A friend's stepdad died recently of cancer*. I'm still very sad about this and think of him often, how kind and funny he was, how welcoming and sweet. There was a memorial at my friend's house and I was so glad to attend because I learned so much more about him and met many people who knew and loved him. The stories were funny and there was much laughter amid the tears. The service, the coming together, the shared grief is critical in marking that sad ending.
My dear Great-Auntie Sally died two weeks ago. She was my grandmother's sister-in-law and was 97. 97!! She was sharp as a tack until the very end, though she'd been ready to go for a long time. She missed her husband (my grandmother's brother) who had died about 20 years ago and her beloved son David also died a few years ago. In her will she requested no service. I believe because she was humble and didn't want anyone to make a fuss.
But what I think she didn't realize is, the service is not for her. My stepdad Jack made the same request and we didn't have anything official for him. But neighbors and good friends did have a cocktail party to celebrate Jack, just a small gathering of Spreckelsville people who knew him, and that was really good.
Just as other milestones in life have markers -- school graduations, bar/bat mitzvahs, first communions, weddings, baby showers -- and celebrate the next step, so too should death. I understand that funerals can be brutal simply because (duh) someone died. But trust me, I have some experience with this, it is really important to have a funeral. People need to come together to grieve, to share their sadness, to express their love for the dearly departed. Actually, even if there wasn't love, or if the love was mixed with anger and hate, marking that passing is still important, maybe even more so in that case.
My dear friend Jai died ten years ago (horribly and unexpectedly) and I couldn't make it to her funeral. I will always regret not being able to go there and be with her family and friends, all of us in pieces about her loss.
So, do me and your family and loved ones a favor. Make it clear that you want a funeral. Hell, get specific! Make it a color theme, request specific music, buy yourself a KISS casket ahead of time, whatever! Just allow for all who remain to celebrate you because when you die, people are going to be distraught and unsure what to do if there aren't any instructions. People need instructions, even just a few clues would be nice. (That eye roll I just made was actually me glaring at my sister in heaven...)
Funerals suck. No one wants to go. But you have to. Someone you love (or at least liked very very much) has died and you need to mark that sucky suck sucky occasion.
*Cancer can SUCK IT, by the way.