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Divine Comedy

Dante & Beatrice before the heavens in Dante's Divine Comedy

Last week, my family buried our 86 year-old mother/grandmother/great-grandmother. She was the last of my grandparents to go. Fortunately, I knew all of my grandparents well into my teen years and even a few of my great-grandparents. I believe just about everyone but my grandmother lived into their 90s. I don’t know what that bodes for me, but I made my sister and niece swear that if I become a shriveled, babbling, scary old lady in diapers, they will smother me with my pillow. Going to the funeral made me think about my own death and, specifically, my funeral. So allow me to express a few of my concerns, preferences and opinions regarding funerals.

1. Closed casket. Why do people feel the need to gawk at your corpse that’s been drained of every bodily fluid and sewn shut in places so you’ll look like you’re peacefully asleep? My absolute number one pet peeve about being laid out like a fish on ice at a seafood market is when this conversation occurs:

Funeral Attendee 1: So good to see you on such a sad occasion. Have you seen the family yet?

Funeral Attendee 2: No, I haven’t been up to speak to the family. How are they doing?

Funeral Attendee 1: As well as can be expected. Paige looks really good. I was amazed. They did a good job. She really looks like herself.

WTF? When I’m at a funeral and hear someone say that, it takes every fiber of my being not to laugh out loud and, for that matter, roll on the floor laughing my ass off. I take serious issue with people who think that is the appropriate thing to say. I mean, they’ve looked better … WHEN THEY WERE FREAKIN’ LIVING!!! In fact, they’ve probably never looked worse, even if Bobbi Brown did their makeup and Ken Paves did their hair that day. I’m sure that I’ve looked close to death on one of my worst hangover days, but I can promise you I didn’t look dead. This is my argument for a closed casket. They’re dead. They don’t look good. Stop saying that.

2. No hymns and no flowers. Maybe “Amazing Grace,” but it must be Ani DeFranco. I love her version and since it’s my funeral, I want everyone to be forced to sit through all 7 minutes and 9 seconds of it. Maybe the Winchester Cathedral Choir’s “Agnus Dei.” But all that side-B organ music just makes it seem more like a funeral. I don’t want “funeral” ambiance. I want more of a festive, drunken fête. Jesus, how depressing is “How Great Thou Art”? Before I offend, let me state that I’m not in any way disparaging the lyrics or intent of the song itself, but it’s kind of a Pavlovian thing with me. Like the metronome equaled dinner to Pavlov’s dogs, “How Great Thou Art” equals funerals, misery, heartbreak, and Kleenex to me. Just put my iPod on shuffle and skip the rap/hip hop that I put on there just for shits and giggles and long road trips … or maybe I’ll just create a “Paige’s Funeral” playlist to make it easier on everyone. Regarding flowers, please take whatever money anyone thinks about spending on flowers and give every penny to Sarah McLachlan so she will stop with those unbearable animal cruelty commercials. I’m tired of changing the channels when they come on and I know you are too. So please think about spending a lot of money on flowers so we can solve the whole homeless/cruelty problem. Make that my legacy, as I will leave no descendents.

3. No clergy of any organized religion will preside over the occasion (unless they’re there because they knew me personally). It doesn’t take a man/woman of the cloth to officiate a funeral service or a burial. I checked the statutes and laws. I want everyone to speak. (See #7 below.) Instead of prayers, everyone will practice their pranayama breathing, looking into their third eye, meditating on how cool of a person I was and how much they’re going to miss me, with an opening and closing chant of “Om” … three times.

Christian Louboutins

Dream a little dream

4. My mother is not allowed to pick out the clothes in which I am buried. (This is assuming I predecease my mother.) Sorry, Mama, but our taste differ vastly, and I fear that I will look down on myself from The Great Beyond and be absolutely mortified at the pink, lacy dress or some ghastly outfit purchased from J.C. Penney’s. I love you, Ma! If I do not predecease my sister, I trust her a little more to put me in an ensemble that is reflective of my style (if I ever really had a style), but we really don’t have the same taste in clothes either. Really, just put me in something black from Vera Wang (she’s fabulous at wedding dresses, so let’s give her a shot at a funeral dress). I figure for this occasion, being as “final” as it is, I deserve a pair of Christian Louboutins in death (as I could not afford a pair of them in life) … purple ones I’m thinking (the red underneath shows up more). I realize no one will see me (see #1 above); however, I will know. I will know. Don’t think I won’t. Also, false eyelashes. I could never put them on correctly in life. How do the Kardashians do that every day? Since I won’t even open my eyes to mess them up, the embalmer should be able to apply them where I don’t look like Miss Piggy on crack. Given his sewing ability, I figure false eyelashes would be a walk in the park. I will still know.

Champagne bubbles

Tickles the nose and excites the spirit

5. Open bar. It’s a celebration, people. Celebrations call for champagne and cocktails. There will be no daiquiris; we are not on a Carnival cruise. Also no White Russians; I hate that drink and it hates me even more. Beer will only be imported brands (just to be snobby because it is my funeral). I don’t think I have to say that there is to be no paper/plastic products of any kind. I want to be remembered as someone who was environmentally friendly. All right. All right. That’s not the real reason. I confess I want china and crystal. I am wearing Louboutins for Christ’s sake. You all can sip your champagne from crystal flutes instead of those god-awful plastic champagne coupes where the bottom part is always falling off, and when you go to put it down on the table, it spills because you had no idea the bottom fell off. That’s happened to me more than once, and I’m just thinking of your enjoyment on this, my final hurrah.

6. Food. There must be oodles of good (and I don’t mean just mediocre good, I mean exceptionally good) food (served on china … see #5 above). Break out the beluga. Foist upon them the foie gras. Have lobster flown in from Maine. Burrata tomato balloons. Pork rillettes with cornichons and toast. Grilled marinated artichokes. French black truffle and Italian white truffle dishes. Call Ferran Adrià to cater it. I’ll rise up out of that casket if I even smell jambalaya or chicken fingers and smote the one responsible for that grievous transgression. I want everyone stuffed to the gills and nine sheets to the wind with ethereal eats and luxurious libations by the time it’s all over.


Stuck it where?

7. Storytelling. I want everyone to tell a story. I don’t care if it reflects badly on me. It’ll be funny once I’m dead anyway. A posthumous roast, if you will. I can’t remember throwing up on anyone in a drunken stupor, but feel free to embellish a little. Take liberties. Entertain my other guests. I’m sure someone can dig up a juicy and embarrassing story about me. And by all means, tell the good stories too. Like this one time at band camp …

8. To cremate or not to cremate? I’m still agonizing with this. I’ve had two pets cremated and I have to admit, it’s nice having their little boxes of ashes on my mantle. I took half of my dog’s ashes to Assisi, Italy and spread them beneath a tree. But would I want someone to bear the burden of maintaining my remains? When you’re put in the ground, no one has to dust you or remember to pack you up when they move. As far as spreading my ashes, there are just too many things that can go wrong — standing upwind, spilling me, etc. I’ll update you with my decision.

The Last Judgment

Michelangelo's The Last Judgment, Sistine Chapel

I think that about covers it. If all instructions are followed, I promise not to haunt your house, fuck with your head, or possess your children, although some souls have already beat me to some of them.