Unfortunately, I have attended a couple of funerals in the past month or so. I was struck by how incredibly different they were.
When my aunt passed away, her small traditional funeral was followed by a memorial dinner where everyone was invited to share lighthearted stories about her over cannolis and wine. Although she did not have a chance to plan for her funeral, it was exactly as she would have wanted it. Laughter and toasts far outnumbered the tears in a family where her laugh had once been the loudest.
My grandpa, on the other hand, had the details for his funeral laid out for years. A long, traditional church service was followed by a burial with a 21 gun salute from his fellow soldiers. For the luncheon that followed, the restaurant had to move its previous group reservation to the basement so that we could have the main floor in order to honor Grandpa’s ‘no luncheon in the basement’ request. And, adhering to his detailed plan, there were no skins in the mashed potatoes.
Someone at his funeral made the comment, “The nice thing about funerals is that, even when you think you really know someone, you find out things you’d never heard and feel like you get to know them a little better.” Having missed out on the larger part of my relatives’ lives and never having lived nearby, I learned so much about both of them and left their funerals feeling closer to them.
A great writing exercise is to tell the story of your funeral. Who will be there? What stories will they remember you by? How will they mourn your death or celebrate your life? This might sound like a morbid exercise to some, but for me, this helps me remember to live a life worth celebrating.
You can also get to know your main character better by writing up their funeral, even if they don’t actually die in your story.