself at the end; or do what it takes to honour a loved one.
A lot of the fun actually comes from thinking and planning for an amazing party you would love to be at if you had the chance to go. It may require you to be brave and have some forward thinking, and some like to just be nontraditional.
So, what does it look like to have fun at a FUNeral? Around Australia and the world there are many amazing examples of FUNerals. And with the world wide web, there are so many examples of this in action.
There was the little boy in America who died just before his fifth birthday, yet he planned his own funeral as a fifth birthday party, that he would not be attending. He and his parents organised a party with five as the theme, five ponies, five giant inflatable jumping castles, five clowns, five cakes and it went on.
A lady from Perth, Maria, who I met recently at a conference told me of her niece’s funeral held recently. Her niece was just twenty six years of age and her girlfriends adorned the Church with Kangaroo Paw floral tributes, placed everywhere in the Church they could possibly display them, because their friend loved them.
And then you can go to the unbelievable. An eighty-two year old in America, asked his family to bury him in a giant see-through casket…and they did. Not only that, he asked his family to bury him on his 1967 Harley-Davidson and they actually DID IT. They also granted his wish to be in a giant see-through casket to fit him ON the bike, so his biker friends could witness his ‘final ride’ in the cemetery.
We all lead unique lives and our final goodbye can reflect that. Every one of us is different and so it will be with our FUNerals which is what I like to call the ‘goodbye gathering’. Each of us will hopefully have our spirit infused throughout the FUNeral in a way we want to be remembered. We need to tell our loved ones what we would like, or not, to have a service or gathering that will reflect the essence of us…who we were and what we lived for. A simple home gathering, a full-on major religious ceremony, or just about anything you like, is possible these days.
Personalised touches don’t need to be extravagant, it can be something as small as changing the funeral directors’ ties to a favourite colour or pattern; or getting them to wear the cap of the deceased’s favourite sport team. You don’t know if you don’t ask.
What’s exciting is that we can embrace the opportunity to lessen the grief as much as possible for our loved ones. We can encourage them to think outside the casket (box) and celebrate the ‘remembering’ with fun and happy activity versus doom and gloom.
So, what do we need to do now, whether healthy or sick? Grab your favourite drink and a piece of paper and get planning. For starters, jot down bullet points regarding favourite sayings, flowers, colours, moments, people, poems, songs (there’s a much more indepth list in my book Rest Assured). It’s only by writing things down that your FUNeral musings will start taking shape.
If it’s for your own FUNeral, it’s important to do this now, because when death comes, there are seven thousand other things needing doing and people won’t be thinking straight with the shock and grief of death and might not remember your wishes. If you are helping plan a FUNeral for a loved one or know an elderly relative doesn’t have forever left, the more ideas you can get down now, the less scrambling you will have to do when the time comes.
A FUNeral can help people through the grieving process. It can add light and hope where there is darkness. It can harness humour, humility and hope for a creative send-off. Grab your pen now, let your thoughts roam free and see what ideas spark joy.