Tuesday, April 3, 2018

My NON Funeral Wishes. An Introverted, Autistic's thoughts on Planning A Death. Why I Don't Attend Most Weddings or Funerals.

I've always known I did not want a traditional funeral. Lately, we have experienced a few family deaths, along with my own health scares a couple years ago, which had me solidifying my plans. Each funeral has been an expression of the person who lived or their families' thoughts on them. In the ways they wanted to be expressed, each was beautiful. Today, I attended my aunt's funeral via Facetime from my sister. I even spent a bit of time 'hanging out in her purse.' Which seemed an odd commentary on our current culture but also refreshingly funny. She was so sweet to hold up the phone for me during the tributes. My Uncle's was heartfelt and lovely. The funeral honoured my Aunt's planning and wishes. In that it was heartfelt and inspirational. When I am thinking of my own end, I have had to think upon what would be meaningful for me.

A few years back, my husband and I were driving past the local graveyard and I said, "I always hate driving past here because I picture my bones in that ground and I dislike that thought." To which my husband replied, "You don't have to be there. You could get cremated and request your ashes in our yard or other meaningful places with just the kids and I." And suddenly, driving past the graveyard never bothered me again. I felt so free. I knew I would not be there. I loved the thought of my ashes being by a tree in our backyard or some other place. I felt at peace.

Death is different for everyone and we all need to make choices based on whom we are. I don't think it is bad for people who have chosen to be buried nor do I judge any other deathbed wish. I know, for myself, what I feel better about, when I look to the end.

To me, Weddings and Funerals, are eerily similar but one focuses on celebration of life and the other of death. Actually both celebrate life in different ways to a degree. Both involve mourning of old ways and change. Obviously, there are also key differences. I didn't even enjoy my own wedding, although it was charming and the work all our loved ones put into it was appreciated. However, I love my marriage. My extended family now know that I generally will not attend most funerals or weddings. I am supportive and if I get invited and am close to the people, I will send a large gift and make sure I celebrate or mourn with them in alternative ways. I have a few exceptions to this that are contextual and circumstantial. If my children choose large weddings or funerals I will absolutely be there and honour their wishes.

For years I could not even look at Wedding photos without feeling sick. I would also feel inferior, yucky and socially inappropriate thinking back to "my day." Now, with more than 16 years behind us, I can look back with time, a bit of maturation, and knowing myself, and have a differing perspective. I also see how much everyone tried to make it splendid for me...and in that it WAS beautiful. I didn't know myself, so thus others didn't know what I needed either. We all thought it was an expression of whom I was then, and no one can be blamed, including myself. Thus, now I see the photos, where I know I was pasting on a smile, because I remember being so sick and just anticipating the days' end, but instead of it reminding me, like it did in past years, that I was a fake or a failure, now I see strength. I see a woman who tried her best to make everyone else feel good on her day. Because she noticed the effort involved even if it was making her sick. I see a woman who could not wait to have the day over with so she could start a life with the one she loved. But, I now also see all the people, who were having fun...in years past it felt like it was at my expense. Now, I see that it's just what cultures do and it was supposed to be a gift. So I will now take the gift with mixed emotions. In it's time- it was beauteous and pleasing. 

Every single person who sacrificed their time or money, behind the scenes decorating or making food, to make the day special for me, I deeply am thankful for. I can think of each of their faces, and the varied ways they gave to the best of their ability. Within that, the day was a gift. Would I do it differently now? Absolutely. But if I did it again, at that young age, in the same context, I know it would be the same. I now look back and realize it was what it was, for the time that it was, and unique and appropriate in it's own way. What I DO like, is orchestrating photos, even if I am pasting on a smile. Most of the candid photo time that I have with friends or family, is a fun time for me. We end up laughing a lot or enjoying our time, even if the photos are purposeful. If I could now, I would have a small gathering for a wedding but still have a photo time. I love that in my pictures I can see my cousins and sister...In the photos they do not even come up to my shoulders, but now most of them are taller than I am. I love to see the way we were together, because it triggers one on one memories, that I had with each of them that may not have been captured on camera, but were meaningful to me.

