A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law, Carolyn Berry, made an announcement.
“I want you to be the speaker at my funeral. I want it light, funny and happy; not sad. I thought you would be the one to do this. ( I had said a few words at her son’s burial.) Plus, you will draw a crowd. All my friends love your articles, and when people hear you’re the speaker, I’ll have a larger crowd.”
She always follows this with a laugh. I thought she was joking. She wasn’t.
“I’ll probably go before you do,” I said brushing off this idea.
As my grandmother would say, “Whoever heard the like?”
Guy didn’t take it seriously at first, but she was “dead” serious. I agreed to do this thinking it was so far down the road that when the time came, I might not be able to remember who she was. What else was I supposed to do but agree?
“I’ve already told Jim (her son) and everyone else,” she said.
Indeed she had. Our family, her friends, her church family and waitresses in local restaurants whom she just met now know that I am to speak.
I even introduced her to some of my friends while we were eating last week, and she announced it to them.
“Carol’s doing my funeral.”
They didn’t ask but probably thought she was suffering from something terminal since she was talking about her funeral.
“What would you like for me to say?” I have asked her several times over the last year.
“I don’t know. Just be funny.”
I needed more than “just be funny.”
“I’ll interview you,“ I suggested. “We’ll then have a trial run in a funeral home and invite extras like in a movie to listen, so I can see what kind of reaction I get. We’ll practice, and you’ll get to be there.”
She had a better idea.
“Why don’t you write what you might say and I’ll read it first. We’ll work on my funeral together.”
I can’t imagine writing my sister-in-law’s funeral script with her sitting beside me at the kitchen table.
“Carolyn, you’re going to have to give me some funny things if you want me to be funny.”
She must think I do stand-up.
“Here’s one for you,” she said telling about a student years ago who poured white glue all over his head the first day of school.
I took mental notes.
“If I don’t know something, I’ll just make stuff up.”
Carolyn laughed with that infectious laugh all who know her have heard more than once.
She leaves no stone unturned. This has been true for her years on this earth. Her burial outfit is hanging in her closet. Her affairs are in order; her jewelry divided. She doesn’t leave life or death to chance.
This week before leaving a restaurant where we were having lunch, she said with a raised eyebrow, “I read that article last week about you being nervous giving that speech. I can’t imagine you getting nervous. Maybe I need to rethink this funeral.”
She laughed all over! I hope she continues to second-guess my ability.
Not long ago our good friend Connie asked Guy to speak at her funeral.
“And you can, too, Carol.”
Judy, our other best friend, said, “What about me?”
Now everyone wants me to be a funeral speaker! Maybe we’ll hire out for those who have no one to give a eulogy.
“It is an honor I dream not of.”