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Planning A Funeral With 'Grave Expectations'


It's been said life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. But what about planning for when you can't make plans anymore? That's where these two come in.

Ms. SUE BAILEY (Co-Author, "Grave Expectations: Planning the End Like There's No Tomorrow"): I'm Sue Bailey.

Ms. CARMEN FLOWERS (Co-Author, "Grave Expectations: Planning the End Like There's No Tomorrow"): And I'm Carmen Flowers.

SEABROOK: They wrote the book "Grave Expectations: Planning the End Like There's No Tomorrow." As you can probably guess from that title, this is not your ordinary funeral guide. For example, there's a chapter called "Freeze, Boil, Liquefy, and Preserve." It's about how to deal with your body after you're done with it. And there are questions throughout the book to help you plan your big goodbye party - the food, the location, the guests, the music. Carmen Flowers says all this was inspired by an evening spent with her dad.

Ms. FLOWERS: My father had cancer and knew he was going to die and decided to leave the hospital. And the last night that he was there we planned his funeral, what he wanted to do. And he wanted to make sure that people had a good time. And so we started planning the menu. He had cheese garlic grits. He lived - was from Alabama.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FLOWERS: And Venison sausage, and of course bourbon - down South. And he also told me everything that he wanted to be put on the dinning room table. And we had a wonderful night. And then we took him home the next day, and he actually died the next afternoon. So all we had to do was just start to follow his instructions. And it was so full of love. You just thought, I'm doing the right things. Nobody is going to argue. And everybody had a great time.

SEABROOK: Also the bowl of ashes?

Ms. FLOWERS: Oh, well, the other thing - he also had planned for a second party. And at that party it was a little more formal. But he had us get a bowl and put his ashes in this big bowl, and he had snack bags. And everybody could just spoon ashes into the snack bags and take him with them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FLOWERS: Because he wanted people to take him with them if they were going someplace good that he'd like.

SEABROOK: This was not a button-down, normal kind of guy, huh?

Ms. FLOWERS: No, he was not.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEABROOK: I guess...

Ms. FLOWERS: He was an adventurer.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEABROOK: Now, this is also serious stuff. I mean...

Ms. FLOWERS: Absolutely.

SEABROOK: This is people's last statement, in a way.


Ms. BAILEY: We're actually on a mission - not to get too serious - but we're on a mission to really get people to not fear death anymore.

Ms. FLOWERS: It's the real point of this book...

Ms. BAILEY: Yeah.

Ms. FLOWERS: Is to try to help people get beyond the fear of death because it's the one thing that we're going to do.

Ms. BAILEY: When Carmen and I chose our music for our funerals, it was one of - we say it was one of the best nights of our lives, which is......

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FLOWERS: It was.

Ms. BAILEY: We're not kidding. Because it really frames the music so differently when you think about these lyrics as you're playing songs, even one like, you know...

Ms. FLOWERS: "We Are The Champions."

Ms. BAILEY: "We Are The Champions." Or if you think of "Claire de Lune" or whatever, you feel differently as you are playing this music, and you're imaging it at your funeral and the way people are feeling it. It's really quite amazing to plan your music, at least for the funeral.

SEABROOK: OK. I want to hear a quick summary. Carmen Flowers, your funeral.

Ms. FLOWERS: Well, I think plan A, the Cloisters and caviar or the River Cafe. And, I guess, what to do with the body? Right now, it changes every day. Right now I'm throwing myself in the fire, but that could change at any moment.

SEABROOK: Sue Bailey, your funeral.

Ms. BAILEY: I would like to have my ashes blown up in fireworks. I like Italian opera, whale songs, Japanese Taiko drums, Bulgarian women's choir, Broadway show tunes, "Love Train" by the O'Jays, and I think Louis Prima's "I Ain't Got Nobody" will probably be the last song.

(Soundbite of song "I Ain't Got Nobody")

Ms. BAILEY: Which is the most joyous song I know, even though it's about dying alone and being alone. And it's unbelievable.

(Soundbite of song "I Ain't Got Nobody")

Mr. LOUIS PRIMA: (Singing) Bip boz-dee, boze-dee, bop, biddly-bop. I ain't got nobody...

SEABROOK: Sue Bailey and Carmen Flowers are the authors of "Grave Expectations: Planning the End Like There's No Tomorrow". The book comes out next month.

(Soundbite of song "I Ain't Got Nobody")

Mr. LOUIS PRIMA: (Singing) Nobody, nobody, nobody, nobody. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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