I vividly remember the first time I emailed two of my mother’s closest friends to start planning her funeral. It felt surreal – like I had temporarily floated above myself and was looking on as Lauren made decisions about pallbearers, service prayers and other funeral details. And it felt especially surreal because my mother was still alive.
At first, planning my mother’s funeral before her death felt unnatural and wrong. It signified the loss of hope. Defecting from Team Linda. Daughter disloyalty. The most depressing type of guilt out there.
But, the moment I realized asking Mom to have another sip of water or encouraging her to take a short walk was futile, my pragmatism took over. I couldn’t ignore what was just around the corner, even if I wasn’t ready to say the word yet.
In fact, the first email I sent didn’t even have the f-word in it. I believe I called it, “you-know-what”. And several days later, when I finally got up the nerve to type f-u-n-e-r-a-l in an email, a word I hadn’t ever given much thought to before, I shuddered, starring at my computer screen, completely unprepared for what I saw:
F + the letters in my first name = F-U-N-E-R-A-L.
As if planning your mother’s funeral isn’t bad enough, right? Had this been some sort of evil destiny from the beginning?
I immediately called a friend for support, and she reminded me of a letter jumble, using my first name and last name, that our college friends discovered during a boring economics class: T-H-E A-N-A-L R-U-L-E-R.
I burst out laughing and had no problem writing f-u-n-e-r-a-l after that.
I continued to struggle with small bouts of guilt at times, however, I found ways to incorporate my mother in the planning process and felt less like a defector or deserter as a result. For one, I sat in a rocking chair, that she used to rock me in, by her bedside while I wrote her eulogy. I held her hand as she fell asleep while I selected family members and friends who would travel with me to the funeral.
And in the end, I felt stronger for it. If I could plan my own mother’s funeral when she was alive, I was going to be okay after she died. Besides, finding my name in the word “funeral” clearly meant nothing after I uncovered another letter jumble: