Posted by: Joan Spiller | December 19, 2016

When I die – 2016

Many of you will know that when Mum died it was very unexpected. I went from my bed to a stony driveway, cradling my Mum’s head in my lap as ambulance staff delivered the worst possible news.

From there, our world was turned upside down and revolved around picking caskets, songs, flowers, clothes, locations (yes plural – it was complicated!) for her funeral..

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 find it ironic that so much importance is placed 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 making the whole death process easier for those left behind in my life .. I have decided to document what I would like done when I kick the bucket.

Don’t get me wrong, dying is the last thing I want to do! (See what I did there?) HOWEVER, if a bit of awkward planning and fore-thought by me means that those left behind can go on auto-pilot and just “make it so”, then this is a good thing, for all it seems somehow .. macabre to do.

Anyway, let’s get into it:

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

Regarding the service:

Suffice to say non-religious – it would be hypocritical to do that. But (oddly) semi-formal is fine.. I am not interested in a marae setting – that will not work for most of the people who I think might like to (or feel they ought? lol) attend my funeral.

I guess for me, the basic problem is that most churches are meh, but at the same time: most funeral homes are sterile / 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. But ultimately, also perhaps it’s OK to just go with convenience. So wherever!

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 a dear past person’s Dad around the same time. This isn’t so helpful.. but maybe really, I am saying I don’t care, so do want you feel is best

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

I don’t think I much care what I’m dressed in. I DO NOT want to be buried with any (of my three whole pieces, hahah) jewellery, that’s weird and wasteful. I prefer that CJ gets it, and then can decide what to do. Sell / take the cash, keep as is or remodel – I am totally cool with all of those options – it matters not to me, once I’m gone.

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! 😉

Burn or Bury?

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 that it’s someplace nice  .. with trees ..

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 the deed, 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.

To anyone organising my funeral – 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 what is suggested, and you do just give in to things because it’s all a bit bewildering and you have no head space to stop and think. Clearly, anyway.

A few things I DO care about or want are:

A song CJ long ago 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 like to feel I played a part in making CJ the amazing woman she is today even if I was completely unsure what I was doing almost the entire time lol

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 oh how 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”? 😉

I like to hope some will be happy I was here (and sad I am gone!)

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 pet-food 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 just 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 yeah I love ’em! A funeral director will be best placed to get the piper sorted.

Another song I love and always wanted played at my wedding (never happened lol) is “Ave Maria“. If that could be included somewhere, yay – if not, well.. I won’t know  😉

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

For me, please read the verse: “Risk Freedom” by Leo Bascaglia.

For context – this is something I read when in my early 20’s. 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 end my marriage / make a new life on my own.

Reading it kept me sane as I thought to myself “I need to take a chance.. for CJ and for me!”

It also allowed me to forgive making mistakes and to realign / adjust what I was doing in life .. Cos let’s face it – perfect and “sorted”, I most certainly never was / am not!

To my daughter, CJ – I need to say this:

You knew her almost as well as I did: you will recall how Nan/Mum was. So very protective & oddly fearful. So you can imagine: it was a big deal for me to be brave and take risks! To try things that were scary and new ..

And sure, I stuffed some things up beautifully, there is no denying.. But one of my biggest fears was to get old and think to myself: “If only ..” or “What if .. ” And so I tried lots, even tho that didn’t always pan out as I imagined.

BUT I just love how you are so much more adventurous than I ever was – and I hope you appreciate the fact that I tried so hard to bite my tongue when you were off doing crazy stuff *grin* But I also got to see the awesome experiences you had, as a result of who you are and – I like to think – this is in part due to how I raised you – that idea makes me happy.

Cos you’re the woman I wish I could have been. You’re beautiful, wise, strong, intelligent and so many more things that I just can’t express. And I am so very proud of you. I hope you know that.

I did think of another song I wouldn’t mind having played:

Seasons in the sun – 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 among a bunch of other papers that apparently matter! In there you will find bank details, and all sorts of info from the details of my accountant to my mortgage broker. There’s also a list of names of people who you need to contact, they will help you. Call them all. Immediately!

Right, onto the more generic stuff once more:

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.. 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! If that doesn’t work, call Phil, he’ll find someone to help.

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..

Which leads neatly into what happens to the animals. This job I give to CJ with input from Kim Martin (Sorry Kimmie! But yeah you will know what I’d like so can guide CJ there).I have nothing to say further, because if I ask you to do something and you can’t, it’ll be shit. Just do what is best for my fur and feathered babies please.

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 most of 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 say that, despite the bad stuff – I consider myself to be incredibly lucky. No one can ever appreciate how happy I have been, being Mum to CJ .. caring for assorted pets .. taking adventures. Being a friend to a few very awesome people. A workmate to assorted folks and who knows what else – the crazy goat /dog / duck / magpie lady, a wwoofer / helpx host, a hitch hiker picker upperer.

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


I love you, I know you know that but I am also so very, very proud of the woman you have become, so much more than words can ever describe. Thank you for being the best kid a Mother could ever wish for. You are without a doubt, the best thing I was ever involved in, in my lifetime and I am thankful to have been your Mum.




  1. Whew! Said I would not panic and I won’t. In all probability, I will be gone to my Heavenly reward long before CJ comes to my name in that book which you will have marked out when ever you get notice of my passing. I will rejoice in having been blessed to know and love you in this life. You have been such a good friend over the years I have known you.

    I have been so privileged to spend time with you and family there and here when you came to see Patsy and I. Such good times!

    We have selected our tombstone just recently and it is being made and will be installed on our grave site in the near future complete with the usual information except for date of death. Because you will most likely not attend the funeral, I chose the following to be on the stone and you are familiar with it as it has been my sig line for years now: “We are drinking out of our saucers cause our cups are running over” (just look below).

    Now to the hard part: I think of your mom and her faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and her request that I pray for you. I have done that many times and will again and I hope and pray that in some way that you will have a change of heart and make that decision for Jesus. Regardless, we have been good friends and will continue to be until one of us is gone and that, most likely, will be me. Tell that Sweetheart you raised I love her and I know she will handle the details there as you have chosen. I know the service will be a celebration of your life and I wish I could be there! Love you Joan, James


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