The Absence of Your Funeral

By Tracy Renee Lee

My daughters and I love watching old Doris Day movies. She was so talented, beautiful, and sang with the voice of a lark. Now that my daughters have daughters of their own, our tradition of watching Doris Day continues throughout the generations of our family.

We were saddened to hear last month that Doris Day had died. She was a great lady and a stalwart cynophilist. Unfortunately, the latter years of her life were sad and reclusive. As such, she requested no funeral and no grave marker upon her death. Doris Day leaves surviving descendents and a large fan base to grieve her loss without closure. She unknowingly robbed many of them of the essential elements of healing.

Less than a year ago, another great entertainer died, Aretha Franklin. Ms. Franklin went out with a bang. Her services were attended by former U.S. presidents, governors, athletes, entertainers, and religious figures. Her body was displayed in high diva fashion with wardrobe changes expressing her concept of life and how it should be lived. Her family, friends, and fans had ample opportunities to pay their respects, realize the reality of her death, and begin their recovery journey.

The differences between the two stars’ funerals are noteworthy. They represent their concepts on life, self-value, and love. Doris Day was well loved, but she felt that life had abandoned her in so many aspects; therefore, in death, she abandoned the living by taking a quiet, non-eventful exit out of stage door left. She displayed her self-worth as small and did not understand her value to those who remained ever loving and respectful from afar. Sadly, her perceptions may have been the result of physiological manipulation.

Aretha Franklin lived her life and its tragedies wide open. She shared her story as it happened, as well as, the close of her life with everyone. She created a celebration that included all who had ever loved her. All were welcome, and no one was left out. She set the stage for those left behind to know that she loved them, appreciated the life they had shared with her, and that even though she was gone from them, her life, talents, and spiritual gifts were celebrations for all to continue experiencing.

Everyone has the right to choose their end of life services; however, it would be prudent to realize that your services are not for you. Your end of life services are for those whom you leave behind, those who must continue on without the comfort and security of your presence, and for those who have no assurances, only memories, of your love and influences. Your death, depending on how you chose to present it, can shore up the lives of your survivors and give them confidence in their future, or it can rip the ground right out from under them and shred their confidence into a nightmare of pathological psychosis.

Some argue that friends and family who did not visit them, or who may have offended them, should not have the privilege of farewell. Why is this concept irrational? The answer is simple: upon your death, a realization of finality wakes up the hearts of those who might not have realized that their absence or their actions were hurtful to you. Suddenly, the security of your being is gone from them, and your living influence no longer resides in the same dimension as they do. These realizations can be earth shattering and might potentially retard success or growth in your survivors. Indeed, such actions can even lead to additional deaths among those whom you hold, or held, dear.

Furthermore, you may have misunderstood the reasons or causes for particular survivor’s absences from you or actions toward you. What may have seemed menial to you may have been survival for them. Contrarily, what may have seemed monumental to you may have seemed minuscule to your survivors. At any rate, as we mature and move toward life’s end, it is incumbent upon us to adhere to a higher purpose, realize that our time was not inconsequential to those whom we leave behind, and prepare for our legacy to enhance, not hinder, those lives who have been within our influence.

Our duty or purpose in life is to improve it for ourselves and others as we travel toward our inevitable end of days. The measure of our legacy is the degree of life’s improvements realized by those who survive our loss. If we rob those who may need a final opportunity to clear their souls from potential anguish or growth, no matter what our accomplishments, our legacy is incomplete and our purpose less effective. What a failure of purpose when one becomes exactly whom they resent simply by mirroring the distasteful behavior.

Although the absence of funeral services may injure survivors, it is not my opinion that Miss Day forwent services in an attempt to harm anyone. I believe that her absence of services expressed her loss of self-worth and what she perceived as a loss of esteem among her survivors and fans. My heart breaks for the loneliness and distorted reality she endured. If I knew her place of internment, I would purchase the plot next to her and anonymously place a monument in honor of her kindness to animals and incredible talents she unselfishly shared with those who adored her.

The world was favored with two wonderfully talented entertainers; both influenced and enhanced my life. I shall miss each of them.