Posted by: Joan Spiller | February 5, 2014

The one where I die :(

Traditions seem to have changed such that death has gone from being a natural part of life to a bewildering, expensive (& altogether shitty!) experience.

Most annoying? It sometimes feels that we encourage the whole stress & drama associated with death, when surely – all we want is for those left behind to be able to grieve in their way – all the while cherishing memories about what a neat part of their world we (hopefully!) were?

Now (segway) many of you will know that when my Mother died it was very unexpected. One night we were heading off to bed – next thing, our world was turned upside down & we found ourselves picking casket styles, songs, music and locations (yes plural, it was complicated!) for her funeral – to say nothing of the need to pick clothes & jewellery for her to wear in the after life.

Like, somehow it .. mattered.. When all we wanted to do was sit and cry at the sudden loss of our Mother, a wife and cherished Nanny.

I do find it ironic that so much importance is put on what happens upon someone’s death – and yet so many of us fail to plan for it. And in doing so? We leave grief-stricken loved ones making choices that maybe they’re not quite ready to make .. or (most likely) hadn’t even thought about.

Because let’s face it – none of us like to think about the death of a mate, family member or .. anyone really.

And so, in the interests of actually making the whole death process easier to those left behind for me.. I have decided to document what I would like done when I kick the bucket. Leave this mortal coil. Snuff it.

Call it what you will…

Don’t get me wrong, I am totally freaked out about the idea of dying. It’s the last thing I want to do! (See what I did there?) 😉 But seriously .. I SO don’t want to kick any buckets any-time soon..

HOWEVER, if a little bit of awkward planning and forethought by me means that those that are left behind can go onto auto pilot and just “make it so” in the aftermath of the day that I do die (hah – I initially had “if” .. like I don’t ever expect to die, if only!) then this is a good thing, for all it seems somehow .. weird!

The problem with this whole thing is that you suddenly feel like you’re going to die (because you’re prepared) .. And I wonder if that’s why so many people die without a will or any wishes documented.. ?

Certainly that was the case for my Mother, she was so uncomfortable with death that she died intestate. Thereby making life very complex and unpleasant for those left behind..

And so here we are, back to the awkward topic of what I think will work for my funeral and / or final “hours” on this planet.

To my more squeamish followers? Maybe shut out of this post now!

But to anyone else? Well, this is what I think will be alright .. helpful .. acceptable.. etc upon my death..

First and foremost, I have no interest in being a cabbage kept alive by machines. Shut me off and don’t waste the money / energy on anything more than remembering me once I’m gone, please!

Re the service: Suffice to say non-religious! But (oddly?) formal is fine.. I am not interested in a marae setting – that will not work for most of the people who will want to attend my funeral.  I guess for me, the basic problem is most churches are godawful, but most funeral homes are sterile and hideous.

So I actually dunno what to suggest there .. Can you have a funeral @ a winery?! OK maybe not – I guess a funeral home it has to be. But please, make it a nice one. In Hawke’s Bay if my grandparents are alive (UGH that means I’m gonna die any year now, so not good!) but yeah I guess this really just means location is not that important to me, so to those left dealing with this I say – perhaps just go with convenience?

What are the accepted thoughts on caskets? I don’t really care if it’s open or closed. But suspect closed may be easier all round. Open is kinda .. icky? I say this based on both witnessing the funeral of Mum and also Chris’s Dad around the same time. This isn’t so helpful.. but maybe it is – in that I am saying  I don’t care, so do want you want?

I don’t think I much care what I’m dressed in, but don’t want to be buried with any jewellery, that’s weird and wasteful. My wishes here are that CJ gets it, and decides what to do. Sell for good money, keep as is or remodel – totally cool with all of those options!

Oooh, one thing that I do care about – I wanna be buried barefoot – UGH @ shoes! Hated them whilst living, don’t want a bar of them when dead! 😉

Don’t miiiind about cremation but think I prefer a grave – for all I know this means I can’t go in the family plot in Napier, as it only has space for ashes now. So I guess if burial is the way to go – all I ask is it’s a nice place, somewhere with some trees around..

