Marni Asplund-Campbell, editor
Instructions for My Funeral
and Other Posthumous Thoughts
[p.177]THE FUNERAL: It should be one hour exactly. No one’s life is so interesting that it should be reviewed for longer than that. Don’t allow anyone to speak who does not know that one typed, double-spaced page is two minutes of talking. Don’t let anyone speak “from the heart.” It’s one step above speaking in tongues. Have a thesis. Focus. Only people with a strong sense of irony and language should be allowed to speak.
Tell them that Tom and I danced in the kitchen to Les Brown and his Band of Renown. Tell them I was called Loesje the first twenty years of my life. Tell them I made needlepoint Christmas stockings for each of my four sons. Tell them I was the Miata convertible grandma. Tell them I once made a prayer tree. Tell them I beat Tom at Backgammon 55 percent of the time. Tell them I laughed a lot. Tell them I had a nice alto/tenor voice. Tell them I loved the hymns and hated it when a member of the bishopric would say at the end of sacrament meeting: “Because of the time we’ll only sing one verse.” Some of us pray by singing. Tell them I could play “The Dance of the Blessed Spirits” on the flute. Tell them I could draw Barney from memory. Tell them I could curl my tongue.
Don’t tell them about green bagging my son’s bedroom. Don’t tell them about the burping contest in the HarMar parking lot. Don’t tell them about the time I stayed under the covers in my bed all evening because I thought I couldn’t learn the Dutch passive voice and it was the only thing standing between me and a master’s degree. Don’t tell them how I repeatedly threatened to burn my study. Don’t tell them about the anxiety depressions. Don’t tell them I had to take remedial math in [p.178]college.
You can quote me. I expect it.
THE VIEWING: Absolutely no open casket. I don’t want people looking down at me. I don’t want them saying, “She looks like she’s sleeping.” How would they know? I didn’t sleep the last third of my life. I roamed the house, watched videos, and drank hot chocolate. When I’m dead, I’ll look dead. Brown pancake make-up will cover the liver spots on my hands. Alive, I never made up my hands. I did make up my face, but Larkins won’t get it right. They won’t know that I wore L’Oreal’s “Sandstone” lipstick and a suntan blush made by Dermablend. They won’t wash my body with Chanel No. 5 soap like I did every morning. I won’t smell right. Keep the casket closed.
And cover it with dozens of the palest pink roses. You can buy them at Hubbard’s Floral on South Temple. At this writing they cost $4.50 apiece. Buy dozens. Spare no expense. I won’t be asking again.
THE OBITUARY: Like the funeral, it should be of modest length. Don’t write every minor accomplishment into it. It makes readers cynical. I was born. I went to school. I got married. I had children and grandchildren. I wrote a few books. I taught. I died. No phrasing like, “Our beloved wife, mother and grandmother has left this vale of tears,” or “Heavenly Father took our beloved mother back to his bosom.” And don’t tell people that “in lieu of flowers” they can send a contribution to some charity. I want flowers. I want a roomful of flowers. (See above.)
THE BURIAL: The honest truth is that I would prefer to be cremated, but my family is so repelled by the idea of burning—as if being buried six feet in the ground is such a pleasure—that I doubt they could follow through with this. So my second choice is to be buried in the Salt Lake City cemetery where I enjoyed walking when I was a teenager. My sister, Joyce, is buried there. My grandparents are buried there. I want to be buried next to Tom. He is the first person I want to see on resurrection morning.
THE GRAVESTONE: I don’t like gravestones that identify the relationship of the dead person to the one buying the gravestone, such as [p.179]“Mother” or “Beloved Wife.” What if a grandchild comes to call? Or a friend? My name and the important dates are all that is needed.
THINGS I NEVER BELIEVED: (I) I never believed seminary was as important as real school. (2) I never believed Miss McCormack, my sixth grade teacher, when she said she’d muzzle me if I didn’t stop talking. (3) I never believed that maxim, “Early to bed, Early to Rise, Makes a man happy, healthy, and wise.” There are just as many hours in the day if you go to bed late and get up late. (4) I never believed Miss Bowman, my a cappella director, when she said that Barbra Streisand’s voice wouldn’t last, because she sang the wrong way. (5) I never believed people who said the best Christmas in their lives was the year they received an orange. (6) I never believed the people who told me that after marriage all the fun stops.
THINGS I BELIEVED: (1) I believed my father when he said hot dogs were made from dog tails. I was fifteen at the time. (2) I believed in Jesus. (3) I believed Mr. Bennett, my high school history teacher, when he said life just flies by after high school. (4) I believed Tom was magic. (5) I believed the patriarch when he said I would be satisfied with my life. (6) I believed the fortune cookie that said luck was with me now—act upon my instincts. (7) I believed I was a competent aesthetic advisor.
APOLOGIES TO MY FOUR SONS: I’m sorry I made you wear Sears Toughskins and, later, Oscar de la Renta jeans. Ed, I’m sorry you had to play hockey wearing my white figure skates. Charles, I’m sorry you had two spankings. I’m sorry I let Dad take your temperatures with a rectal thermometer. I know this has ruined your lives. Jon, I’m sorry you never got a skateboard for Christmas. Sam, I’m sorry I let your hair grow so long that people thought you were a girl. I’m sorry about the couscous with lamb and apricots, but that was Dad’s doing. Remember, I’m the one who was easy with money and discipline, so get a grip.
APOLOGIES TO MY HUSBAND: Forgive me for making you sit through a Doris Day double-feature. I’m sorry that I was such a high-maintenance wife. Thank you for acting as though you never wanted [p.180]anything else. We were good together, weren’t we?
I hope I died before I became a mad, old woman, alone, wandering the streets of downtown Salt Lake wearing high-tops and a baseball cap. I’m pretty sure I’m headed for heaven. See you there.