Amber Sparks

Some Thoughts and Wishes Pertaining to My Very Far-Off Funeral

  1. Get it right, or I will haunt you all.
  2. That’s not hyperbole; that’s honesty. I don’t fear the banality of endless earthly hauntings, stalking you all through the emotional landscapes of Whole Foods and holidays, of faulty architecture like stairs that shriek and doors that drift open – because we must leave the idea of the rational explanation like the spoiled child at the table. No, no, it’s the celestial idea of the afterlife I fear, living in the stars or clouds or rain or something – like being on a never-ending plane ride where there isn’t any Xanax and everyone keeps talking about the most obscure Greek gods and you feel so left out and so untethered.
  3. To be clear, I don’t want a funeral. I want a memorial service, a sort of celebration.  The term “funeral” is only used as a generic marker, a shared cultural symbol to let others know that: 1) I am dead and 2) hope is the thing with feathers, and I have always been allergic to down.
  4. I write “far-off” so my parents, who find me morbid, will think of wills and distant relations instead of smashed china and the unreliability of actuarial science. “Very” was added to preserve the rhythmic integrity of the line.
  5. Seriously, no funeral. No bodies, no Bibles, no biographies. No sermon or studied sad faces. Just my life strung out in Flickr slideshows and the understanding that you are all the poorer for the passing of it. Rending of garments is acceptable, though unlikely to succeed, modern fabrics being what they are. Dreams are boring: please don’t share yours. No pictures age 9-16. See item 1.
  6. I would be pleased with a brief, bright ceremony held in front of The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, but I know we are all supposed to disapprove of Damien Hirst now. So I suppose I should settle for the sea, which is really the same thing.
  7. Is it just artists who are so obsessed with death? My non-artist friends seem discomfited when I mention the topic. As if it were taboo. As if it weren’t The Great Leveler. WHO DOESN’T LIE AWAKE AT NIGHT AND THINK ABOUT DEATH? I don’t believe it. Death deserves all caps. To deny it is like denying that you eat sandwiches. Everyone eats death.
  8. Anyone who reads Ayn Rand, or attempts to read Ayn Rand, will be forcibly ejected from the proceedings.
  9. If anyone plays “Candle in the Wind,” even if die tomorrow, I will haunt them as a perpetual face punching.
  10. Is it possible to make of me a kind of champagne? Or better yet, whisky—bury me in a peaty bog and get everybody good and drunk on me?
  11. I’m not paying for it, so everyone crowd in! The neighbors, my colorist, the panhandlers on K Steets. All the animals from the zoo. The more the merrier. The more the more memorial. The immemorial, scattered through skies of memory in a thousand thousand probably off-base but well-meant memories of me.
  12. Clips from the Golden Girls would be appropriate. Also from Twin Peaks. Possibly show these after most of the relatives have grown bored and gone home. The wilder parts of the party.
  13. Yes there will be proceedings. Possibly elephants. Certainly tigers. Probably not bears, as they are unpredictable and entirely too Russian for what will on the whole be a pretty Midwestern affair.
  14. Probably someone should read Sir Thomas Browne. I wish that the entire body of Shakespeare’s work wasn’t so done. I mean, someone could read something from Coriolanus, but that seems to defeat the purpose of demanding superlatives. Do I need my funeral to be different, to be unique? Are we worried about this sort of thing past the point at which the heart collapses and the lungs full with larvae? I wish that Kissinger hadn’t wasted “I shall not look upon his like again” on Nixon. Though I suppose if it was read at my funeral it would confuse literal-minded attendees. They might suspect they had come to the wrong service.
  15. Every funeral must be cliché. In the end there are so many deaths, and only a handful of geniuses to hold the glass up to them.
  16. Not funeral. I must stop submitting to society’s clichés. Memorial, memorial. Or celebration, though I’m not sure how much dancing I want at my death. Definitely no DJ. A nice jazz quartet might be tasteful, I suppose.
  17. Would it be a disaster if the memorial wasn’t tasteful? Shouldn’t death, the great renewal, be a sort of breathless bacchanalia, anyhow? Shouldn’t I choose the whirling of dervishes, over the starched collars and dusty mourning of the barely bored and the mentally absent?
  18. Would it be a disaster if my memorial turned into a reading? Who would I ask to read? Would my relatives roll their eyes and walk out? How to stop my friends from trying out their newest, untested material? From exceeding their allotted time?
  19. I would really like “Holland, 1945” to be played, but would that be disrespectful because it’s about Anne Frank? Even if I wrote a play about Anne Frank when I was only nine? Can the dead demonstrate disrespect for the dead? But my god, dream a better lyric for your death than “The only girl I’ve ever loved/was born with roses in her eyes.” O, to be the only girl the world had ever loved.
  20. Could we pretend death is really a sort of starting over? Or is that just too much to ask? Could we refrain from imagining one another in our underclothes, in our skin, in our bones, in our foaming muscle and softening fat to feed and fortify the loamy soil we float in? Could we refrain from the cranking of hymns, from the showing of slideshows, from the off-center programs made in Microsoft Word over our lunch breaks, littered with lachrymose sentiment and wrong-aspect-ratio pictures where we look, ashamed, at the camera—suddenly so embarrassed to be alive. Standing in front of the Taj Mahal, or in Times Square, in places teeming with life while we stop what isn’t ours to stop and claim it like a big game hunter in the Nairobi, while we nail down our trophies of space and seize this pretense, this rarified air that we pretend is ours alone.  While we understand that we are all just falling through, like Alice down the rabbit hole, and taking snapshots on the way of all the wrong-sized things and places we may find ourselves, oh funny man-shaped spaces, because what else, really, can we be expected to do with this tiny vial of time on earth?
  21. No shorts. And for god’s sake, no poetry.