I am Autistic and experience painful sensory overload. I can also be socially awkward and make things accidentally worse for people. I also am an Introvert who dislikes large gatherings. My therapist told me a few years back, "I also have a family member whom is sensitive and can not attend these functions without getting very sick after and paying for it for days. You do not have to attend the big moments in life for people. The people who love you and who you truly love back, will feel important if you show them in daily deeds and little moments your care. If you don't attend a funeral, then send money, a gift, a lovely card or written tribute or give your presence one on one later, for the people you are close to. That is just as important as showing up. Yes, our cultural experiences and expectations and history hinge on these big gatherings. Some of them ARE important to do. However, they are based on the majority for healing. Community mindedness DOES create a good world, but there ARE exceptions. You are an exception. I know whom you are from the years we have been together and I know you love deeply and often make the world a better place. What you find healing will be different. That is ok. The minorities wishes are not often granted. It is ok for you to do things differently. As long as you still choose to love and respect when you can. Find alternative ways. Just know your small family may not be respected or may even be fought against for honouring who you are. Try to find support for them too and make it easier when you can while still being you." I found that validating and meaningful.

I feel joy in different ways than the majority. I am glad that people have lovely moments at weddings or larger gatherings. I have had a few meaningful, joyful or connective times myself in these circumstances. Especially in my younger years when I could tolerate overload better. My way of joy may be different, but it's not less. My way of being in community with people and having a handful of deep connections that would do anything for me, is how I need to move in the world. Again, it's different, not less. Just like I would view large funerals and weddings as different, but not less than my personal preferences.Quite honestly, many of my friends are not in my vicinity or even my own country. But they are deeply and avidly loved by me and I am by them. We share life together. I carry on unconventional relationships within my friendships that have a lot of space and distance, but they are also deep and full of love.

As my husband and I talked about each of our final wishes, we both realized neither of us will have funerals. My mother was appalled. She said, "But what of the people who wish to grieve you or come together. The funeral is for those that remain." To which I replied, "While I wish to be sensitive to that...People can plan what they wish themselves, in their spaces. What I wish for, is simply for my children and husband to do something in our home. They can also plan a separate small gathering with extended family or friends...perhaps a cozy sharing of our home in a hygge way. I DEFINITELY would love for them to do a showing of some of the slideshows I have made for our children over the years...I love those videos and would love it if they had time watching and remembering our good life together. Music and film are important to me.  But I don't want a large gathering and I don't want to be hosted in a church or sanctuary. As an Introvert, that is not me in this life nor should it be in death. I would also love if my close friends wrote letters to my children or husband or whomever survives me with tributes. I am ok if they want to write something on their spaces to honour the life I had with my family. I would rather people showed up for those left behind with daily deeds like a small meal given, a note or two, some music or gifts, and memories, but otherwise, I do not wish for anything but small, cozy, celebrations in the home that I loved with my husband and kids, and my parent's yard, with the videos I made and cherished, and supports of the people I left behind..."

This decision took a load off of my shoulders. I can now live freely, knowing my funeral will not be a moment of existence. Instead my family can pay for the cremation but use the rest of the death funds for themselves. I would like for them to simply live their best life...keep the writings and videos they liked of mine, and own every second they have left of their worlds. It's unconventional. Another family member called it "selfish." But I don't think planning our own ways to honour our lives is selfish. It's important for us to embrace our lives, know ourselves, and ask for our final wishes to be carried out according to who we are. Aren't all funerals a form of self? Even the ones that carry a final religious message are self serving the faith of those whom lived. It's not wrong, but it could be thought of another way too. So I do not believe that asking to not have a funeral or memorial in an official, unknown building is selfish. I have talked to the people who it would affect the most...my children and husband, and made sure that they know I have thought of them. I still want them to have closure, professional counselling support, and some moments of community with those who actually know whom I was. I would be honoured if they commemorated me by keeping my blog for themselves or my videos I made, but most of all by just carrying how I loved them in their hearts, and embracing their lives to the fullest.

My husband has similar wishes. If he goes first, it is the same story. He does not wish to be in a church or building either. It's not either of us. If other people decide to go against his wishes and do their own thing anyway, that is out of our hands. It would show, though, that we were not actually known nor respected. We will honour each other the way we have discussed. And our children will carry out these wishes, with or without outsider support, if we both pass on. But we hope that they will get support from the people who actually knew them and us well. I trust my small group of friends to remember my sentiments on life and support accordingly. I may not be a present person in larger communities, but I KNOW without a doubt that I am avidly loved by a few key people. Who also avidly love my children and husband. We are known deeply by a few. And those few are enough.

