Mark Twain may have had the opportunity, but it’s fair to say being able to attend your own funeral is not something that happens every day. Premature obituaries do happen in the case of mistaken identity and misreported deaths, but it’s relatively rare.
Twitter, of course, seems to be doing its best to despatch the still living to the great beyond, with rumours of the deaths of pop stars, film actors and politicians regularly reaching halfway round the world before the ‘mistake’ – for which read ‘spoof’ – is unmasked. Margaret Thatcher has already died ten times this year in the bubble of social media.
Attending your own funeral could be called a once in a lifetime experience, except, of course, you’ll be dead by the time the occasion arrives. What a waste of a day.
Undertakers have hit upon the perfect way of getting your money upfront by encouraging people to plan their own send off; after all, it’s your big day and you can’t always rely on others to get the small detail right. The funeral trades call it ‘pre-need’ planning, but they still ask for a deposit once you’ve got your perfect send off mapped out.
Do you want to be buried or cremated? Check. Limousine or horse drawn carriage? Check. Traditional casket or wicker basket? Check. Church or humanist service? Check. And that’s before you get on to music, memorials, venue for the reception, catering, free bar and whether to have donations instead of flowers.
Let’s face it, most weddings are easier to plan if you think about it, and at least if wedding arrangements go awry most participants will always have a second chance.
So, if a funeral is such a big occasion, and if you’ve put your heart and soul into planning it, why miss it? Have it before you die. We Brits appear to have abandoned the stiff upper lip when it comes to funerals anyway, so what’s the harm? If a funeral is, as the common parlance goes, ‘a celebration of life’ then pop that cork, get a cake baked, and stick the invites in the post – ‘what are you doing Saturday?’
And think, you get to hear the eulogies, maybe say a few words yourself, receive pats on the back, and nobody will dare interfere with your specially compiled music playlist. Funeral companies are definitely missing a trick here – they’d be effectively doubling their market overnight if they could persuade people to opt for two send offs instead of the traditional one.
‘Living Funeral Therapy’, where people attend their own funerals to get a fresh perspective on their lives, is already practiced in South Korea as an anti-suicide measure. Participants report a feeling of greater self-worth and renewed motivation.
Some details may need second thoughts though. Harry Secombe famously received a message from his fellow goon, Spike Milligan: `I hope you go before me because I don’t want you singing at my funeral.’ If you only die twice, that could be a bit of a problem.
This blog originally appeared on the Huffington Post UK website: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/paul-carroll/attending-your-own-funeral_b_2176735.html