From attending funerals over the years, I’ve decided I want no formal service conducted by someone who barely knew me, no family airing their grievances over my casket, and no rambling eulogies by people who are supposed to say nice things about me but can’t. I do know that it’s important that some sort of commemoration take place, preferably a party with good food, flowing wine, and funny stories, not for my benefit, but for the sake of the people left behind. I’ve learned from experience how important a ceremonial closure is for the bereaved.
The problem is, I don’t know who my bereaved will be. With a husband 15 years my senior, my family 6,000 miles away, and no children of my own, who’s going to make sure my final wishes are carried out? Who’s going to even care when I pop my clogs, shuffle off this mortal coil, and head for the great writer’s conference in the sky?
I think that the answer will be: my friends.
Watching my own mother bound towards her 80th year is both inspirational and educational. I compare her to others her age (and younger, frankly) and try to find the factors that make her so youthful. Exercise is number one, along with good diet, positive attitude, and mental toughness. But right up there is friendship. My mother has so many circles of friends—her athletic friends, her artistic friends, her church friends, long-time neighbors, and even friends she’s maintained from her very first job more than 60 years ago. When she’s hit dark patches in the past, it’s been her friends who have pulled her through. When her husband, my father, passed away almost 25 years ago, we children were dealing with our own loss and her friends were the ones that kept her moving forward and moving us forward. And I know that my friends will be there for me too, in time’s of need, and when my time runs out.
Having children comes with absolutely no guarantee that you’ll be taken care of in your last days; ask those residents in senior care facilities who sit and watch everyone elses families roll in and out every Sunday. Ensuring care in your old age and having someone to carry out your last wishes is not a good reason to have children, but it’s another great reason to have friends.