Friday, May 22, 2009

If I Should Wake Before I Die

Photo from
Have you ever watched Little House on the Prairie?

One of my favorite episodes shares the title of this post (yes, I totally plagiarized it, but look, now I'm giving credit where it's due). The premise is that Miss Amy, one of the elderly residents of Walnut Grove, decides to stage her own funeral (with the reluctant help of the Ingalls family and Doc Baker) in order to get her family to pay her a visit. And it works. Not only is she able to attend her own wake, she is able to overhear many fond memories and thoughts in her behalf. When Miss Amy finally reveals to her children that she is, in fact, alive and well - they are upset with her. What happens next is the part that really gets me thinking.

Miss Amy's daughter asks her, How could you do it? How could you let them tell us you were dead? And then her son adds, You had no right, Mother!

Here is Miss Amy's reply:
Rights? You're talking about rights? Whose rights? I've got a right to see my own children and grandchildren. It comes before anything else! And you ask how I could do it. Well, it isn't hard when you've tried everything else, when you're so hungry for the sight and feel of your family. You can't sleep at night thinking of them, and when it comes to you, the one thing that will bring them to you is your own wake...well, it isn't hard to do at all. Sean, I heard you say it. "Why is it," you said, "you have to wait until they're gone before you know what they mean to you"? Well, you mean everything to me, you three.
80 years old, and I don't have many birthdays left. Maybe...maybe not even one. And when you think of that, you have to be foolish.

Every year when Memorial Day weekend rolls around, I think of this episode.

I think of my Dad's funeral and what a remarkable gathering it was.

I think of how much he would have loved being there, reminiscing with old friends, laughing over memories of days past, hearing about how much his friendship and kindness had influenced others.

And, like Miss Amy, I wonder - why do we wait? Why do we hold back and not let others know how great we think they are or how much we love them and treasure the times we've shared? Why don't we make time to enjoy these relationships while those we care for are still around to enjoy them with us? Why should we wait until a funeral to really come to understand and express how much someone means to us?

We shouldn't.

I think Miss Amy was on to something.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful, thought-provoking post, Gerb. So very, very true. I recall that episode, although it's been a long time since I'd thought of it.

Teachinfourth said...

Well spoken, Gerb. If only we could remember what Mike and the Mechanics said so eloquently in their song, "The Living Years."

By the way, that LHOTP clip can be found here.

Mom not Mum said...

I had a friend give me flowers once and he said something I've always remembered. "We should give flowers to those we love while they can enjoy sad it would be if all the flowers we ever received were at our funeral." It was something his mom had told him.

Allen said...

The best funeral of all (except for the little dance at the end is kinda odd). Hmmm...and because there is little doubt of you outliving me and I've no idea when I'll go, I'll have to be sure and throw several of these memorials for you over the years.

Gerb said...

L- Thanks. You can actually find the entire episode on YouTube if you're interested!

T5th- Love that song. Now I need to get some practice in living it.

MnM- What a great quote! Very inspiring. I read a poem once about something similar and it has always stuck with me.

Allen- I'm sure I would love it, but you better not tell me about it ahead of time... I'd feel awkward knowing I was walking into a "Gerb is great!" memorial of sorts. And instead of either one outliving the other, how about we go at the same time when we're old fogies?

TRS said...

Last May we threw what was supposed to be a surprise party for my dad's 75th birthday.

He figured out what was going on - but once everyone was gathered, 70-90 people coming and going and all - he said, "Are you sure this isn't my funeral? I wouldn't expect all these people to turn out for my birthday."

That really made me happy to know that he got to experience everyone coming together to celebrate him while he is actually alive! What a gift!
If he makes it 80 we should all prepare little eulogies for him, just for full effect.

Shellie said...

We got toegether with my grandpa a few year s before he died and had a family camping trip at Grand Canyon. One night we spent the whole night going around the campfire telling stories about him and how much he meant to us. Le cried and told us we didn't need to have a funeral now! I think that was about the smartest thing we ever did. Of course, a few cousins didn't come because they needed to save up so they would have money to travel to his funeral. ??? I'm glad I went when I did.