When I was 20-something and single, I hung out with a group of close friends from high school days. I had created an on-going gallows humor narrative about whom I would select as my six pallbearers. It was like little kids who promise, “You can be my best friend.”
Back then, there were four guys who were always on the varsity pallbearer team; the other two slots changed from month to month. It recently hit me that two of those varsity pallbearers have already died. They beat me to the finish line! What’s with that?
With only two still alive, I need to start thinking about the other four slots. Luckily, I have good friends here in Chicago, guys who are strong candidates to be my pallbearers.
For some reason, pallbearers have always been male. Why should that be? Maybe I can be groundbreaking – literally and figuratively – by admitting women to my pallbearing ranks. History books would show that Obama was the first black president, and Mitchener allowed the first woman pallbearer.
So, to all my friends: I’ll soon be accepting resumes from qualified men and women for the position of Mitchener’s pallbearers.
On your resumes, I’ll need to see your skill sets, education, work experience, hobbies and how much you can lift with one arm. Previous pallbearing experience is preferred, but not required. (It’s easy to pick up.) And I’ll need references, at least one of whom must still be alive.
But… here’s the thing. At funerals I’ve attended the past few years, I’ve noticed a definite dearth of pallbearers. Pallbearing has become passé. Thanks to those wheeled carts funeral homes provide (similar to bellmen’s carts at nice hotels, except no tipping), pallbearers are a dying breed.
Maybe I need to rethink this whole thing.
I certainly don’t want my wife to have to make tough decisions while she’s in the throes of grief: whether to have pallbearers, who they should be, what color coats and ties and dresses they should wear, etc. Plus, she’ll be busy making my favorite lasagna, setting the table, stocking the bar, preparing her eulogy. (I’ll try to help her with that right before I go.) It wouldn’t be fair to add yet another responsibility.
And I don’t want to get six guys’/gals’ hopes up, and they get all excited, shop for matching outfits, make reservations to get mani-pedis together on the day of the funeral… and they’re told at the last minute that their pallbearing services won’t be needed.
So I’ll make that decision now, while I’m still breathing: no pallbearers at Mitchener’s funeral. Done.
While I’m at it, what about other elements of my funeral? This is what I used to do for a living: write creative meeting plans for clients, plans that included entertainment, speeches and videos. I should be able to plan an exciting funeral for myself.
Speaking of videos, what about a funeral video? I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe I’ll write a videulogy treatment, and hire a New York video production company to produce it.
Of course, I’ll help Carole with her eulogy. Actually, what the hell… why don’t I just write the damn thing myself? After all, who knows Larry better than Larry? One less thing on her plate.
To compensate for the lack of pallbearers, maybe we have an open mic session, inviting my friends to come up and tell their favorite Larry stories. They can reminisce about my generosity; my quick, penetrating, sometimes acerbic wit; my laser-like first serve. Some of my friends may be nervous in front of a crowd – stand-up eulogies are tough – so I’ll write some sample stories they can read.
And the music. I want it to be lively, upbeat, not the dirgelike “Amazing Grace” everyone expects. I’m thinking something like “Shout!” perhaps, or “Louie Louie”. Something that gets people up and dancing. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCY0bAPLZ1w
And as the final touch, the pièce de résistance, I’ll write the final Old Guy post, and have it scheduled to appear right after the funeral. That way, all of my Old Guy followers will be able to read one final Old Guy reflection, summarizing life, death, and the human condition. Or maybe it’ll be the first post of a new blog: Dead Guy. Either way, it’ll be a surprise ending you’ll remember for years.
It’s going to be one hell of a funeral. Pallbearers or not, I want it to be perfect. I may not get another chance.
(Don’t worry. No health scares here. I’ve always tried – sometime successfully, sometimes not – to use humor to defuse sensitive topics.)