Despite an appreciation for the macabre and a history of 'whistling in the graveyard', I don't think of myself as a particularly morbid person. That said, it has ocurred to me that I have perhaps spent more time than the average person thinking about my own funeral arrangements.
Years ago (good grief, two decades, actually), my roommate and chum Rob played me the Alan Parsons Project song "Old and Wise", and mentioned in passing that it was something he expected to be played at his funeral. Certainly the lyrics seem appropriate:
And to those I leave behindI want you all to knowYou've always shared my darkest hoursI'll miss you when I go
Since then I occasionally find myself drawn into thinking about the playlist and other details for my own final arrangements, and I am reminded of it every time I see a funeral in the movies or on TV. Last night, Fenya and I caught the first few minutes to The Right Stuff, which features a funeral for a test pilot who crashed trying to break the sound barrier. At his graveside, a somber man with a deep voice sings a version of "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" that changes the chorus from "Eternal Father, hear our plea/ for those in peril on the sea" to "hear our prayer/for those in peril in the air", which I thought was a very neat touch, but what is most memorable about the scene for me is the fly-by and "missing man" formation, and I pointed it out to Fenya.
"What's that about?" she asked.
"It's a tradition to show respect for a fallen pilot; the normal formation is for four planes, so they deliberately leave a gap for that pilot's plane to signify that he is missed. Sometimes they start out with a full formation and have one plane pull off in a steep vertical climb, like he's going to heaven or some such. Cool, huh?"
Fenya nodded. "It is actually, yeah. Is that what you want done at your funeral?"
I laughed. "That's very sweet of you to ask, but I'm no pilot honey; there's no squadron for me to be the missing man from." I reflected for a moment,and then said, "Well, unless you want to set up a mobile or something with some model planes or spaceships or what-have-you...maybe some X-Wings...you could do that if you wanted."
"Okay," she said, agreeably.
A few moments later I said, "You know what? Call Island Mike and have him bring two of his Catachan Valkyries, that makes three with my Valhallan one, the missing man can be from that formation. He'd be down with that, I figure."
"All right," she acquiesced.
With that detail I hope to have struck the proper balance between somber remembrance and ironic whimsy, which makes me feel a bit better about the whole affair. For years now I've made it clear that Fenya is to sing Danny Boy at my funeral, and I expect there to be not a dry eye in the house. (In fact, when I mentioned this to Island Mike years ago, he said he wells up pretty much every time he hears that song anyways, but would appreciate it if he doesn't hear it in this context too soon; a point which we happen to be in total accord upon.)
Other than that, my only real request is that there be something closely approximating an Irish wake; I know I won't be there to appreciate it, but there's a certain amount of "in death as it was in life" that is to expected at these sorts of functions, and it's also a good way to assure lots of people turn out.