"What Would You Wear To Your Own Funeral?"
Here’s what I would wear.
One. My 1982 Lee straightleg jeans. Lee jeans, not Levi’s. They stretched everywhere I moved. They’re faded now, with tiny moth holes. I can barely get them over my hips. But these are the jeans I wore when my husband and I first got married and were just learning about each other.
Two. My Book Culture T-shirt. Book Culture is a bookstore on the upper East side of New York. I’ve never been there. I must go some day. My husband went there while I was home writing my new book (when you’re a writer, sometimes it seems like you never leave home). He surprised me with the T-shirt as a gift. I wear it to sleep at night. I wear it when I write. It gets stinky, but it gets softer each time I wash it. It’s as comfortable a thing as can possibly exist. I am a novelist, and I belong to the book culture. I’ll wear it to my grave.
Three. I’ll have on a black winter coat, quilted and super soft, plush and fleecy. I wore it all over London while on vacation there in the nineties. My husband and I had so much fun. We picnicked in Hampstead Heath, and a pit bull with brown spots and a broad smile ran across the entire length of the field to steal our Brie cheese, and it was so funny we let him have it. He wanted it so damned badly. He deserved it. We took pictures. We don’t have a dog. We have a picture of this dog. He will be in my coat pocket.
Four. Many years ago, my father went on a sabbatical to New Mexico, chasing his dreams. He joined an archeological dig in the desert, and after the dig, he came to visit me in Los Angeles and pulled a necklace out of his dusty backpack and gave it to me. It’s Navajo. Hand-strung. Rough pieces of turquoise. Clumps of nickel silver. Blue hearts and squash blossoms. He bought it cheap but this necklace is as precious as my memories of him.
Five. On my right ear I’ll wear a single vintage drop-dangle earring of a Victorian woman’s hand. Tarnished silver. Brass earwire. Palmistry jewelry. Just the one earring. I lost the other one at a job I hated. Actually, I lost it walking around a nondescript haunted neighborhood for an hour because I couldn’t bear to eat lunch with the lifers. Finding that earring became an obsession during my remaining days at that shitty job. I never found it. I’ve had some good jobs but also many shitty jobs in my life. Every single shitty job I’ve ever had has made me a better writer. Everything is an opportunity. To learn. To grow. To dream. To scream and write it all down. I remember when my husband gave me the earrings. I opened the pillow gift box. They were exquisite—the shiny, delicate hands. Now her hand is open, fingers outstretched, blackening, oxidized, surface-scratched, soft patina, so beautiful to me.
Six. The cheap beaded bracelet I was wearing when I met my husband for the very first time at college, and I drank too much out of nervousness and got sick to my stomach, and he held my hair while I puked in the toilet, and that’s true love.
Seven. Sunglasses. I love the idea of wearing sunglasses at a funeral. People don’t like it when you wear sunglasses, especially if they can’t see your eyes. One guy tried to kick me in the head once because I was wearing mirrored shades.
Eight. I’ll be wearing a yellow gold ring with a black onyx stone on the fourth finger of my left hand. It has an Art Deco shank and open-weave mount. My husband found it in an old mason jar filled with wood screws, washers and roofing nails. One day, while visiting his folks, he felt an impulse to rummage around in the basement, and he emptied the jar on a workbench, and out spilled the ring. Had his grandfather hidden it there? Were there other rings in other jars strewn around the old basement? We’ll never know. His parents are gone. The house is gone. But it’s my wedding ring now. It’s magical. I cherish it.
Nine. My beat-up Beatle boots. I wore them to see Patti Smith, The Ramones, The Dead Boys, X, The Pixies, The Smithereens, Til Tuesday, Rash of Stabbings, Mission of Burma, Husker Du. Heels worn down. They make a funny scraping sound when you walk. You can feel the road beneath their soles.
Ten. I’ll be holding a preserved rose flattened between two pieces of cellophane. My husband presented it to me on the morning we got married by a justice of the peace. A single cut flower. A rose bud. We put it in a vase and set it on the coffee table, and by the time the civil ceremony was finished, the rose had blossomed to full bloom in a beam of sunlight. Things like that just don’t happen—until, of course, they do.
What you wear to your own funeral is about who you really are. What you’ve done. Who you loved and were loved by.
This is a love story.
What would you wear to your funeral?
If you liked this, then you might like my new book “A Breath After Drowning.”