The Matriarch hero

Robyn Lee is in her 70s and lives with two lovable but naughty cats. She has published a book on seniors behaving badly, entitled Old Age and Villainy, and considers herself an expert on the subject. 

I may or may not have mentioned previously how my mother, The Matriarch (TM) and her husband (The Third) would regularly update the family with regard to their eventual demise.  You know, wills, funeral director, etc.

For years TM insisted she didn’t want mournful hymns but wished to have Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” and Louis Armstrong’s “When the Saints Go Marching In” played at her funeral.  However, as time went on she started revising these plans.  In one of our phone conversations, she informed me that the family could expect a letter outlining the changes.

I received the letter a couple of weeks later and promptly rang my daughter to discuss it with her.  I read out what TM had written and both my daughter and I were helpless with laughter at the contents.  In her inimitable way, TM wrote down exactly what she wanted and I’ve shared it below with the only changes being names, otherwise it’s word for word as she wrote it, punctuation and all.

“Dear Robyn

The Third and I have spent a lot of time and deliberation over the planning of our funerals.  Our main concern is to make it as simple as possible for those of you who are left to cope.  We both feel that changing the venue is an unnecessary hassle, so we are leaving things as they are with the funeral director.  Because all of our friends have predeceased us, and for the same reason, we have great grandchildren we have never met, we have decided that we do not want a funeral!!!!

When the time comes, we have decided we would like you to phone the funeral director and tell them that we are ready to go, whoever goes first.  This might seem drastic to you, but we have seen too many funerals in our chapel where the hearse sits outside with one or two mourners to pay their respects.  Such a dreary sight, and we don’t do dreary.

We do not want flowers, wreaths and bunches are depressing.  We absolutely forbid viewing.  Why would anyone want to look at a dead face??  We might not be very pretty but we can still grin.  No eulogies.  Tell us what you can think of us while we can hear, not when we can’t answer back.

Forget what we wanted eleven years ago.  Singing “When the Saints go Marching in” might have sounded OK then, but we cringe that the sound of your off-key warbling eleven years later would resurrect us.

We mostly do not want people attending our funerals from a sense of duty.  We’d rather that they stayed home and had a drink to us.  We understand that you might be unhappy about our wishes, and we understand that, but we would really like it if you would put a notice in the newspaper to the effect that according to their wishes The Matriarch/The Third had a private funeral on such and such a date.

That’s all I think folks.  We have nothing to say except we love you all and we have been blessed to have belonged to such a loving family.”

I think that letter encapsulates The Matriarch beautifully.  She gets her point across with humour and style.

There was an untoward reaction from one extended family member though and I became quite angry when I heard about it.  It caused poor TM a lot of worry and upset.  This family member told TM that as I lived in Australia, I would be very hurt and upset about these plans and that it was wrong to exclude me.  I found out when I had rung and TM, in a very small voice, asked if I was still speaking to her.  At that stage, I had no idea what had gone on and when TM explained and told me she had been so worried and upset, I was furious with this relative.  I told TM how I’d rung my daughter and that we both agreed her letter had made our day.  I also reassured her that the relative was the one with the problem, not me!  TM was so relieved to hear that, but my daughter and I were pretty disgusted that TM was put in such a position at her age.  It was also a fortunate piece of luck that I didn’t have an up to date phone number for this relative… there would have been fireworks!

Robyn is writing a series on her 97-year-old mother (aka The Matriarch). Read part one here, part two here, part three here, part four here, part five here and part six here.