I’ve been thinking a bit about what comes after I’ve gone. Not the afterlife, you understand. My theory on that has always been a bit confused, if rather calm. Either there is a wonderful paradise in which we will spend eternity, or else there’s a void of nothingness in which case it won’t matter one jot.  So, over all, there’s nothing to worry about on that score.And I’ve always held that most people are not afraid of being dead, they’re afraid of not being alive. And, taking care of ourselves aside, there’s not a great deal we can do about that. 

But I’ve been thinking about those things I can do something about. More specifically, about what kind of funeral I might ‘like’. Call it maudlin, actually don’t do that, because it’s not. As my very wise Dad told me when it was time to make a will ‘it’s not fatal’. Well, hopefully not. No, I prefer to think of it as practical. And in a way, just as I did when it came to making that will, I feel myself driven not so much by what I want, but what I don’t want. 

I’ve been to enough funerals to know what I do and don’t like. More importantly, what I do and don’t want. But, to be perfectly frank, even writing about this is proving difficult. After all not being alive is not something any of us wants to think about, much less discuss openly. But we all know that none of us go on for ever. Death, as they say, is the only certainty of life. 

As you go through your life, of course, these things do begin to occur to you more often. Largely because the older you get, the more other people’s funerals you’ve attended. And you begin to get an idea of what you like and what you don’t like. Much as you do when you’re very young and attending all those weddings. Of course a funeral is nothing like a wedding – while I’ve witnessed young lovebirds discuss the various merits of fireworks displays over balloon releases for their nuptials, I’ve yet to overhear anyone discusses the virtues of Dolly Parton or Elvis Presley for a ‘goodbye song’. But perhaps that should change. We all die. Pretty much all of us have a funeral. Why are we so afraid to discuss it?  I'm really no different from anyone else. If I'm honest I find even writing about this is hard work. Not being alive is not something any of us wants to think about, much less discuss ‘out loud’. But we all know that none of us go on for ever – it’s the only certainty of life.

Okay, the idea of dying is scary. But think about it from the perspective of those around you.Think about it from a practical perspective. If you got run over by the proverbial bus next week, do the loved ones you’d leave behind really know what kind of funeral you’d like? I bet most of us have never even discussed it with the people who are most likely, when the worst comes to the worst, to be the ones having to make those decisions for us.

I know lots of people say they don’t want any crying. What they really mean, I think, is that they don’t want prolonged abject misery. And I’d agree, although I’d like a few tears shed – it’d be good to sit up on that cloud and know that I’d be missed.  But I’d like my last party to be at least a bit enjoyable for those I leave behind. After all it’s likely to be one of the rare times when your family meets up with your friends. You owe it to them to do something nice. And in a way it’s your last message to them. Your last chance to put a bit of your character into something.

And whether we want a religious component to our service or not, there’s plenty of scope to personalize.  Funerals no longer have to consist of two hymns, a reading and a sermon. It’s not uncommon these days to use favourite poems and songs as a part of the service. I think I’d like at least one hymn, perhaps a significant poem or two and while I’d like someone to do a favourable eulogy, I'd like it to be truthful too. No point burying the wrong person, now is there?

And while I’d like a touch of sadness, I want my loved ones to be left with a sense of warmth and contentment and absolutely no despair. I have some poems in mind and a favourite hymn and a couple of songs. But it’s that last ‘goodbye’ song that I can’t quite settle on. I’ve decided to go with a ‘mood’. But do I leave them uplifted or mellow? Perhaps both? 

My Dad keeps threatening everyone with humour – at least I assume that’s what his aiming for – in the form of George Formby’s ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’. But, whatever, your intent, there’s plenty of help to ease the planning process along. Countless websites offer advice on 'suitable' songs and poems, readings and even an alternate order of service. And, like making a will, planning your funeral is something you can do and then forget about. Although, I have to admit, I’ve been finding these planning stages strangely rewarding. None of us wants to think about not being here, but it’ll happen one day. Why not at least make a few notes?  It’s nothing to stress about. It's not set in stone. If we change our minds, we can change our plans. And, I don’t know about you, but I'm hoping on having plenty of opportunity to do just that. And in the meantime, I’ll just live my life. As the Spanish writer George Santayana wrote: ‘There is no cure for death, save to enjoy the interval.'