I do believe vows are sacred. The choice to honour someone for life can be a beautiful event. Death and birth are also crucial moments of life change. But we all have choices, to a degree, within these moments. For instance, with my second baby I wrote out a birth plan, knowing that things could change. Some points in the birth plan were not honoured, others could not be due to an emergency, but the essence of what I wanted and needed happened. I had a doula to make sure that most of my wishes were granted to the best of her ability. This mattered to me. It did not mean that I judged anyone who had a birth different from mine. Choosing to not have pain meds did not mean I looked down upon women who needed them. Each birth is contextual and individual, even though each birth affects community and the world at large. So should it be in vows and death.

I want my children and husband to know every day I am alive that they are my golden hours. I hope to convey this as often as possible. I also wish for my extended friends and family to know this, in the ways I communicate...that they are important and worthy because they exist. That I love them differently, in the ways that I can, and value them when I think of whom they are. In death, I hope that I will have given enough of that love to those in my circles, that they can continue to life fully and own every second that this world can give to them... And live.

Song Choice; I Lived- Glee version of One Republic.


Anonymous said...

Awww I love those pictures... and I have to say that reading your posts and following your thpughts is inspiring and thought provoking for me! You are beauty personified ♥️-ToniM

MLW said...

I always think about my death after funerals. I want to be creamated as it is the cheapest option ( that sounds horrible but whatever) and plant me by a bush or some tree or throw me off the top of a mountain or in a field of wildflower. If people have to have some kind of memorial I have told friends what I want played song wise... “yesterday” by the Beatles in on the top of the list. Because I find it ironic and soulful ( i’m Not half the man use to be 😂)

M's grandma just passed away and she didn’t want a bunch of family members fighting and having a memorial and going to lengths and costs that she felt was unessecary. If you loved her at all you would spend time and money on her while she was alive and here to enjoy it.
Anyway.. I hope when your time comes to see what the afterlife truly looks like that those who have loved you will respect your wishes.

♥️ to you friend during this time - MLW

C2Q said...

Still the greatest thing I ever did - marrying you. I still think that news story about the older couple dying out East together would be beautiful for us . One can hope. You're my meaning and inspiration.

S said...

You look so pretty in all the pictures, and shine like a princess in that white dress. You look like a movie star who is playing the role of a princess in a movie ! This post has really touched my heart. I also felt sad while reading it. Just like you, I dread attending weddings and funerals but I had to attend my cousin's wedding two years back and my FIL's funeral recently and I have to admit, I just wished it was over soon. Why ? Because of sensory overload and the emptiness involved. I feel lonely and empty when too many people gather for a common purpose. I don't know why but group things makes me uncomfortable. In these weddings and funerals, although I am a good communicator and I can relate to people/carry myself well, but inside I am dying every moment. I just wish this would end soon and I can go back home.
I just want to be alone or with my loved ones (one or two persons) and I want nothing else. Its a hard life but I am happy that you too feel the same way. Of late, I am keeping away from all invitations as far as possible. Sometimes, I just wish to go away to a different country so that I do not have to attend all these gatherings. I would rather be lonely/alone than empty.

Kmarie A. said...

ToniM: That comment is so kind and considerate. Thank you.
MLW: That doesnt sound horrible- it sounds beautiful. Yes I can see your grandmas point. Thank you. I appreciate that. Love to you too.
S: Thank you...Aw you are so sweet. Yes, I was young. Lol. Thank you - Yes, you have very true points for many...emptiness is exactly it- we are nourished by other events or community... I feel the same and want nothing else....Yes, Its good we have a few loved ones who understand and we enjoy spending time with. xo

Anonymous said...

Very beautiful, friend. I don't want to be buried in a grave yard either 😊 Will text you about it tonight.

Amy said...

I have been ruminating on this since I started to read it last week. I wanted to take my time and read through your thoughts. I finally finished this tonite while baking cookies for my family. lol!

