Erica’s Cancer Journey: Why I do not want a living funeral

Erica and Mike Chase-Salerno on their wedding day, June 29, 1996 (photo by Marlis Momber)

“I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” ~ Mary Oliver

Tell me what you recall about your wedding. For many of my family and friends, the entire event was a blur. After so much intention and time thoughtfully budgeting, selecting the vows, guests, outfits, menus, music, venue, etc., now, looking back, a significant number tell me they were so distracted that they never even got to taste the food they had worked so hard on choosing, or even recalled who attended, without referencing photos. A perfect day? Yes! A specific memory with each guest? Probably not.

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So, why do a wedding, or even a party for that matter, at all?

To me, it’s because love is bigger than us.

We feel excited, filled with love, and we want the world to amplify those powerful positives along with us!

Living funerals can put the “fun” in “funerals,” and they remind me of weddings, the assembly of loved ones surrounding the dying person with love and emotion, including greetings, memories, good-byes, well-wishes, and send-offs. A day of special words, people, food, and more to honor the individual before they pass away. If that idea appeals to you, I hope you have one!

After more than 40 years of cultivating strengths, reserves, and capacities to create my life and relationships in the outer world, I now yield to subtle detachment of my end-of-life path, redirecting primary energies to my own physical body and my inner landscape. Like labor at the end of pregnancy, I find myself increasingly primal and inward-focused.

In my dying, socializing asks more of me than I can often give. Like love, death is bigger than us. I am discovering that my end-of-life journey requires different energy and rhythms from my previous life patterns. I also do not desire your reassurance to “feel better” about my health situation, nor am I in a position to shoulder your grief.

It’s my individual relationship with you that I treasure. You and I are still living out our connection. I don’t need, or want, us to attend a special gathering to build on what we have. We’re still crafting “us” right now.

“No, thank you. She doesn’t want a living funeral.” Perhaps now my husband can soon take a break from these loving inquiries.

I get it. Things can be uncomfortable, like eliminating in the bathroom with someone in the stall right next to mine: I’m right here. I am still in the verb form of end-of-life: I am living, and I am dying, all at the same time. Thank you for being in my life, in all of its weird and wild fullness.

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