It’s never too soon to start saving for your retirement, they say. But is it ever too soon to start planning your funeral? If it is, the journalist Lauren Windle from the Sun newspaper hasn’t been put off. She only twenty-eight now, but she’s been planning her funeral since she was twelve.
Why did she start so young? She says it was her father. Whenever she had a minor complaint in childhood – like being stopped from eating sweets before a meal – her father would remind her of what lay ahead. There were two things she would be unable to avoid as a grown-up. First she would have to pay taxes; and then, sooner or later, she would die. I’m glad my father didn’t tell me the same. Those are serious thoughts for a child, but maybe they’re useful ones too.
Life can’t be fun for ever. And life can’t last for ever. That was a lesson that Laura absorbed early and that’s why she began thinking about what she wanted her funeral to be like. In short, she began a funeral plan. The first thing on her mind was the music. What song should be played to sum up her life and bring a tear or a smile to the mourners? At the age of twelve, she liked a ballad called “There You’ll Be” from the movie Pearl Harbor. It was full of emotion and power – a perfect way to say goodbye.
Or so she thought at the age of twelve. But our tastes change as we get older. Later she thought she might like Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way” instead. It’s a very popular choice as a funeral song – many thousands of people have sent that defiant message to the world as they left it. But what about something quirky? Laura later decided on the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” as a her funeral song. That would raise a smile, wouldn’t it?
Or maybe not. Her choice of song kept changing. At the moment it’s “See You Again” by Wiz Khlaifa, another emotion-filled song from a movie. It was played in Fast & Furious 7 to honour Paul Walker, the star of the franchise who had died in a car-crash in Los Angeles. But it’s more than likely than her choice of funeral song will change again. After all, she’s still only twenty-eight and she might live to be a hundred or more.
Or she might have an accident and pass away much sooner. Like most people, she has no idea when she’ll go and she wants to be prepared. Beside music, she’s also planning the food for her funeral. If her funeral plan as a whole was inspired by her father, her choice of food is influenced by her mother, who has an interesting story about her university days. She studied science and one day, working in the laboratory, she accidentally breathed in what she thought was a deadly gas.
“In an hour or two I’ll be dead!” she thought. But she wanted to have lunch first. With no future ahead of her, or so she thought, she chose an expensive prawn sandwich rather than the cheaper egg mayo she usually had. She didn’t die, of course: she married and had a daughter called Laura. And Laura, having heard her story about the poisonous gas and the prawn sandwich, decided that prawn sandwiches would be the perfect accompaniment to a real funeral.
For one thing, it’s a good family joke. And there’s nothing wrong with that. A funeral plan can have humour in it, if that’s what you want. The choices are yours, because it’s your funeral. But it’s a good idea to discuss your ideas with your nearest and dearest, even if you want to keep a few surprises up your sleeve. Laura Windle may be doing that in another part of her funeral plan: the message she’s recorded to be played when the mourners are gathered in church.
She wants to tell them that she loves them and that they meant the world to her. But her funeral message, like her choice of song, may be updated again and again as she gets older. Life brings us new experiences and we change our minds. A funeral plan doesn’t have to be set in stone. It’s likely, though, that we will be more and more satisfied with it as we get pass our middle years and into old age. At the age of twenty-eight, Laura Windle is having fun her funeral plan. As she gets older, she will begin to gain comfort from it. The funeral plan will allow her to have some control over something that none of us can control: the fact of our mortality.
We can’t choose to live for ever and when we have a funeral plan we have faced the end of life and decided how we want to be remembered. With a funeral plan, we can save money, enjoy peace of mind, and lift an enormous burden from our loved ones. They won’t have to make decisions about our funeral because the decisions will already have been made.