The Great Gig in the Sky
You don't realise what an administrative ball-ache death is until you suddenly lose someone near and dear. We had a funeral to attend recently and it got me thinking about what I would do if the worst happened and responsibility for someone's big day et al fell to me. Even Facebook has now implemented a 'legacy contact' to manage your page after you go (i'm serious, check your settings) but I must confess it's not something I had ever thought about, let alone read up on so I thought I would delve in and blog my findings.
First up, a super-simple check-list you can compile and keep beside the passports & pension paraphernalia ready to be found should the worst happen (I am BRIMMING with Sunday sunshine, aren't I?!)
- Have you written a will and appointed an executor? Get on it - it's also an idea to pass on what you can, when you can because your assets get TAXED TO *insert all the swear words*. If you mention jewellery, it will be taken away for valuation, then taxed. It's definitely a good idea to gift family heirlooms up front while you are alive to see your grandaughter's gleeful face reflected in your 0.9 carat Tiffany. If you have property, you should probably sign it over to dependents/your toy boy so they don't fall foul of inheritance tax (applicable for estates over £325k), but there is a seven year cooling off period in case you die (in which case they will find you AND TAX YOU). Did I mention Tax? Tax tax taxy tax. Everything. The lot.
- Have you opted to be an organ donor? (if not, why not; I changed my tune in my mid 20s when I realised that I *probably* wouldn't need my kidneys if I was hit by a bus so it would make better - not to mention less selfish - sense to pass them onto someone still breathing).
- Would you like to go full bhuna and donate your body to medical science? (as per my dad's wishes *insert eye roll emoji*)
- Keeping a deceased relative at home is generally perceived as being only for the fiercely religious, however the 'DIY funeral' is becoming a much more popular option, especially in circumstances such as untimely death or protracted illness. You can avoid the whole undertaker-sleepover-stretch limo-jolly altogether if you'd prefer the reassuring surrounds of your own abode.
- Which brings us neatly onto disposal itself. I once had a University lecturer whose Granny had written to the council to request that she be put out in the wheelie bin like so much rubbish when she died. They wrote back politely advising that such methods would contravene about 4,072 health & safety laws and would it be possible for her to have a wee rethink and opt for something 'more traditional'. According to the Births & Deaths Registration Act 1953, disposal means “by burial, cremation or any other means”. In the UK sadly there is currently no viable alternative to burial or cremation, but given the cantering pace of the noughties healthy eating movement, I am of the opinion that disposal via 'oversized Nutribullet' can't be too far away.
- Final points for consideration are the funeral service and party afterwards. Would you believe there is no legal requirement to actually have a funeral? The ceremony itself is put in place to say goodbye and fulfill the emotional needs of those left behind.. so if the thought of your rellies standing around in monochrome sobbing to Wind Beneath My Wings sounds like too much, just say no. Feel free to be creative though - Tupac Shakur was fatally shot in a drive-by and didn't have a funeral. The private service his mother planned was cancelled at the last minute and instead his chums (the 'Outlawz') mixed his ashes with weed and smoked him. Which is a bit more fun than a lukewarm buffet at your local Harvester, i'll admit.
To learn more about your legal rights once you have shuffled off this mortal coil, The Good Funeral Guide have a fabulously comprehensive list here.
It wouldn't be right to do a blog post on the theme of death without mentioning my exit preferences. I haven't thought about the details extensively and it's a moveable feast that i'll no doubt have to come back and edit in a few years (Patrick Swayze willing). But if the worst happens and you know me in real life, feel free to point Big Slice in the right direction.
- I think i'd like to have an outdoor ceremony. I didn't walk down an aisle to get married and I would prefer to avoid it in death too.
- Guests are invited to wear their pyjamas. Feel free to accessorise in accordance with the season.
- On arrival there will be a Carribean Steel Drum band playing the hits of Simply Red. I think i'd like some traditional dancers too. Anything to avoid people standing around glumly looking at their feet.
- There will be a table offering glasses of pink champagne (I won't haunt you if it's sparkling wine, but it's one day for GOODNESS SAKE, cough up) plus sausage rolls and assorted macaroons. I quite fancied the idea of a BBQ, but have slight concerns that my impending incineration would put guests off their kebabs.
- I'd like the no-frills cheapie cardboard box option (did you know coffins cost more than a Chanel handbag? - it's obscene) but could we perhaps wrap it in turquoise spangly paper or something?
- Attendees will be asked to write a personal, Nicola-related anecdote on a piece of paper and place it in a bowl. During the send-off the MC (I haven't decided yet.. can I have Ryan Reynolds if he's still alive?) will reach into the bowl and read half a dozen stories at random. If yours is selected and it's miserable you will be forced to perform 20 penalty slut-drops in front of the entire congregation.
- I can't deal with hymns so I think we need to roll out a Tom Jones impersonator at this point for a rendition of 'It's Not Unusual'. Naturally you have to sing along and will receive a complimentary topping up of pink bubbles if your "na na nana na naaaaa"'s are suitably enthusiastic and in the right place.
- At the end I would like you to write down something you've been meaning to do (learn Portuguese, dye your hair lilac, tell Matt in Accounts that you think he's fit) then i'd like you to put it in the bowl (now emptied of anecdotes, the time for jokes has been and gone) making a promise to me, in death, that you will pull your finger out and do it. These commitments will be put into my spangly box so choose your 'to-do' wisely.
- I'd like to be scattered on the hill where Big Slice proposed. As an only child, all of my sparkly items go to Lola. However if she is a parking attendant, financial advisor or willingly unemployed, I would like to be sprinkled into the Bay of Naples and have my jewellery thrown in after me.