I watched part of the memorial for Michael Jackson during a four-hour delay at Heathrow airport. The reactions from the people gathered in front of a TV at Gate 21 varied. One woman from Los Angeles was outraged that they shut down the freeway as the procession led to the L.A. Staples Center. “It’s the middle of the day!” she shouted. Even though she wasn’t inconvenienced at all, she couldn’t get past the traffic headache it must have caused. A few seats over, a stylish couple was more interested in what the Jacksons were wearing. It was very moving and sad, they said, and they all looked so unified. In Versace.
Naturally, it got me thinking about my own memorial. What would people be outfitted in? Most likely sweats. And where would it be? The venue would have to be small so that it looked crowded. Somewhere dark too. Dark and modest. There’s a Japanese restaurant on 13th street in New York that would be ideal.
Not only that, it could serve sushi. I’m worried no one would show up and I bet they’d be more inclined to attend if there was an incentive. Like a spicy tuna roll.
I called my friend, Katie, in NY. “Would you help me plan my memorial?” I asked. Katie is a planner. For years she’s been dying to organize something for me – a wedding shower, a baby shower, anything that requires a guest list. Now, finally, I had something for her to organize.
Reluctantly, she agreed. “All right,” she sighed. “What’s your theme?” I suggested: death. “Too morbid,” she said. She was approaching it like it was an event. A memorial shower.
I told her my theme was: no celebrations. Nothing fancy or festive. No balloons and no glitter. That frustrated her. “We’ll need some cupcakes,” she said, “And a photo montage.”
The montage would be easy. All the photographs I’ve never thrown out could finally be recycled. There I am as a child – crying. There I am as a teenager, miserable. And in my twenties – I’d only choose only the shots where I didn’t look fat. Even better than photos of me would be the photos I took of random things. A picture of my sofa, for instance. Who wouldn’t want to see that at a memorial? Just then it hit me – skip the photos of me – and make it an auction. That would get people involved. It would be interactive; and prevent them from getting bored.
But then it occurred to me no one would want my stuff. That would be depressing. A memorial auction where no one is bidding?
The only thing worse than having no one bid on my stuff would be auctioning it off to an empty room. I have a hard time getting my friends to commit to plans when I’m alive, what are the chances, they’ll show up after I’m gone?
I called my friend Laura who was in a car on her way to Vermont. “You’d come to my memorial, right?” She paused. “If I'm invited to perform with Stevie wonder, of course.”
That didn’t bode well. I pointed out it would be quick. More like a party, only without the fun.
“Would there be a DJ?” she asked.
I told her no. No DJ. But I mentioned the sushi. That helped. Then she added: “It better be free.”
Next I e-mailed Liza at work. She’s in production now for a live TV show so in the subject line I put: my memorial. I know she’s busy and wanted to make it concise. It took her a while to respond. Eventually she wrote back: “I’ll be there as long as it’s when we’re on hiatus.”
My friend, Louise, also works in TV and wrote back: “When and where?”
I felt stressed after that. Everyone books up so quickly.
Meanwhile, Katie wondered if I wanted a speaker. I thought about this and decided the best person would be my shrink. She could talk about how hard I tried. That would be the upbeat portion.
People say all the time they’d love to be at their own funeral or memorial, but not me. Why would I want to know who leaves early – who’s texting on their Blackberry during the eulogy – and who’s yawning? Then again, it might be a blast. Why? Because I wouldn’t be around to bring everyone down.