What kind of send-off do you want?

olivia6-25 Page 4A.inddMy brother and I used to discuss the best way to die. Our two options were to die from a bullet or from an arrow. We would talk about it at length. But we never got to the part where we’re already dead and have a funeral. That would have been the next logical step. And although at the time neither of us had ever been to the funeral of a human, we had planned and carried out numerous funerals for our various pets that met their maker.

There was a special service for the Easter chicks who seldom lived past the chick stage. Now there is a funeral easy to prepare for.

A large cardboard matchbox, the kind household matches come in, is ideal as a coffin.

We’d line it with grass and carefully place the chick inside, lay more grass over his lifeless body and slide the box back into the cover.

Next we’d walk slowly in a procession out to the area prepared for the burial.

Usually the grave, fairly shallow, would already have been dug.

It would be a short but solemn service, beginning with the phrase, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to lay to rest Sammy Chick, who met his death unexpectedly in an encounter with our cat. His death was quick, and we hope painless, and he will be missed.

“He was a good chicken and didn’t make trouble for anyone.”

Then we’d lay the deceased in the grave, cover it with dirt, cover the grave with leaves from the Chinese holly and sing “Jesus Loves Me,” a suitable hymn for a chicken funeral. For we all knew that God made and loved all things, and He cared even about a baby chick.

Then we’d drive a small cross made from sticks into the ground at the head of the grave and walk away to refresh ourselves with grape Kool-Aid.

Sometimes, when we were bored, we’d arrange a funeral for a dead grasshopper found in the yard. The ritual was much the same.

So if anyone has a preference for the kind of funeral they would like, it is advisable to go ahead and plan it. Otherwise, some of the choices made might not be to your taste.

I don’t want money spent on my funeral. What a waste. Cremate me. I want the money spent on the party celebrating life. Preferably, it would be nice to have the funeral party before I die, so I can enjoy it. There has to be good music and a lot of good food.

As far as music for the service itself goes, I’d like “Rhapsody in Blue” played, one of my all-time favorites, and at the conclusion of the festivities, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” played properly by a New Orleans Jazz band. They can march out the door after the party, followed by a procession of everyone who attended, who must all carry a parasol of their choice. And if they want to ride away in a black horse-drawn hearse pulled by a team of matching white horses with ostrich plumes attached to their bridles, more power to them.

I’d like people to dance. There’s nothing like dancing to lift the spirits.

As for the food, it has to be good.

Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue from Little Richard’s in Winston-Salem or from Wilson, N.C., or from the Center Presbyterian Church Ingathering. It’s all good. Also, steamed shrimp and hush puppies would not be amiss. Fried chicken would also be appropriate. And an assortment of excellent desserts would be much appreciated. Don’t worry about bringing a cake. Did I mention the desserts and side dishes would be brought by the guests? There’s nothing like a good pie at a party. Chocolate is always good. Lemon meringue is one of my favorites. I would like my old friend Virginia, should she outlive me, to bring her famous Dead Man’s Cake, one she takes to all families who’ve suffered a bereavement. It’s a very rich chocolate sheet cake with hot fudge icing poured over it when it comes out of the oven. It is named both for its purpose and also because too much of this dish can be fatal, and it might not be a bad idea to have a door prize. And there have to be lots and lots of flowers. But not cut flowers I’d prefer living plants and shrubs. They can all be donated to parks and places in town where a lot of people can enjoy them.

If I’m still alive for the party, I’d like to thank everyone for coming and tell them how much I’ve enjoyed being alive and how glad I am to count them as friends. No speeches, please. We all have our own stories, and it may be best to let sleeping dogs lie.

And my preacher can tell everyone how important it is to love each other, to forgive each other and to live at one with God and our fellow man.

Now, these are just suggestions. And by the way, don’t put gravel, pebbles or concrete on my grave. Y’all can spread sea shells. They’re beautiful and feed the earth. Since I might not be dead yet when we have the funeral party, I’ll wear the prettiest outfit I own. Then, if people want to say, “she looks so good” or “they really did a good job on her,” I’d be able to enjoy it.

Maybe I’ll have to go out and buy a black sequined party dress. But there will be no high heels. Life is meant to be a celebration, and no one can sincerely celebrate in high heels.

That’s the funeral I’d like to have. What’s your plan?