The idea for a birthday funeral came to me unexpectedly… It was my birthday, and I was fondly reading all the well-wishes posted on Facebook from friends and family — musing to myself that it’s not often that people are that expressive with their affection. It seems that such displays of verbose public love are reserved for either birthdays or funerals.
Suddenly an idea hit me: wouldn’t it be a thrill to host a funeral for a living person, so they could listen to all the wonderful things people had to say about them? Plus for all my goth friends, a funeral party would be the ultimate indulgence!
But who did I know who would be so morbid as to enjoy being made into a corpse?
I called my partner Chris and said in a rush, “This may be a crazy idea, but do you think we could hold a surprise funeral for Kitty’s birthday?”
Chris was silent for a long moment, and I thought, ‘Wow, maybe this idea is too weird.’ But he replied, “That is an amazing idea. Let’s do this.”
Kitty is my metamour — Chris’s other partner — and a passionate devotee to all things dark, grotesque, and twisted. As her birthday falls on New Year’s Eve, she very rarely has a birthday party of her own. I decided to remedy this with a surprise birthday party (no, a surprise birthday funeral!) two weeks before her birthday to really catch her off-guard.
Chris and I spread word of our plans to Kitty’s nearest and dearest under strict instructions of absolute secrecy. We assigned various roles to friends based off their talents — one friend was asked to play the role of the celebrant, and a few overseas friends were asked to write eulogies. All guests were asked to bring a plate of food (as is traditional in times of mourning, I reminded them) and to wear their most fabulous funeral garb.
On the day of the funeral, Chris kept Kitty occupied whilst I turned our living room into a funeral parlour… black streamers were draped around the walls, candles were lit, and I turned our coffee table into a cushioned “death-bed” for the guest of honour. Guests trickled in about an hour before Chris and Kitty were due to arrive; we poured wine, set up a playlist of Gregorian funeral chants on Youtube, and cut blocks of cheese into tiny gravestones. We were all getting comfortably tipsy when I received a text from Chris warning me that they were on their way home.
Kitty mentioned later that she suspected something was afoot, and was expecting to find a gathering of friends joyfully crying, “SURPRISE” when Chris brought her back to our apartment. But when she was faced with a black crepe rosette on the front door, Gregorian funeral chants booming loudly down the hall, and a cluster of sombre friends in mourning veils clustered around a “coffin” in the living room, she froze. Our designated usher very gently guided Kitty to her deathbed and laid her down. Two more guests pulled a black sheet over her. I let out a small wail as I laid a flower over Kitty’s crossed hands.
Our celebrant James welcomed the guests and began the service. After a dramatic and completely false story of Kitty’s peculiar beginnings, he introduced Chris and I as we gave our individual eulogies. I used mine as an opportunity to give Kitty a bit of a roast whilst she was in no position to argue back. As she gave a squawk of indignation from beneath the shroud, James cried out, “Pay no attention to the foul gasses escaping the corpse!” and Chris “tearfully” slipped a nip of gin under the shroud to further “embalm the corpse.” Any further noises from Kitty were met with whispers of “such foul gasses” from the mourners.
After James read out the eulogies from overseas friends, our friend Alicia sang a requiem dedicated to her “bad-decision buddy.” James followed up with a scripture reading… which turned out to be a biblical language version of “My Humps.” My other partner Daniel snapped photos of the mourners as they attempted to contain their giggles by turning them into melodramatic sobs, and dabbed at their eyes with handkerchiefs.
We concluded the ceremony by burying Kitty in soft toys before allowing her to “rise from the dead” with a blood-curdling screech. She sat upright on her deathbed looking a little dazed and overwhelmed (apparently there wasn’t a lot of air under her shroud) as the entire party sang “Happy death-day to you” very loudly. Once we gave her a few minutes to compose herself, we launched into a very loud and drunken “wake” for the rest of the night. Black-Eyed Peas’ “My Humps” was the first song on the playlist.
There had been a few points during preparation, from the ideas’ conception through to the day of the party, when Chris and I would look at each other and ask, “Are we doing the right thing? Is this too weird?” But each time, we reassured ourselves that, if there was one person who would relish the opportunity to attend her own funeral, it was Kitty. Fortunately, she loved it.
After a coffin-shaped birthday cake was served, she said the whole experience was the “loveliest, most gorgeously macabre thing that anyone has ever done” for her.
Our suspicions about Kitty being the perfect “guest of honour” were further confirmed about a week later, when Kitty ran into a friend who hadn’t been able to attend. He grabbed her hand and said, “I was so sorry to miss your funeral!”
“That’s okay.” Kitty replied brightly. “One day, I’ll have another one.”