On January 29, 2012, I solicited eulogies from my friends and family at St. Clement’s Church in Northeast Minneapolis for my very own funeral. Below is the text I read into a microcassette recorder and had played over a microphone to bring my message from the great beyond, as it were, explaining why I did such a thing. As you enjoy the attached slide show, play special attention to the phenomenal cake created by Sarah Loiotile <slose18@yahoo.com>, an artist beyond compare, who is best known for her creations at the Christopher R. Mihm movie premiers. You’ll notice there was a big fly crawling on the cake for a time, which was quite surprising considering it’s the dead of winter in Minnesota. Maybe it was a messenger from some loved one legitimately on the Other Side????

Hello everyone.

I really appreciate your coming today to send me off into my second half century. I’m guessing some of you are wondering why I came up with such a seemingly morbid means of celebrating this milestone birthday. Let me try and explain.

When my mother died, we did all we could to include her in her own funeral. We had a CD playing of her singing, so she could entertain us after death the way she had during life. We played a schottische and danced it in a foursome with a space for her spirit making up that fourth dancer. We had a 21-squirt-gun salute that devolved into a water fight, just as she would have herself instigated. It was a perfect way to celebrate her life, but…

Though I’m sure she was there in a metaphysical sense, it was regrettable that we couldn’t all see her smiling face and know that wonderful outpouring of love and affection was being received and felt by her. That’s what gave me the idea to hold this wake; my turning 50 was just a convenient excuse as far as the timing goes. Funerals are for the living, of course, to help them honor their dearly departed and start their own grieving process, but in a way, I think we’re doing things a bit backward. Everyone should get to attend his or her own funeral while they’re alive to enjoy it!

My desire for this stems back to my youth. I used to send my mom to parent-teacher conferences each year and then, teachers’ pet that I was, I’d grill her, “What did they say about me?” It always frustrated me that she wouldn’t bring a tape recorder with her to help with her spotty memory.

Hence, I’ve asked you all here today, to help me be a proverbial fly on the wall at the ultimate parent-teacher conference, to let me know how I’m doing so far on my life lessons.

A friend of mine who nearly died recently of esophageal cancer told me this event shouldn’t be called a wake—it should be called an AWAKE, as in being fully awake and aware of what life and living has to offer. Having lost both parents, a stepfather, a couple of best gal pals, several other relatives, three cats, three dogs, my cockatiel, etc., etc., I know only too well how brief our time in this incarnation can be. I want to get the most out of this go-round as possible. Thank you all for helping me do this very thing.

Please note, however. I’m not actually dead and if you insult me too strenuously, I can still pop you one in the snoot.