I think the issue I have with cremation is the way it’s handled, you’re kinda left on your own (thinking back to Mum’s) during the final stages of “here we go, dead body / coffin .. have fun and let us know when you’re done” .. whereas a burial you do it then are ushered away while it’s sorted out, or you can stay and watch the burial, so there’s a bit better closure ..

Maybe that will improve with time? But yeah, cremation isn’t actually easy, in my experience.

I would like to be buried in a 2nd hand or recycled (guessing there is such a thing!) coffin, the cheapest (but I still want it to look nice!) is fine by me.

To anyone organising my funeral in 100 or so years – please just occasionally stop and think “do I need to do this or not” when people suggest stuff! Cos it can be kind of crazy and you do just give in to things because it’s all a bit bewildering.

A few things I DO care about or want are:

A song CJ once said would be perfect for my funeral – I would like played. I just love the words: “.. turned a young one into a woman” .. I kinda feel I had some part in making CJ the amazing woman she is today. And the words in this song always make me go “nawww, yes!”

And as the song says: “there is no other love than a Mother’s for her child” ..

For all CJ is no longer a child, she’s forever going to be MY child and god, I hate the idea of not being here for her 

(On a side note? I love that I can’t even type that sentence without crying .. )

I would like my headstone (assuming we go there!) to read: “Don’t be sorry I’m gone. Be happy I was here”. Plus the usual name, date and anything people feel needs to be added – Ie “Coolest Mum ever” ? 😉

Hmm.. re flowers – well, everyone knows me: Dull lol.. I’d prefer white (assorted lilies, orchids & greenery) Definitely not multi-coloured..

Oh and can we ask people to donate cans of petfood to their local pet shelter, instead of sending flowers? If that can be done – do it, please. I think that goes in the newspaper notice.

Now in advance I say this – I am sorry. But something I do want at my funeral is bagpipes ..

I love them. As the coffin leaves the building, have them across the street / off in the distance piping me out.. (ie not too loud lol) NO idea what they would play, but oh I love bagpipes so yeah – anything!

Now when it comes to readings etc – I only want 1 thing ..
For all others can add to this!

For me, please read this:

Risk Freedom
By Leo Bascaglia.

For context – this is something I read over 20 years ago (as at 2013). I actually wrote it down and carried it with me on a scrap of paper in my wallet as I mustered up the courage to leave my marriage (It also served me thru’ many years and assorted experiences after that ..) to make a life on my own as a single Mum of one very special person..

Reading it kept me sane as I thought to myself “I need to take a chance.. for CJ and for me!”
It also made me forgive occasionally making mistakes and realigning where I was at. Cos let’s face it – perfect I am not!

However, I think I was fortunate to realise reasonably early in life (compared to many!) that life isn’t about perfection or even really knowing completely what you’re doing. It’s about learning, all the while living ..

But back to the Leo prose.

20+ years later as I write this? I still hold on to those words (whilst also blaming them for some of my mistakes lol) they have been very instrumental in me not being afraid of trying things..

To my daughter, CJ I say this:

You know how Nan/Mum was. How protective & fearful. So yeah, it was a big deal for me to take risks. To try things that were scary and new .. and sure, I stuffed some things up beautifully.

But one of my biggest fears was to end up sitting in a chair at age 90+ thinking “If only ..” or “What if .. ”

2 very sad sentences to consider, in my book!

I love how you are so much more adventurous than I ever was – and I hope you appreciate the fact that I try to bite my tongue when you’re off doing crazy stuff *grin* And I know that you have some awesome experiences as a result of who you are and hope this is in part due to how I raised you – that idea makes me happy.

As well, I’d like this song played:

Seasons in the sun at some point thru the funeral..

Maybe just as music before the formal twaddle starts? Over to you there!

I have to admit, I’d be kinda curious to hear what anyone who wanted to speak at my funeral might say – damn tho, I’ll miss it!  So yeah, up to you if you want to allow people to speak, maybe it will help you understand your Mum a bit more? For all I think we kinda get each other 😉

As to the other way more tedious things that will actually matter to some people around the time of my death..

