Preplanned memorial meals trend up

May 27, 2008

Five times a year, my son Oliver and I go to the Toronto Children’s Symphony series. Afterwards we head over to Pangaea to have a bite to eat with Martin before heading home for a suburban Saturday night. It’s a great ritual that I hope will ensure he grows up to be a civilized, open minded young man.

Driving home after our last concert, we were listening to CBC Radio One and caught the tail end of a very interesting discussion on Talking Books. Although the subject was The End of The Alphabet, by CS Richardson, the panel’s discussion digressed into a chat about how our aging society has developed a grief culture that views grieving as noble and maybe even a little bit romantic. (You can download the full discussion as an MP3 file for free if you want to hear the whole chat, BTW).

To make a long story short, I was intrigued to learn that many people are pre-planning not only their basic funeral arrangements but also their wakes. While purchasing a burial plot and casket has traditionally been viewed as a selfless act designed to spare your loved ones trouble, this panel asserted that a new aspect of this trend is that these pre-planners derive pleasure while anticipating their own funerals and planning their memorial parties.

This discussion really hit home with me since I have planned my own funeral at least three times over. In fact, pretty much each time I attend a funeral I spend a couple of days afterwards musing (both aloud and silently) about what I’d do the same and what I’d do differently for my own funeral. I always thought it was my controlling nature that led me to these thoughts but now I can blame a cultural movement.

In my imagined memorial plan, the menu is similar to the one I chose for my 40th birthday party (yes, I am such a control freak that I planned my own party): tea sandwiches of all kinds, Eini cupcakes with butter cream frosting, and a bottle of Veuve Cliquot for everyone who attends. Although I’d love for everyone to stay long enough to drink their entire bottle at my wake and spend the evening reminiscing about our shared adventures, my mourners can take the wine home to toast me in private if they prefer. I have similar plans for music, flowers, eulogies, and, believe it or not, loot bags.

My husband thinks I’m absolutely cracked and won’t allow me to hint at this subject when he’s around. What do you think? Is it morbid that while I’m healthy as a horse and just entering the second half of my life that I think about my wake? And, should it be important that my wake is the kind of party I’d want to attend myself?