Planning the biggest party of your life, even if you can’t be there

Life provides many opportunities for parties, right? Birthday parties when you’re little. Birthday parties for your kids – one of the most stressful aspects of parenting imaginable in my books. We won’t count all those teen parties that your parents weren’t supposed to know about. Then there are engagement parties, weddings, and baby showers, not to mention these days also gender-reveal parties. There are farewell parties, retirement parties, and special anniversary celebrations. Lots of occasions for celebrating life’s passages, surrounded by friends and family.

Not so long ago we planned (and gave) a big party to celebrate our 50th anniversary, bringing together family and friends from far and near over many, many, … many decades. At that gathering, which was wonderful, my husband pointed out to everyone how much better it was to bring together the people who made a difference in our lives while we were all alive and could have fun together rather than wait for a funeral, as so often happens. This is so true, and he and I both encourage everyone to follow that philosophy.

However – and there’s always a however – some recent blogs by fellow bloggers have got me thinking about planning for another kind of party, and I’m already starting to think about the music for it, always an important ingredient for success. But let me back up a bit. One of the many nice things about blogging is that you “meet” other bloggers who become virtual friends. Not surprisingly, many of the blogs I follow are written by people who have either reached a phase of life similar to mine (gentle aging) or who see it on horizon and are doing lots of pondering about what their life has been like so far and what lies ahead. For those of you too busy to imagine having time to ponder anything at all, you have my sympathies. Eventually the time and mood will hit you and you will be surprised how rewarding these reflections can be.

This past week I’ve encountered blog posts from the blogosphere that have got me thinking about this (I know, you’re not sure what “this” is yet, but I’ll get there). The first blog post was by Molly Stevens at Shallow Reflections, a highly amusing post with the somewhat intimidating title of “Completing an advance directive can be fun”. An advance directive is another term for a living will, and she makes it very clear through humour why this is an important task, and why updating it from time to time is important – and fun. She also makes a very good case for planning your own after-life party (aka your funeral), which, for those of you who are impatient, is where I’m headed.

Another blogger I follow, John Persico, at Aging Capriciously, posted an intriguing article the other days entitled “3650”. He had determined through some actuarial tables that as a 72-year old American male, statistically he can expect to live to for another 10 years, hence the title 3650. He calculates that if he follows the route of the average man with his health profile he has 3650 days in which to – among other things – write blog posts. In the past two days he’s posted 3649 and 3648! Needless to say, this concept intrigued me.

Yes, I did check the actuarial tables for Canadian men and women, or at least a rough-estimate life expectancy calculator. According to this calculator, along with my other factors, if I never drink more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day, as a 73-year old female of a certain size, etc. I can expect to live to be 85.6. Interestingly, if I never drink any alcoholic drinks, I lose a full 1.1 years; I can only expect to live to be 84.5.  I could write an entire blog post on the contradictions in that outcome, but I’ll just stick with no more than 2 drinks a day and aim for 85.6, or the possibility of living another 12 years. That’s another 4380 days. But, not to worry, I’m not planning on writing 4380 posts!

With this presumed cushion for planning my advance directive, including my final party, I could push it aside, but of course this calculator is all about statistics and averages, not about individual actualities. Another piece of information uncovered during my extensive (googling) research on life expectancies made me wonder about the urgency of my planning. It turns out that people age 65 and above believe that old age starts at age 74. This means I have 8 months before what I consider my Golden Years start (sorry, Francine Sullivan! 😉 ). Maybe I should at least wait until then?!

Seriously, I’m not going to wait at all. I wrote my medical wishes down and gave them to my husband and sons a few years ago, but as Molly Stevens points out, you can never be sure what will happen when you’re not in charge – perish the thought! I’m going to update my living will and perhaps add a few important details, such as wanting to have my 50s & 60s music playing if I somehow end up in a vegetative state despite all my other instructions. And I’m starting to plan my final party – my funeral – by choosing the music. I come from a family where we all sang. We sang in choirs, we gathered around the piano and sang. We thought everyone would want to do that once they realized how much fun it is. Incredibly, neither of my brothers or I managed to pass that love or inclination along to any of our kids (although I have some hope for the following generation). So you can see that the musical selections for this party are going to have to be up to me.