My Will is in my filing cabinet amongst a bunch of other papers that apparently matter! I will make a point to sort them into one easy to use folder soon .. It will probably be labelled  “That stuff I don’t wanna know about” or something equally as bad! 🙂

As a side note, one SIMPLE thing about my life at the time of writing this is that my daughter gets everything on my death. Unless she and I die (at the same time) then my brother Richard gets it.. All this is noted in my Will.

Which leads neatly to logistics – my Will is lodged with Public Trust. They have an 0800 # (assuming they don’t go broke or get morphed into some other place before I die) so maybe start with Scott Errington – even if he isn’t working there any more, he will be able to help and his number will be in my cell phone! (or on my facebook!)

Going back to the funeral, I could be tempted to suggest a late afternoon funeral so I ( hah – denial, much?) can then have gorgeous canapes and drinks afterwards instead of some nasty cup of bitter coffee or tepid tea and a manky dry scone ..

Buckets of booze may be a nice thing to have after what I hope will be a really shit day (for at least, CJ) but yeah you get the idea – I don’t really mind what happens here!

Oooh *whimsy time* I wouldn’t mind birds or something being released at the gravesite, that would be kinda cool. Maybe some manky old street pigeons? LOL I dunno, it just seems apt to involve birds somehow.. perhaps not chickens.. Ok fine no birds lol..

All my banking info is in the filing cabinet. My solicitor’s name is Nigel Hughes, google him or look thru my files. He’s awesome. And can help with everything – but (to CJ, this is) call PT first ..

So yeah, I think that’s about it when it comes to what I think may make my death easier. Except perhaps for the exact words of that poem I clung to for all my adult life ..

Here it is:

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.

To reach for another is to risk involvement.

To expose your ideas, your dreams, before a crowd is to risk their loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return.

To live is to risk dying.

To believe is to risk despair.

To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The people who risk nothing, do nothing, have nothing, are nothing.

They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.

Chained by their attitudes they are slaves; they have forfeited their freedom.

Only a person who risks is free.


Would now be a good time to throw a wobbly and say again – I DON’T WANNA DIE? *grins* It’s perhaps also the perfect time to say how happy I have been, being Mum to CJ .. caring for assorted pets .. taking adventures. Being a friend to some very awesome people. A workmate to assorted folks and who knows what else – the crazy goat lady, a wwoofer hostess, a hitch hiker picker upperer ..

The point stands = I don’t wanna go!

But I am happy I was here – and I hope you will be too 🙂

Please forgive this long and somewhat morbid post, but I feel this needed to be said / documented because making life easier or better for CJ is something I am totally into!


I love you – more than words can begin to say, Bubs.

XO Mum



  1. Am sure I can find a winery that would oblige as long as we drank copious quantities of their wine afterwards.


  2. One of the nice things about the internet is you can come because a bruschetta recipe looks good and stay for something moving, like this! Good for you for at least thinking about it. Someone close to me died suddenly and young last year and her parents and friends were overwhelmed in trying to think it all through, and this post was of interest to read.

    You seem to know alot about what you care about and what you don’t 🙂 I hear the barefoot thing. If I’m going to lie resting forever in a box with silk pillows and plush padding I would rather “feel it” and go barefoot instead of wearing formal shoes, no? But I can’t. In the end, like death, those decisions are not ours to make…


    • You’re so right, it’s not our choice to make! LOL I think the main thing (as you picked up) was trying to eliminate “damn, we didn’t think of X” or “why did we do that?” because at this sort of time you get all manner of well meaning types offering their 6c worth and you are in shock and just go “Oh ok .. ” I know we did with Mum’s funeral and assorted activities .. So my goal is to make the whole thing as simple as possible for those left to take care of me when I pop my clogs 😉

      Speaking of which – I like the idea of silk pillows! *grins* While I think my family know me well enough to probably not need to be told about the shoe thing I just wanted to be sure 😉

      Thanks for stopping by! Did you try the bruschetta?


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