Wear Black to My Funeral
I want to be dramatically mourned.
Sometimes I hear people say, “My funeral shouldn’t be a mournful occasion. I want it to be a celebration of life!”
Maybe that’s fine. Maybe not.
Either way, it’s not what I want.
Because here’s the thing. When you attend my funeral, you won’t be attending for me.
You’ll be attending for you—for yourselves and for one another—and in our culture, wearing black is one way to collectively acknowledge that you’re sad. And it’s okay to be sad.
My faith acknowledges the grief process, and when I die, I want you to acknowledge it, too.
Don’t pretend nothing is happening. Slow down and take time to mourn. Engage in some rituals to acknowledge the seriousness of the loss.
Even if we believe we’ll be reunited in heaven someday, in the meantime, we will be apart indefinitely, and if I’ve lived any sort of meaningful life, then of course you will feel the pain of separation.
So break out your musty Victorian mourning gowns. Wear wide-brimmed hats with netting that swoops down over your face. Strap on black arm bands and cravats. Carry a large cloth handkerchief to blot your tears.
At sunset, gather in an open field. As the sun dips low and the light seeps from the sky, wander together to my graveside, trains of black lace trailing behind you, catching in the weeds.
I lived a dramatic life, and when I die, I want to be dramatically mourned.
Wear black to my funeral.
Death and dying. Not topics most people want to talk about. As a result, most of us avoid such discussions entirely.
But this is not good for us, as individuals or as a society.
Last year, while researching Socially Awkward, I learned that while over 64% of Americans believe it’s important to communicate their funeral wishes to friends and family members, only 21% have done so.
We don’t want to think about death, let alone talk about it.
However, as I concluded in the book:
Not talking about death won’t keep it from happening to us. The only thing our silence will accomplish will be to make us less prepared to grieve, less prepared to comfort those who are mourning, and less prepared to die ourselves.
We live in a culture uncomfortable with acknowledging death, to the extent that we’ve dispatched with most of the rituals that used to help us deal with grief.
Whether you wear black to my funeral one day—or, indeed, whether you attend it at all—is, of course, up to you.
But I hope you come, and I hope you wear black.
Later, there will be time to meet together, perhaps over good food and drinks, and share stories. Tell tales and make jokes and share laughs.
Celebrate a life (I pray) well-lived.
This, too, is part of the grieving process.
But don’t skip there too soon.
Life is wonderful, and the loss of life is serious, real, and sad.
Taking time to mourn is an essential way to acknowledge that fact.
Subscribe to receive my next essay directly in your inbox.