We had a family Final Fling this month – a fond farewell. A good goodbye. It really was a wonderful celebration of a life well-lived.
After all the years I’ve been encouraging others to plan ahead, it really was a joy to be delivering a funeral that had been thought-through and owned – by the person who had died and the family.
I remember the night we sat round the kitchen table 5 or so years ago, enjoying a glass of wine as we skimmed through prompts on Final Fling and posted notes about life highlights, great memories and favourite songs like Charles Aznavour’s She and Frankie Vaughan’s Give the Moonlight.
It was really important to the family that this was a celebration of their 90 year old mum and a tribute to her spirit.
On arrival, everyone selected a red rose and placed it in a vase at the front.
I did the MC job, holding the space, introducing speakers. Sister, daughter, son, grandson, friend, cousin, life-long chums … many contributed to the patchwork quilt of a story.
The beautiful wicker casket looked just like the infamous 60s hand-knits all the children had been dressed in.
The family-and-friend soirees and Hogmanay parties from the 80s and 90s came to life in the telling of the tales. There were gasps when the family realised the legendary fire-eater who had done a turn in the family living room all those years ago was in the room.
The sadness of the death was just as felt as the joy at the life that everyone had had a share in.
We held the event in one room in the local hall. We arranged loose chairs ourselves. We brought in catering. We put photos from the 9 decades out for folks to browse. The family carried their mum in; not a shoulder charge – just a less dramatic, ordinary weighty caring sort of carry. We had tables for the oldies to sit and munch at while the younger ones mingled.
Freddie Mercury sang us in. John Lennon’s Imagine was our reflection time. Clive James’ moving Japanese Maple pricked tears. We high kicked out to Give Me the Moonlight.
A Final Fling isn’t about putting ‘fun’ into ‘funeral’. It’s not about big dramatic gestures. It’s about quiet, real, meaningful connection.
If there’s one thing you could usefully do in the festive break, have a wee look at Final Fling and store away a few thoughts about the send-off you’d like. You’ll be glad you did.