My first choice for my music is Let There Be Peace on Earth. It’s a song I sang in school choirs growing up on Long Island. Then I hadn’t heard it for years, until some years ago I saw Gen. Colin Powell on TV, leading the singing of it with masses of people gathered for the Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C. This song really speaks to me, but I’m not sure how many people know it. So I figure I have to get people hearing it and practicing it well in advance of my final party. You can practice with this YouTube video of Let There Be Peace on Earth.

I hope you all like my first choice for my music. What would you choose?

The next one I have in mind is another of my favourites, Dona Nobis Pacem, the round (YouTube video if you’d like to check it out: Dona Nobis Pacem). This one’s harder for people not used to singing rounds, so I’ll let you get used to Let There Be Peace on Earth first!!

And don’t forget to work on your advance directive!

p.s. There is an alternate version now that has replaced the word “brother” by “family” and “each other”, but it sounds kind of lame.

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17 Responses to Planning the biggest party of your life, even if you can’t be there

  1. smilecalm says:

    very fun, caring words, Jane!
    better too soon
    than too late
    to plan
    one’s special party 🙂

  2. Roy McCarthy says:

    Hmm. There’s been a bit of interest in funeral songs recently. No one has hymns any more. I think I’d have I must get around to re-writing my Will, or checking what on earth a living will is.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      OK, I’ll admit it, both Meet on the Ledge and the Fairport Convention are new to me. The song’s message works, but I don’t see it having a lot of success as a sing-along, at least not without a lot of imbibing! Your next task may be to choose the drinks to be served! 😉

      • Roy McCarthy says:

        A singalong 🙂 I need people to be sad at my funeral Jane. But good point on the drinks.

        • Jane Fritz says:

          Lol. You can be sad and still sing! But I happen to get joy and emotional strength from singing, and , sadly, I have learned from my own family that not everyone shares that feeling. I’ll have to make sure that people who like to sing come to my final party!

  3. Reblogged this on Musings and Wonderings and commented:
    Time to start planning the party!

  4. Thanks for continuing this and the conversation about old age and the golden years. At 70 I really feel the golden years started a few years ago when I no longer felt pressured to live up to others expectations. Now I am living the dream– I work a little because I want to but in the meantime do a lot of other things that I don’t feel I need to put of for a rainy day. If I feel like relaxing and reading a book in the morning just because then I will. We did our personal directives a few years ago and update them last year but now, thanks to this conversation, I have to get moving and design my party!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Lol. First of all, I think you’ve nailed one of the greatest blessings of “gentle aging”, no longer feeling you need to meet the expectations of others. So freeing. And, knowing you and Jill, I’m sure you will both have lots of fun planning rousing Maritime/Newfie parties!

  5. I had never considered choosing music, should I be in a coma. Those who know me well will know that, if they play country music, I’ll stop breathing just to escape. I have made the mistake of giving control of pulling the plug to the same person who stands to benefit in my will. I get teased about that on a regular basis. Let’s hope the friendship is strong enough for the right choice to be made.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      A terrific example of why you should write your advance directive. Who knows what music they might play, either out of ignorance or otherwise! I have to say, I loved some examples just like that in Molly’s post. Food for thought!

  6. I believe that when you reach any age you thought was ‘old age’ – usually a birthday with a zero in it – you re-assess and consider the next zero birthday as old age. My mother did that until she reached 90, at which point she said there was no getting around it and she admitted to being old. However, she still wondered why people gave up a seat for her on the bus, and then had to remind herself that she was old, because she still didn’t feel old.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I love it. OK, I’ll go with old age starting at 90 … although there is the occasional day when I’m somehow lacking that firm belief in agelessness that your mother obviously had! I’ll reassess when I turn 74! 😊

  7. barryh says:

    As a 74 year old, I don’t feel that old age has arrived yet. Yet some people seem old before their time… At the end of the day, we’re all different, maybe depending on why we came here in the first place (if you believe in reincarnation).

    I’m wary of setting expectations that prove to be self-fulfilling!

    Thank you for that beautiful song ‘Let there be Peace on Earth’ – how wonderful if people leave your eventual funeral with that ringing in their brain!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Yes, some people feel their age far earlier than others, and others of us are luckier. As far as I’m concerned, this is a very special time of life, one I’m in no hurry to finish. I’m glad you like my song. After a few songs I’ll have to start thinking about the menu! 😉

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