Celebs spotlighting pre-planned funerals

When David Bowie died in 2016, the music legend was laid to rest with no funeral – either public or private. Before he lost his battle with cancer, Bowie had let his loved ones know he wished to be laid to rest “without any fuss.” He chose not to have a service or memorial, and instead was quietly cremated soon after his death.

It’s bringing the conversation to the fore.Credit:iStock

Although the superstar’s approach surprised his millions of fans, it was exactly the simple, dignified departure that he wanted, and a farewell on his own terms. In the same year, Pulitzer prizewinning writer Harper Lee also died. Like Bowie, she had informed her family long before her death that she wanted a quiet, simple funeral. Despite her literary fame, Lee’s funeral reflected the privacy she cherished in her personal life. With just close friends and family present at the church in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, the To Kill a Mockingbird author was laid to rest without pomp or fanfare, exactly as she wished.

It was fitting that a writer whose words inspired the world should decide those to be read at her funeral. Lee chose her own eulogy 10 years before she died. It was originally an award ceremony tribute given by her friend, Professor Wayne Flynt. When she heard it, Lee told Flynt he must read it at her funeral, word-for-word.

Forward Planning

Although these two creative giants were famous, we’re all the same when it comes to mortality, and their choices raise an interesting question for everyone: should you plan your own funeral?

For professionals in the business of farewells, the answer is a resounding yes. “Planning a funeral before you need to is something anyone can do, and it’s an empowering path to take,” says Ray Leon, funeral director with Simplicity Funerals. “You can be the author of your own story. And it allows you to share with your loved one exactly how you’d like to be farewelled.” But while we’re often proactive about being prepared in all other areas of life, funerals are still a subject we can find hard to approach, adds Leon. “It’s still something we don’t necessarily feel comfortable discussing. That stage in the circle of life can have a feeling of taboo and mystery around it.”

Life Celebrations

Planning your own funeral allows you to personalise every single detail – and for the ultimate celebrity example, we need look no further than boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Like Bowie and Lee, Ali also died in 2016, and his funeral followed a meticulous plan set in motion by the sporting great a decade previously.

Ali had outlined to loved ones his vision for a large, highly inclusive memorial conducted in accordance with his Muslim faith, but involving speakers from multiple religions. He designed a three-day farewell festival in his home city of Louisville, Kentucky, with a ticketed stadium memorial ceremony attended by thousands, featuring eulogies by his selected friends, including former US president Bill Clinton.

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