Death and dying are not a laughing matter to many. Not me. Not you. Not anyone, probably. But over the years I have attended way too many funerals, which has made me somewhat immune to the sorrow and morbid feelings associated with death. The closest death to me was that of my father. He was my mentor and all-around funny guy. He was the person who called me at nine o’clock at night to read me a joke out of the Reader’s Digest: “Hey CarolAnn, I’ve got a good one to tell you…” I will not soon forget all the jokes – some knee-slapping funny, and some downright dry – this person told me on a regular basis. It was that humorous side of my dad that prompted me to write a two-page eulogy on his life and times. It was not the typical eulogy. I spoke about how my dad used to make us laugh, about the time he’d jerry-rigged a pecan nut picker, and all his crazy antics while he was alive. I even managed to crack a few smiles during his funeral. I imagine my father was sitting right beside me at the moment smiling his devilish grin in spite of me.
Since his passing, I have unfortunately had the occasion to attend several other funerals. Not that I mind paying my respects but everyone reacts differently to the passing of a loved one. It is difficult trying to find or express the right set of words or feelings that you may have to help console one another.
It was at the last funeral that I attended where I had a sudden epiphany! Why wait to pay your respects to your loved one AFTER s/he dies? What is the sense in that, I thought. Way I figure it we should each have a yearly wake. After all, it is a “wake” is it not? I mean, c’mon, who wants to attend the wake if the individual is resting in peace? So here’s my idea: every year, we pick a random day where we spontaneously call everyone we love and care for to our home and have a big potluck wake. We’ll call it “Wake Day”. Friends, family and colleagues can all come over and share in the celebration of you. Each individual can bring a covered dish and partake in the commemoration of you, wonderful you. Why wait to tell someone how much she has meant to you after she’s gone? There’s no purpose in that. Want to tell someone the secret you have been holding onto for way too long? Use the Wake Day to break the news.
And let’s not confuse the “Wake Day” with a “Birthday”. Birthdays are great but are also an incessant reminder of “how old” you are getting. Who wants to be reminded of that? With a Wake Day, every one gets to participate in your experience, reminisce over old photos and videos, shower you with flowers and just sit around and talk about all the good times you have shared together.
Of course, human conditioning has taught us to grieve and mourn those we lose because it’s a force of habit. We don’t want to give up what or who we love. It’s just too heartbreaking. In reality, however, death just like birth, taxes, mortgages, marriage, divorce, sickness and the rest of the fun stuff that comes our way is courtesy of that thing we like to hold onto: physical life. I mean, we can’t actually talk to our deceased loved ones in person. (That would, however, make for an interesting reality TV show, eh? Oh wait…yes, that has already been done!)
All in all, we human beings have a major hang-up on death. We harp on death far too long – either prior to death or postmortem. Some dwell on the death of a loved one so much that they stop living altogether. What’s worse is that we sometimes work ourselves up on the fear of dying. Me? I’m not afraid to die. I embrace it. I welcome it. To move forward does not mean that you stop caring about or loving that particular individual, it just means that a new chapter has been opened to you without the character of the last chapter. It’s time to build a new chapter and construct your life the way you see fit. And for the dearly and nearly departed…think butterfly.
So back to the Wake Day… on my Wake Day, I want lots of balloons, a big friendly barbecue and no formal attire please. Come as you are. Share a laugh and enjoy the company. Appreciate the time you have together. And for kicks and giggles, I may just have the following tombstone added to my grave (if I choose to be buried):
Dying for the Last Laugh
By CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd – Social Media, Philosophy and More
Copyright – ALL Rights Reserved