I have been to one funeral in my life, my fathers; but I have had three loved ones die. I never went to my grandmothers funeral but I saw her gravestone once. My aunt was cremated but I have not seen her urn. This is as far as my thoughts have gone about funerals and cremation. However, recently I have been thinking about my own death and what characteristics I would like it to hold true for me. How would I like to die and how would I like to be remembered? Would I like to be buried and have a funeral or be cremated and put into an urn? Neither of these gave me much rest. How could I be remembered in a way that is unique and would make people smile and laugh and reminisce? Then the answer came to me!
I would not like a funeral. My experience was one of sorrow; not of rejoicing and celebrating the life that my father had. I don’t want people to be sad or to think about the life that I lost, but rejoice for the life that I lived. I do not want my family to pay thousands for a coffin or burial plot or to dress in black and mourn my death in ceremony. I do not want a tombstone that marks the place where I rest, because my soul does not rest there. I do not want my family to visit a stone, a cold lonely stone, with no life or remembrance of me other than that I no longer have life.
However, I would like to be cremated. But the urn will not be the final resting place of my body. I would like my family to have a memorial for me. Someplace with a beautiful, lush garden that smells of flowers every time the wind blows. I would like for the sun to warm their faces and their hearts and know that I loved little moments like these. I want the serene silence of nature to fill their minds and give them peace in their soul, like it has mine. I want them to find a grand tree, with branches so high you cant see the sky! They will sit or stand beneath this tree, maybe in white chairs or on the grass. I want each person to remember me in the way that they like: a funny story or memory, a song or poem that they like or that they knew I liked. This is first most important part. It is the part I look forward to every time I’m with my fathers family because it touches my heart so deeply in a way that nothing else can. It brings life to his memory.
After everyone has shared and everyone is finished reminiscing I want two things to happen. The first is for everyone to be given a sunflower and a small hand shovel. Then I would like each person to chose a place in the garden for their sunflower to grow. Then they will plant the flower in the ground with some of my ashes from the urn. The reason I want this to happen is because I love sunflowers. They are the happiest flowers, always reaching towards the sun and smiling down at us as they tower up in height. Another reason I have for this is because I am part native American. In certain Native American rituals purging by fire can be very life giving. They will use ashes from these ceremonies and plant them into nature to help give life to the earth. It can also be seen in forest fires. Even after the most devastating fires a flower will spring up from the ruins. In the same way that my body is burned and planted back into the earth, I will still be giving life although I am dead.
Also, I want a rock to go into the garden that’s reads, “everywhere a sunflower stands remember this: Many flowers open to the sun but only one follows it constantly. Heart be thou the sunflower. Not only open to receive Gods blessing but constant in looking at him” by Jean Paul Richter. I just love this because it describes so much about the flower but also about how I think faith should be lived out.
Second, I want my ashes to be incorporated into a painting. My family and friends can choose to do separate paintings of their favorite memory of me, or they can do a giant painting all together. They will use my ashes mixed with paint to create a textured painting that they can keep for themselves to remember me. Because in the same way that I love the serenity of nature I love the power of art. I love it so much I wish I could be art and this is my way of doing this. If you think this is strange or even weird, I would like to introduce you to Val Thompson who creates memorial art work for people using the ashes of their loved ones. She has created her own business called ash2art. I was excited to find that my idea was not as kooky as I thought it was.
I want my life to be celebrated as I was and for what I was passionate about. I want my loved ones to be happy that I loved my life and I would want them to continue to love theirs. When they see the flower they planted randomly in a garden and see that it has towered above all the others, they can smile or laugh at its awkwardness and know that I hope my life had been led in a way that made me stand out from the rest. They will see the painting with me in it and know that their memory is now living, as I live in that picture and I became my passion.