Don’t worry, not what it sounds like!! I was commenting on somebody’s thread earlier about what plans you would make, if any, in the event of your death. Conventional wisdom would suggest you set aside money in a funeral plan, possibly including your wishes for how it should be conducted, maybe one of those nice little savings plans or pricy loans so the money is there to pay for it all.
The average cost of a funeral is £3,000 with many costing way way more. Successive enquiries into the costs and the pressure put on grieving relatives to buy unnecessary services do not seem to have changed much or made the funeral costs more transparent any more than Jessica Mitford’s legendary work in America prevented the funeral home operators from hard-pressure selling and hiding costs in subtle new ways. Since 2001 prices and clear information seem no easier to come by, as I found out while researching my dad’s funeral – and in truth, not enough people feel like shopping around for the best deal when dealing with the pain of the death of a loved one.
That gripe aside, it’s good that there are other options that bypass the funeral business and allow the deceased to have his or her wishes fulfilled, if the relatives don’t get in there first and change them. Funerals, it is said, are for the living, not the dead, and if you are to believe the undertakers, mourners still want funerals to be solemn, po-faced affairs, though I’d also say religion plays a part in reinforcing the British way of death.
Not me. Think the whole death business needs to be reinvented to mirror cultures where it truly is a celebration of life, no hint of black clothing, not a tear in any eye, just smiles and fun. I don’t think that implies any lack of respect, but does return to the point that a life should be celebrated for the joy it has has brought. Death can be tragedy, and there is arguably no time when relatives are truly prepared for it, but dwelling on the negative is surely the wrong way to go about it.
What follows is how I would like my loved ones to treat my death, whenever it comes.
1) If I am in a persistent vegetative state, “locked in”, quadriplegic, in constant acute pain or in some other way lacking quality of life I can never regain, I should be given a large overdose and be allowed to die with dignity. We Brits (including the medical fraternity) are far too squeamish about this and should confront the issue head-on: if there is no hope of major improvement and the patient is reconciled to meeting their end, let assisted suicides be conducted openly, rather than the underhand ways of bringing a patient to an early death that happens now.
2) I am on the National Organ Donor Register and frankly think it should be an opt-out rather than opt-in. OK, there are people who feel genuine qualms about this but the views of the deceased should surely override those of the relatives, and if lives can be saved from the organs, they should be. More the merrier! So… harvest any organs of mine that I no longer need, and let them help someone else.
3) Find me the cheapest cardboard coffin available, nothing fancy at all. Why bother, if I’m dead anyway and the coffin will only be buried or burned? Expensive wooden coffins are the worst form of status symbol imaginable! Oh, and forget the hearse, undertaker and assorted flummery too – none of it required. Just some acceptable means to ferry me from A to B is fine (someone suggested skateboards!!)
4) A simple humanist funeral service is fine: a chance for friends and family to remember the good times, some of my favourite readings and music, nothing more. I don’t believe in life after death, so memories are all that will be left of me. If everyone comes out smiling and thinks that on balance I was a pretty good guy, that will do me fine! 🙂
5) Guess I’m not too fussed with what happens after that. Burn me or bury me, whatever is ecologically sound, cheap and expedient. If you cremate me, I’m sure my ashes will help the roses in my garden grow! The late Colin Crompton used to say that in Morecambe they don’t bury their dead, they stand them up in bus shelters. That will do!
6) All the money saved on the funeral can go into the wake to end all wakes. Invite all my friends, relatives, everyone who knows me, and party on down for days!! Let everyone eat, drink, have sex and be merry!! If the police are not called in because of the loud music and general mayhem, I shall want to know why!!
7) My will leaves my estate between my kids, so I hope they put it to good use and come out stronger, happier and wiser for the things in my life. Not just money, but all my accumulated wisdom and experiences.