Once upon a time people dreaded dying. They couldn’t be sure it would be painless. They dreaded being dead, too. Some feared the unknown. Others lamented the end of their existence.
A very few people had no fear whatever of being dead because they trusted in a joy-drenched afterlife. But even these people dreaded dying.
Death was a big deal.
In those days, people affected by the death of someone were called ‘the bereaved’. They experienced grief. Even people who were certain that their dead person had gone to paradise were sad because they missed them. So funerals were sad occasions. There was no way round this. It was because everyone was sad.
Because dying could be such a horrible thing, people didn’t talk about it. When they were dead, this made life difficult for everyone. The undertaker would gently say to the bereaved, “What do you want to do?” and the bereaved would reply, “What she would have wanted.” The undertaker would gently ask, “What was it she wanted?” and the bereaved would reply, “We don’t know.”
The pre-need funeral plan people gazed sadly at their unsold pre-need funeral plans and said, “What hope for us when everyone’s in denial?”
People who know what’s best for people saw that what death needed was an image makeover. “It’s not so bad when you talk about it,” they said. And they had a point – up to a point. “It has been said,” they said, “that what we fear most about dying is the associated loss of control. By empowering patients to express their wishes, that control can be restored.” “Does it bollocks,” said the people with neurodegenerative diseases.
The pre-need funeral plan people proved, with smoke and mirrors, that grief can be bypassed by partying. And because no one wants anyone to be sad when they die, everyone flocked to buy their very own pre-need, knees-up party plan.
So now when relicts go to the undertaker, the undertaker says, “Hello.” And the relicts say, “What’s next?” And the undertaker says, “This, this is what’s next. This is what you’ll do, this is what you’ll wear, this is what you’ll listen to, this is how you’ll feel. It’s all laid down and it’s all paid up.”
And the relicts say, “Sorry, we feel too sad, we miss her.” Or, “Are you joking, mate? We couldn’t stand him.”
And Death says, “Right. You’ll do it my way.”