Which one’s Dad?
Interesting, isn’t it, how myopically self-absorbed people become when glancing forward to their demise. “Stick me in a binbag and put me out with the rubbish,” they say, men mostly. It’s right up there now in the top ten death clichés alongside “He’s gone to a better place,” “It’s only a shell,” and “She will be missed” – that passive verb really bugs me. (Do people really say to the parents of a dead child “You can always have another one”?)
Ask people who want to be bagged and binned if that would be good enough for their closest family members and the tune changes bigtime. But it doesn’t change the way they feel about themselves. “Nope, stick me in a binbag,” they conclude with ne’er a thought for the feelings of those charged with the bagging and binning.
Some of these people have made wills. It’s not as if they’ve completely suspended all consideration for others. And you can see why they might feel this way. It’s an existential chess move. Reaper G negates you: you negate him. Neat. Where grave thy victory?
Except that it’s not actually a plan, it’s just braggadocio. Hot air.
You could argue that we’ve become so individualistic, so narcissistic, that we have no interest in making plans for any party we shan’t be able to attend, but I think that’s wide of the mark.
The point is that this zero sum approach to corpse disposal is stupidly unhelpful. This is something you can only plan in collaboration with, and in deference to, those closest to you because, dammit, they’re the ones who are going to be lumbered with your deadweight. If ever there’s an event which requires us urgently and sensitively to give precedence to the feelings of others, this is it.
Why do our funeral plan designers not stress this? Well, it would complicate things, wouldn’t it? It would mean that people would have to talk about it, which they wouldn’t, the plan would never get written, nor (here’s the point) the accompanying cheque.
Over in the US, where they’re ahead of us in funeral trends, Funeralwise.com, a funeral planning website, has just published a survey which reveals that a startling 31 per cent of Americans don’t want a funeral (a figure that rises to 37 per cent for the over 75s). Bad news for undertakers, perhaps. Far worse news for families. As Funeralwise.com co-founder Larry Anspach rightly points out: “At the very least, families need to discuss their funeral preferences. Its okay to not want a funeral, but have you considered the impact on family and friends?”
See the full results of the Funeralwise.com survey here.