My Future Funeral, and Yours?
I hosted my first-ever Future Funeral recently (in two sessions: virtually on May 10, and in-person on May 22). I promised myself that it won't be the last. The reason is simple: I learned a tremendous amount from it, so did my 'guests,' and all those who heard about it from different parts of the world but couldn't join either of the sessions personally.
Let me explain what brought about the Future Funeral idea. I have engaged in social innovation for the past twenty years. I do not think we could innovate death as such, at least not the actual act of dying, that is, to stop breathing, which is simple and universal.
But what to do before and after death varies tremendously across cultures, religions, economies, rituals and traditions.
A funeral is a case in point. For many cultures, there are at least four areas for significant changes.
1. Should it be held before or after death?
Funerals are usually held after death, but why not before it? Or both?
2. Who designs the funeral?
If the funeral is held after death, the deceased would have little say about it. But if done before death, the person concerned could design it or have a major say.
3. Who tells the life story of the deceased?
If the funeral is held after death, designated families and friends may tell the story. If held before death, the person concerned could tell the story personally.
Who would have the more relevant story?
4. Sharing by friends and relatives.
If a funeral is held after death, the deceased would not have heard the sharing. Assuming the sharing is genuine and sincere, wouldn't the deceased like to hear them as well?
So, my suggestions for our Future Funerals are:
- to be held before death
- to be designed by the person concerned
- life story to be told by the person concerned
- sharing by friends and relatives to be heard by the person concerned
That was exactly what I did with my Future Funeral.
But I did something extra, which is highly recommended as well. I wrote my funeral speech in advance (in electronic prose form, PowerPoint, and video formats) and made them available to my 'guests' before the funeral, so that I could have more time for sharing personal feelings and having a dialogue with those present.
My speech comprises three parts:
a. What made me what I am today –
Values and beliefs that shape my major decisions in life.
b. My life story –
'The universe is made of stories, not atoms.’ I come to this earth for a brief period of time; all I have left is my story when I am gone.
c. What I will do between now and my eventual departure –
I happened to have crafted my Future CV when I turned 70. This part elaborates on what I intend to do for the rest of my life. I added that it seems that the peak of my life has not arrived yet.
The response to the funeral has been so positive that I am contemplating starting a movement to promote the idea.
My major takeaways:
- Future Funerals could be held at any stage of one’s life. The best time is right after you stop working for a living, or 10 years before your anticipated death.
- Try to prepare your funeral speech in 3 parts like mine. The first part helps you reflect on the values and beliefs that shape your life story, and alerts you that these will continue to shape the rest of your life. Deep reflection enables you to cherish them, challenge them and modify them, if required.
- Future Funeral provides a good and safe occasion to hear what your ‘significant others’ think and say about you. Mind you: what they say may also shape what you will do for the rest of your life.
- Doing both virtual and in-person events would allow you to reach more people; don’t expect too many people will come to your actual funeral
Do let me know if you are interested in receiving a copy of my speech (ppt format), or better still, design your own Future Funeral. I have developed some freeware for the purpose.
K K Tse, ethnic Chinese, 73, born in Hong Kong and educated in the UK. Was a business executive and management consultant before having a second career in social entrepreneurship. Awarded Social Innovation Thought Leader of the Year 2020 by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. Contact him at email@example.com