I am so inspired by your honesty, K. So so inspired... being honest outside with others, means you have been very honest with yourself for awhile.. you have some good internal practice. I am realizing in new levels how dishonest I have been with myself and others. I am unraveling this more and more, but I have to say it feels good to be honest with myself AND with others.

I think when I have moments of honesty, I feel so naked and crazy open and vulnerable. It's a really bad feeling, and I need to find out where it is rooted. I think it's deep deep in my foundation. Your blog posts are so rich in honesty, and I just wanted to tell you how it inspires me to be honest too.

All of that to say, I hated my wedding day too. It was awful and uncomfortable. My husband was on the verge of panic attacks all day long, and it was just miserable. Reading your account of your wedding day brought a new level of honest in me. I sooooo resonate with what you shared. I don't think back on that day with joy, - I would have really rather just gone to a court and with my hub and my sister and his best friend, just gotten married. I was in so much bondage to my family rules, and my parents expectations of me.. and all the blah blah blah of culture expectation, etc...

It's so funny that you posted about death - I have listened to a couple of podcasts just in the past week or so about death. One man was a funeral director and he shared his insights into death, his different experiences with families and how they honored their dead. So insightful. He has a desire to bring about a unconventional perspective and way to honor the dead. One is that he said, "We don't hold the dead anymore. It's this hands off - very clean and tidy experience. Death isn't clean and tidy." I thought that was so interesting.. it really bothers me in a good way.

I had listened to another podcast and it was the story of a mother who lost her baby as a still born. She shared her experience as someone who lost a baby. The way she grieved bothered the people and loved ones around her, and my goodness, the things she shared were really rattling to me... in a really good way tho.. and she has now since started a foundation to help people grieve and mourn their dead in unconventional more raw/human ways.

So what you and Philip have talked about rang really true for me as well. I have told my hub I want to be cremated too, and just have a memorial and talk about all the memories we have had... and put up pictures of me alive and loving life with you and the kids and the people we love. Simple is what comes to mind.

I was watching a TV series that I have been enjoying called This is Us, and one of the character's dad died, and their family celebration was beautiful. The Grandpa who passed had asked the son's 2 girls (his grand children) to plan his funeral. And these sweet girls planned for the family to have a life in the day of William. Their grandpa. So everybody had his favorite drink, and they put on a hat and took a walk like William... etc... It was SOOOO beautiful. Then everyone shared what they loved about William. I have chills just re-thinking of that episode, but it was so incredibly written.

Thank you for this post. and thank you for ALL your posts. I adore you and appreciate you so much.

Kmarie A. said...

Thank you:) I completely understand your sentiments:)

Thank you. You had a lot of good thoughts to add!
I loved William in This is Us. He was my favourite. The funeral idea was good too. Loved that. The first season was so good!
I think honesty does feel like that often. I have been talking about taking down this post since I posted it. I was going to tonight actually when I got your comment. I seriously was wondering if maybe I was too full of myself, too much for people, too authentic in an obnoxious way and too informative or inappropriate. Because my wish is to be honest in my process so others can own their unique versions…so your email came at JUST the right time that I probably will leave it up. I have been honest with myself- even with the bad stuff. Sometimes too honest it feels like maybe I am too inwardly internal but then I realize that is just whom I am. Sometimes I beat myself up for that.lol. Honesty is so important for me though…

Weddings are tough. Most of the time it is not for the couple themselves but the family- same with funerals…and I just don’t know if that is right. Maybe 1/4 of it or some event after could be for others but those events should be a reflection of whom we are. I was also in to expectations and rules. I honestly did not know there was any other way. Much to mothers chagrin I encourage my sister to elope and I get in SO MUCH Trouble for it..:)

Those podcasts sound interesting! I love your ideas on what you want. that sounds beautiful and like you.
I am so glad you feel that way. Means so much. I have really taken a hit self esteem wise the last two weeks and your words were balm to my soul.
I am so happy you are in my life. Thank you for giving:)

Kmarie A. said...

C2Q: Lol I thought I wrote back to you. That was so sweet- that you feel that way. My life would have sucked without you. You are also my Chicago song!:) And yea that story was perfect. Thats the way to go! They were very lucky to be able to do that and go in peace together. Lovely thought.