Last Rights


You can’t choose the way you go – generally speaking. But you can decide the way you wish to be sent off. That just requires a bit of forward planning. You need to leave clear instructions with whoever you want to entrust with the staging of your final farewell party.

Notice I say “entrust’. You have to ensure that it’s a person who will respect your last wishes, and carry out your instructions to the T. Usually it’s a family member, but my own observation is that family members are not always the best persons to do this. Some of them are governed by what other family members and friends will think of them, rather than the deceased family member (after all, he can’t think anymore, can he?) They want to be thought well of by others, and avoid accusations of being disrespectful or unfilial. I remember asking one member of my extended family at my late father’s funeral whether his proposal for a grand send-off was for my father’s sake or for his own need to be perceived as a loving and filial bereaved family member.

It really does take only a little effort. Write down your instructions on a slip of paper, and give it to that trusted someone, or keep it in a safe place, to be read upon your demise. But please do tell someone about its existence and location. Leave it with your lawyer, if you think that is more appropriate. Like you may do with your will. Except that unlike the will, which deals with the distribution of your estate, this one deals with the dispatch of your remains, and the legacy you wish to leave behind. That is, assuming this whole shebang is of any concern to you. If it isn’t, then don’t bother. When you are dead, you are dead, period. You won’t know any different. But if it matters to you how your last goodbye is to be staged, then do something about it – while you still can.

Me? Of course. I have always lived life the way I wanted. And I’m making sure that my passing gets marked the way I want it be. It is my right to be ushered off in the manner I deem fit. What is to be done and how it is done, these are my rights – my last rights.

I have left clear instructions. Family and friends are not to mourn my passing. Instead they are to celebrate my life. I have lived a full and satisfying life, and God willing, I hope to continue doing so for a little while longer. Sure, family members will miss me, and I know I already miss them, just thinking about it. But I’d like to think that I’ll leave them with a lot of fond and pleasant memories of our times together. In a sense, I’ll never really leave, for through these memories, I’ll always remain in their hearts.

Not for me all the tears and the glum faces at my funeral wake. Not all the mopiness and hushed conversations. No, there will be music. Mostly jazz. Some light classicals. Alright, some Christian hymns as well, to assure family and church members who might be concerned that I might lose my way to heaven if not suitably heralded. And wine, of course! How can you have a party without alcohol ?

And, no eulogies, please. If you have any nice things to say about me, tell me now, while I can still hear them, and bask in them. I’m attracted to Professor Morrie Schwart’s idea of a living funeral, where friends and family gather around to talk with and about you, while you are still alive and well enough to appreciate and participate (Tuesdays With Morrie, by Mitch Album, Doubleday, 1997.) Maybe, I should organize one when the time nears.

For other ways to commemorate my life, you can flip through the photo albums that I have instructed for display, or the random images which will be projected; perhaps you will catch a glimpse or two of the good times we had had together. Thumb through some of the books from my collection which I have not already given away, and feel free to take home with you a copy or two, or more. Talk and laugh. Talk loudly and laugh wholeheartedly. That’s how my life has been. Full of mirth and hearty conversations. Why should my death be marked by anything less? Tell jokes, which you know I love to do. Recount any hilarious incidents involving us.

But make sure you are not sitting too near me, or you might hear a chuckle or two coming from the box. Which is fine by me, but I don’t think that would be everybody’s idea of a wake.