Tuesday, April 19, 2011
When I Die
My aunt recently died, and her death has got me thinking. A dangerous pastime, I know... What is going to happen to me when I die? I know what I want to happen to me, but I also know that it is not legal, and the only reason I can figure for why is that it doesn't make money for anyone, but I am getting ahead of myself.
My aunt's funeral was lovely. Practically our ENTIRE family attended, and honestly I was amazed. I CANNOT imagine that many people coming to my funeral. Seriously, I think I will be lucky if any of my surviving family members can manage to make it. That's ok though, I think that there will be a fairly well attended online memorial.
As with previous funerals in my family, there were two parts. I have no idea if this is common everywhere or just part of our tradition, but there was a wake on Friday night, and then the church services/memorial/funeral on Saturday afternoon. The wake was basically a social gathering where we could see her body, and talk about how much we loved her and will miss her. The funeral at the church was a bit of a seeing and gathering, and then there was the service conducted by her pastor, and lastly food. Food has traditionally been a part of the rites of passage, and it is an important time to ground and work through grief. Afterwards, she was taken away to be cremated.
I have no complaints about my aunt's funeral, so please do not take the following as bad-mouthing her service. I simply want to point out what I want to happen to me, and why.
I am firmly pagan, and so a ceremony in a church that praised the Christian God and Jesus would probably have my spirit causing a great deal of mischief. Seriously, whomever has to arrange my service, pay attention - NO CHURCHES! Thank you!
I know I said I wasn't going to bad mouth her service, but before I continue, I want to talk about how the pastor told the story of Jesus and Lazarus. For those like me who had never heard this before, basically Lazarus got sick and died, and since he was one of Jesus' best friends, his sisters sent for him immediately, and then bitched him out for not being there to heal him before he died. (I am paraphrasing, but guess what, I am using ALMOST the pastor's exact words. He was a very hip pastor, lol!) His sisters tried to guilt trip Jesus by saying that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had just come sooner. He wasn't too far away, but did not come for fear of persecution. Anyway, Jesus goes to Lazarus' tomb, and tells everyone to have faith, and lo-and-behold Lazarus emerges alive from his tomb 4 days after he had died.
The pastor meant this as a comfort. He told the gathering that we could be assured that Jesus and his father will one day resurrect everyone, including my aunt... even if it is in heaven...? I didn't think of it at the time, but as I mulled this over in my head it occurred to me...
WAIT just one frickin' minute! Jesus was nearby enough that a message could be sent and he could arrive in only four days. This meant that he was close enough that they probably sent him a letter telling him that Lazarus was sick AND since Jesus is a good guy, he probably sent a letter to Lazarus giving him advice on how to get better. He's Jesus after all, and his advice would be worth listening to. I am also certain this had to have happened, because both of Lazarus' sisters were mad at him for not coming sooner, which means they knew he knew, which means they had sent him a letter, you follow me?
Well, if Lazarus died after receiving Jesus' advice filled letter, then he either was meant to die as a mandate from God, OR he didn't effin listen to the advice in Jesus' letter. Considering that God was willing to bring him back, I rather assume that it was the second option. HOW is it Jesus' fault if Lazarus died because he didn't follow Jesus' advice?
We have angels who walk among us, and they are constantly telling us how to live full and healthy lives, but their voices get lost among a sea of conflicting information, and it's not like they can break divine law and say, "Hey! I'm an Angel for f's sake! Listen to me!" Even if they did, we have free will, and could choose to ignore them or not believe them. In which case, when we or a loved one dies, how dare we blame God, Jesus, or even the Angels?
Moving on, as a pagan and a person who believes in doing things as naturally as possible, I shudder at the thought of being pumped full of chemicals and then occupying a plot of land for centuries. Seriously, we don't have enough land for everyone who is alive, how in the world are we going to justify taking up so much room for dead bodies in the future when land is even less available? That leaves me with cremation as my only option, but I don't want to do that either... it seems so cold and detached.
I want a funeral pyre! This was the standard in many cultures around the world, and I think that because funerals are a religious ceremony, there should be NO LAWS governing them. Therefore, if my church or religious organization wanted to fulfill my wishes to be burned in a pyre, I think it should be a valid and legal option.
Alternatively, there are a few wiccan/pagan churches that have the land required to give a "green burial." A green burial is what they call a burial in which a body is not preserved with chemicals and is buried without a coffin. This allows the body to decompose naturally, and become part of the earth in a relatively short time as Mother Nature intended. To quote the Lion King. "When we die, our bodies become the grass. Wildebeests eat the grass, and thus the circle of life is complete." If I can't have a pyre, but can have a green burial, then I would like that. After that is cremation, but never ever pump me full of chemicals... I'd rather donate my body to science if they want to pump me full of chemicals. If I am going to be preserved for a long time, it should be for a reason.
More important than what happens to my body is what happens during my funeral. I gave it some thought, and here's what I want to happen.
In the morning, people arrive, and hold a wake, which was originally intended to guard a person's soul until it left their body... Christians believed that this took 3 days (another reason that the Pastor emphasized that Lazarus had been dead 4 days, or so he said.), and after the wake/vigil, a body would be buried or burned. After a few hours of MY wake, I want there to be food served... perhaps a buffet or potluck, and I want the carb content to be kept to a minimum because my spirit plans to eat some of the food, and I want to be ABLE to eat it, lol! I am diabetic, and carbs make me sick... literally.
Then, come evening, I want there to be a ceremony talking about my life, life's plan, the summerland, and what happens next. I want this mostly so that my children know my beliefs, even if they decide not to agree with them. Around dusk, I want the pyre to be lit. I joke now, saying that they can light a giant bonfire, and toss me on it, but I know it will happen a lot more carefully than that.
As a side note, my husband maintains that HE wants me to fill his body with explosives, put him in a "salute," and drop him on the White House after he's died. I may not be able to do all of that, but I will try to get special permission to fill him with explosives... have to honor his wishes, you know?
After my pyre, I want music to be played, and drinks to be consumed, and a party bordering on orgy to ensue... with plenty of kids friendly activities to distract the kiddies from all the fun going on. Don't be too sad for me, I'm moving on to the next step.
For more information on pyres and green burials, please read: The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over or Entering the Summerland: Customs and Rituals of Transition into the Afterlife (World Religion & Magick Series)
Bright blessings, and have a happy day!