A whole lotta people in my life died this summer. Seriously, more than usual. Earlier this week, I sent a weird text to someone I love, asking “what’s the dress code for this service?” It was, admittedly, for the service of someone I didn’t know all that well, but who was dearly loved by some of the people I love most in this world. (The death season started this year with losing someone I loved most in the world, and I’m still reeling and pissed about it, honestly.)
Anyway, me being me, I’d like to be very clear up front about what I want at my funeral. And lest you think this is some exercise in reflection and metaphor, it’s not. I mean this totally literally. In the original meaning of the world “literally,” not in the weird bastardized meaning on the word. In fact, while we’re at it, I would like to forbid the use of the word “literally” as “figuratively” at my funeral. That is one of a small handful of things that I never accepted as okay. Me, the queen of the pivot. A woman whose guiding throughline could probably be describes as “are you serious? alright.” Literally does not mean “figuratively.”
First, let’s be clear on how I feel about death. I don’t have any issues with it. I do not fear or dread death. I don’t want it. And I don’t plan on doing it for another 50 years or so. But, I don’t fear it. Like, at all. (I fear pain, a lot. And loss.)
I’m good here. I think that everyone in my life knows how I feel about them. I’ve left nothing unsaid. I’ve left nothing of consequence unfinished in my heart. I learned long ago how to let go, and that has been my greatest joy. (To be clear, people not liking how I feel about them is not the same as my not being clear about it. It is, however, a clear indication of my drawing good boundaries about what I want in my life, and filling my life with exactly what I want it filled with. A thing I am proud of, despite the eye-rolling certainly happening by at least a handful of folks upon reading this sentence.)
I’ve not played this Bucket List nonsense. So, before anyone is tempted to say something like “she should have written that novel while she had time,” please stop. I would have written a novel if I was really moved to. I still may. I think it sounds like a great idea, and I think I’d be pretty good at it. Yes, I’m a little worried that I may be more like E.L. James than Donna Tartt, but all that requires is a pen name. I mean, I love lifting weight, and I’m never gonna be the best at that either. Come to think about, I never even tried to be the best at anything, cuz why? Way to suck the joy out of something that would otherwise be fun. Way to fill your life with “not good enough.” Ick.
But, as for why I don’t have a bucket list… This actually matters to me, and I’d like someone to talk about it. I don’t have a bucket list because enough is enough. Like, literally, and for real, enough is, by definition, enough. I fucking love my life, right now, as is. If necessity is the mother of invention and achievement and all that, it’s a mother that I don’t have. I have everything I have ever wanted. I have a husband who exceeds any fantasy I ever could have concocted, even with the dirty imagination and deeply pensive nature of Henry Miller. I have a community of friends and family who make me feel fantastically secure in the world. And that daughter of mine! I mean, she makes me explode with pride and joy. I have gardens and knitting and cooking, and animals to fill my day with the tiny magics of creation and sharing in so many ways. I live in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of places. I literally want nothing more.
I have done some wild and crazy things in my younger days. And I do hope some of the people who have done them with me will come and spill all. I would like my grandchildren to be both mortified and inspired by the things I have done.
But that Bucket List stuff, I feel like that’s just a way of saying, “ya, my life could be so much better if only I……” It’s like that “thinspiration” shit that I fight against day in and day out for work. I won’t play that game. I’d rather sit in the same damned spot marveling in what I’ve got than spend any energy stressing about what else I could have or could have done. Your life is the sum total of what you choose to see and think about it. Why the fuck would I put all my energy into things that aren’t even things?
My life couldn’t be better than it is. It just couldn’t. And I know it. So if I never write a novel, it’s not because I didn’t do that thing that I really should do that everyone expected of me. It’s because I never chose to, because why? Why add stress to a perfect life. Of course, if I do do it, it’s because I wanted to. (And I may well have done it under a pen name, to eschew this idea of perpetual achievement as a justification for living. As if we have to prove ourselves worthy of taking up oxygen. That shit drives me nuts.)
Now, as for what to wear to my funeral, and how to structure this party. Much to the dismay of my daughter, who knows this full well, I am slowly transforming myself into Baddiewinkle. Perusing her page for inspiration is fully appropriate. Also, anything you might wear to Burning Man, or a rave, if people still remember those.
Or black. I mean, I wear black every day. Call it an homage.
Now, what to say. Wait, no, first: music.
Led Zeppelin. Disco. Funk. Stevie Wonder. Prince. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all there is. If you play some sappy ass weepy crap, dude with a guitar whining about something, I will comeback from the dead and cover you in the the dry fury of what was.
Now, what to say. My life is small. And I liked it that way. I didn’t have a huge footprint, and most of the time I didn’t want one. As I am sure Brady will attest, my happiest days were the days when I crawled into bed knowing that I had touched someone deeply and made a difference in their lives. I loved, hell, I lived for, being that touchstone that made people see themselves and their lives in a way that made them feel better. About their bodies, their relationships, their time, their decisions. The days, and there were so many of them, where I was the safe place for someone to land as their fears and insecurities were spilling out and could no longer be contained, those were my best days.
I want you all to share those moments. NOT, mind you, because I want the praise and recognition. I did so much of that in secret, I don’t need that all outed now. But because I believe with every bone and fiber in my body that giving up this idea that people are perfect will make the world a better place. When you look out at a crowd of people in shimmering rainbow spandex, toes tapping to Sir Duke, at my funeral and say, “I was able to admit I was gay,” “I came to her when I relapsed my addiction,” “she helped me leave my abusive family,” “I finally felt comfortable in my body,” “she taught me how to stick things up my butt safely,” you are creating a world of empowered people. You are actualizing my ultimate vision for the world. The very thing that I worked hardest at, in my own quiet and weird little way.
That is the only thing I ever wanted to accomplish in the world, and I knew I could never really do it. But I was hoping to release an empathy army of sorts out there, covertly, like they never knew they were working to become my personal army of world saviors. But when you let your humanity show, when you share that raw reality with the world, you are showing others that it’s okay to do it. THAT, right there, is the thing that means most in the world to me. You are becoming a safe place in a world of people who need emotional refuge to fight from the onslaught of shame that seeks to contain them.
I couldn’t solve the refugee crisis. I couldn’t cure cancer. None of those were the gifts I was given. I think the gift I had was far more rare. I was given the gift of being able to see how fortunate I was, at every moment. I was given the gift of caring more deeply about joy than acquisition. And I was given the gift of touching people where they needed it the most, which, in turn, brought me joy and helped me realize how fortunate I am at every moment.
So, when I die, that is exactly what I want. I want equal parts porn talk and empowerment. I want people in bright colors saying the kinds of things that polite society has always deemed inappropriate. (You know “they” do that so that they can make you feel weak, and therefore more controllable, right? As long as you feel chronically not “good enough,” you’ll be a good little soldier consuming things you don’t need and performing tasks that empower others rather than yourself. Right?)
As for food and drink. Pot luck please. That’s how I always did things. Because no one person should bear the burden, especially in a state of heart break. (And I’m thinking a few folks will be sad when I’m gone.) It does not have to be perfect. Bring your favorite comfort food, and drinks of choice. And weed.
In my honor, someone please bring Gooey Butter Cake (you can take the girl out of Saint Louis, but you can’t take Saint Louis out of the girl.) And some good scotch.
And then touch each other. Truly listen. Truly accept.
GO FIND LOVE IN ALL ITS FORMS.
Do NOT play Stairway to Heaven. I hate that song.