My Big Fat Gay Funeral
If spring is the time of rebirth and life, why am I thinking so much about my own death?
It started a couple of weeks ago when I was working the buffet line at a birthday party and felt a sharp stab in my chest. Good Lord, I thought, I cannot keel over and die while I’m holding a plate full of fried chicken and tater tot casserole! It wouldn’t be dignified. Once I realized a plastic price tag fastener left in my new button-down shirt and not a heart attack was causing the pain, I added a big helping of macaroni and cheese.
I must say I’m quite prepared for the random coronary, stroke, car accident, elevator plunge, or shark attack should it come. We all gotta go sometime, right? I have a will and I’ve thought about how to divvy up all my worldly possessions. What I don’t have is a solid plan for my funeral.
Funerals, generally speaking, tend to be rather dull, remorseful affairs. I’m certain it’s because the details often fall to someone else. If I want to put the “fun” into my funeral, I’m going to need to leave my own instructions.
I used to think I wanted to be cremated and my ashes spread around some favorite venues like the Blue Ridge Mountains, the deep blue sea, and the Blue Moon Bar. A scoop here and a pinch there. But that’s a lot of work for someone. I can’t tell you how many boxes of ashes I’ve heard are still sitting around in closets waiting to be scattered one day.
Then I learned about “extreme embalming.” Have you heard of this practice where the deceased is embalmed and then dressed up and posed into a personal tableau? It’s a once in a lifetime, pun intended, gathering of friends and family who come to say goodbye and to raise a glass or two in celebration of a life well lived.
It seems to be quite popular in New Orleans. You may have seen the pictures of socialite Mickie Easterling who attended her own memorial service propped up on a wrought iron bench in a flamboyant pink feather boa, holding a Waterford crystal champagne flute in one hand and a cigarette in the other. She wore a diamond-studded brooch that read “Bitch.” Or maybe you read about Miriam Burbank who was posed sitting at a table beneath a glittering disco ball for her home-going party. She was wearing sunglasses and sporting black and gold New Orleans Saints inspired fingernails. In front of her sat a glass of Busch beer and a pack of menthol cigarettes.
Now we’re talking….
Some call this a new trend, but that’s not really true. Abraham Lincoln’s body was embalmed and put on a funeral train to travel the country. He appeared on public display in twelve cities.
I can envision my funeral tableau: the embalmed body of yours truly propped upright in a comfortable chair, and seated beside a roaring fire. My leg is crossed and I’m wearing a pair of new Gucci loafers, no socks. There’s a book in my lap, preferably one of my own, and a Manhattan cocktail by my side, Makers Mark of course, on the rocks. Some Cole Porter songs are playing, and the well-heeled crowd assembled is imbibing at the open bar.
A scene like this would naturally work best in fall or winter, so I might need to prepay and store my body should I have the bad timing to die in the spring or summer.
After ninety minutes, the wake-cum-cocktail party will end and the parade to the gravesite will begin. Hopefully, members of the Westboro Baptist Church will be picketing.
You may be surprised, but I kind of like the notion of being laid to rest in a simple, but dignified, Southern pine coffin—not a casket—constructed with old-fashioned hand tools and finished with tung oil. Paid mourners—off season lifeguards—will arrive bearing huge Methuselah-sized bottles of Vueve Clique champagne, thereby further pissing off the Baptists. The mourners will pass out glasses of bubbly as the coffin is closed and lowered into the cold ground. A toast is made and a single trumpeteer plays “Auld Lang Syne.” A soft snow begins to fall onto the pink granite obelisk standing majestically at the head of my plot.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, now it’s time to bring some closure, because this funeral party is officially over.