If you were to design your own funeral or memorial...?
Imagine if your grandmother decided that she wanted to make her own coffin—pick the wood, make the measurements, draw up a blueprint. Imagine she invited her bridge circle to join her, to saw, sand, primer, paint, and line it with her favorite plush material.
What if she went further and made a themed coffin?
Maybe she was in love with Elvis or wanted to be buried in a giant ladybug. What if she saw this as a brave and joyous way to face the inevitable, to take ownership of her own death and have some say in how she would be celebrated and remembered? What if she scripted her funeral, sent detailed instructions about who she wanted to speak and sing, and then shopped for and got the best deal on a cemetery plot or cremation service? Then let’s say she negotiated a good price on a venue, designed the invitations, and made sure she knew who was writing her obituary.
At this point we can end this thought experiment because it isn’t hypothetical; it is exactly what the Kiwi Coffin Club in New Zealand is up to, and they are growing in numbers by the day.
In perhaps the most delightful end-of-life video ever made, they dance their way through a musical number, introducing their efforts to reclaim and make joyous the very fact that they are going to die, and sooner rather than later. They show off the “glory boxes” they designed themselves—from one that’s Elvis themed to one covered in leprechauns and shamrocks.
“Face it, a funeral’s got to have soul.”
About fifty or sixty people met as part of the initial club, but it’s taken off. Now people are replicating the model throughout New Zealand and as far afield as Ireland. Part of the incentive is financial—a gold and mahogany casket can cost $5,000 (NZ), while you can order a wooden box through the Coffin Club for $200 (NZ). The grim reality is that the elderly are taken advantage of for all manner of services, but none so savagely as they are in matters of death and dying.
Part of the incentive for the Coffin Club, as their song—and the way they sing it!—attests, is personality. As original club founder Kate Williams told National Geographic, celebrating death is just as important as celebrating life. It only stands to reason that a person’s memorial should only be as staid as they themselves were.
“We never knew how awesome death could be.”
Excerpt from "Let's Talk About Death (Over Dinner)" courtesy of the author.