The recently opened (and fabulous) movie “Get Low”, is based loosely on the story of Felix Bushaloo Breazeale who in the latter 1930’s decided to hold his funeral in advance so he could “hear his own eulogy.” An estimated 8-12,000 people attended.
The witty film follows the original tale, with a little embellishment for entertainment’s sake.
The Reverend leading the real service commented: “This service is not a bad idea. Much good should come from a service divested of the usual tears and heartaches. It gives us an opportunity to take thought of tomorrow and anticipate the great adventure called death.”
When Arthur Motyer’s younger sister Jocelyn was in the latter stages of kidney disease, she decided to hold a “living wake”…an afternoon soiree for 60 friends and family members, with the intent of ensuring that her friends knew how much she cared for them, and also to know that she was indeed loved. As he watched her visiting with the many guests, Motyer realized that his discomfort was his own and that his sister was setting an impressive and courageous example: “I said if she can do it, then I have to. I wondered if it was in good taste and then I realized that it was actually a wonderful way to go.” (comments made on CBC’s DNTO)
Lingering diseases such as cancer (now the #1 source of death in Canada) offer a clear and finite ending and the time to prepare for it, to grieve in advance, which can be a very healing process. So an advance wake, funeral, or celebration of life can allow everyone to attend the final farewell. You, as the guest of honour, get what you want. It’s clear. No guessing. That’s empowering in itself, no matter your role.
For Felix Bush, it was the curiosity of knowing how he was seen by others.
For Jocelyn, it was basking in the love of those she adored, and reflecting it back.
For Pete Peterson, who in mid-June, was told he had 6-8 weeks left, the advance funeral he held on July 31 was to make good-byes easier. “I know they won’t come to see me when it gets close to the end. I wouldn’t go to see them either. People don’t want to see their friends like that, at those last days. They don’t want to remember them like that. I’m still in pretty good shape, so that’s how I want it to go.”