Death is a fact of life — though you wouldn’t know it by watching the television series “The Facts of Life,” which barely mentioned the subject outside of that one episode where Natalie murdered a clown. Everyone dies eventually, except Dick Cheney, so there’s no point in refusing to think about it.
That, and a surplus of cold medicine, is why I’ve recently been contemplating my own death. Rest assured, I don’t expect to die anytime soon, and definitely not before I finish watching “The Wire.” (I’m on season 4.) But when my time eventually comes, as it must come for us all, except Dick Cheney, I want to be prepared. More importantly, I want those I leave behind to be prepared to carry out my final wishes. If I look down from heaven (?) and find that my instructions aren’t being followed to the letter, I will be very mad, and I will haunt the crap out of you.
I want an open-casket funeral. Moreover, I want the casket positioned vertically rather than horizontally, so it looks like I’m standing up.
If I should die in such a horrible manner that to gaze upon what’s left of my once beautiful body would nauseate mourners, my remains may instead be shoveled into a garbage bag and set on top of the casket, with a life-size painting of my head set on top of the garbage bag, so that people know who’s in there. The painting should be produced by an artist of known taste and skill, as judged by my next of kin, and should lean toward a Romantic rather than an Impressionistic depiction.
If I should die in a manner that leaves my body unharmed but my head destroyed or missing, the painting described in the previous paragraph shall be commissioned and placed atop my shoulders in the casket.
Special instructions for the mortician who prepares my body for viewing:
I want my eyes to be open. Use glue if you have to. This will freak everybody out.
Regardless of how I actually died, please draw cartoon tire tracks across my chest.
I do not care which particular hymns are sung, as long as the lyrics are about me specifically. I ask also that they be sung in a brisk, up-tempo fashion, and that the members of the congregation who cannot carry a tune just shut their mouths.
As a special number, a skilled singer of my next of kin’s choosing is to be hired to sing a jaunty polka version of “Send in the Clowns.” This must be performed with a straight face, even though it is silly. If in the course of the performance the singer lets on that he or she knows it’s silly, he or she will not be paid. Commitment to a joke is one of our most cherished traditions.
Under no circumstances is Elton John to perform a musical number at my funeral. He is permitted to be a pallbearer and nothing more.
You know how in some cultures they’ll hire professional mourners to come weep and wail at funerals? That’s weird. Don’t do that.
Even if no deaf people are in attendance, I want a squad of eight to ten sign-language interpreters standing on either side of my casket translating the proceedings. They should be dressed in identical outfits.
These phrases are to be included in my eulogy:
“…noted scholar and philanthropist…”
“…the most respected acrobat of his generation…”
“…courageous battle with terminal dandruff…”
“…filled with nougat…”
Note: the eulogy is to be delivered by whoever happens to be the last person to have spoken to me, even if that person is a stranger or an enemy. If it was a doctor, police officer, or firefighter, he or she is to give the eulogy dressed in his or her work uniform, as if having come straight to the funeral from the job. If the person is unwilling to deliver the eulogy, he or she may be forced at gunpoint.
I would like any friends or relatives who are willing to do so to casually make the following remarks at the post-funeral luncheon, to be overheard by others:
“Does this mean the D.A. is dropping the charges?”
“The paramedics said they’d never seen so much vomit.”
“But what about all the other people who cheated death that day by getting off the roller coaster before it collapsed?”
“I’m just saying, the sooner we get that bastard in the ground, the sooner we can dance on his grave.”
“Anyone mind if I rifle through his pockets? He owed me ten dollars.”
“It’s a shame he died before he could realize his dream of being the first black man on the Moon.”
“Wait, where’s Eric?”