I am of an age when I wish for little from life other than it doesn’t end too soon. That it doesn’t end in pain and anguish. That I merely wake up one morning to discover that I haven’t actually woken up at all. The reality of mortality becomes ever more defined. The need to lay plans for what will happen after I have gone, somehow becomes more pressing. I have not yet started saving in order to ensure that my children do not have to cough up for the dubious pleasure of watching me transcend this mortal coil and ascend upon the wings of super-heated ether into the clouds, but I have started to make a few plans.
I would like balloons in the crem, although I know they won’t allow that. I would like to be carried in to Roy Harper – When An Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease which, I feel, strikes just the right note and, perhaps more importantly, gives the pallbearers adequate time to grapple me onto the conveyor belt and behind the curtain. When I told my best friend he said, ‘That’s all very well, but you haven’t played cricket in thirty years’ and that is all very true, but, you know, even a corpse can aspire. If you have never heard this song, I urge you not to wait until my funeral to break your duck. (Of course you’ll all be there.) It’s a wonderful song with a full-on brass band and the most poignant yet joyful lyric you will ever hear.
I intend to exit to Blue Oyster Cult – Don’t Fear the Reaper which, as well as being a great song is both apposite and strangely uplifting. (I did, originally, say that I wanted Deep Purple – Burn which my wife pointed out is neither.)
I have been to so many funerals where somebody who obviously did not know the deceased has been asked to read a sterile eulogy, that I am quite tempted to write my own before I go. I’ve even toyed with recording it myself, but I think it might be a little freaky, so I’ll have to let somebody else do it. But who? It is perhaps asking too much of a close family member and I don’t know anybody even vaguely famous. Nobody even wants to think that somebody older than themselves will be able to read their eulogy: everybody plans to live longer than everybody else of their own age. It will probably have to be the celebrant – I could always rehearse him/her I suppose. (I must make a note to book early.) The eulogy will not focus too much on my earthly achievements – that would be both immodest and very, very short – it will quietly gloss over my many shortcomings (for details of which, you will have to consult my wife and children) but will concentrate on my assorted foibles and peccadilloes – I am awash with those. They are, perhaps, more ‘sit’ than ‘com’, but there is something to work on. I’m sure there’s a laugh or two to find in there somewhere. It will be a mixture of navel-gazing, observation, obfuscation, waffle and downright exaggeration (ah, you see where I’m going?) and it will provide a short diversion from the maudlin task at hand.
I’m always unsure as to how I would like to be viewed by posterity. What would I like people to say about me in a hundred years time? ‘Doesn’t he look good for his age,’ probably. I hope my grandchildren remember me with the same kind of fondness with which I remember my own grandparents. I’d like them to chuckle when they think about me and agree that I was ‘an old bugger at times’. And if they have a bookful of embarrassing photographs of me to pass around afterwards – well, my capacity to blush will have long passed. And I hope that, as I will then be well past my centenary and ‘as sharp as a tack until the day he died’, it will be a jolly affair and that the memories I leave behind will all be fond ones. Thus passes the glory of the world…
I used to hate weddings – all those old dears poking me in the stomach and saying, ‘You’re next.’ But they stopped all that when I started doing the same to them at funerals. Gail Flynn