At the beginning of the summer, I spent a couple weeks in England, Walking Hadrian’s Wall alone and dreaming dreams of Roman soldiers on the frontier, then travelling to London to meet up with two of my daughters and their mother. Because there had been a series of bombings and terrorist attacks, I wanted to put my affairs in order. For a responsible person, this might mean gathering up bank account information, names and contact information for people to be notified and making my peace with my Higher Power. For me, it meant planning my funeral. I made it back safely from that trip, but every day Sam (is a dog) and I walk in woods filled with bears, foxes and, my biggest fear, rabid skunks. Likewise, on these hikes, I could easily break an ankle and starve to death, get shot by a hunter’s errant bullet or be mutilated by aliens mistaking me for a cow. However it may happen, eventually I’m going to die. Here’s what I’d like my farewell to look like:
Keith Howard Funeral
Some Ground Rules
I am not a born-again Christian, nor a believer of any kind. Hence:
- No chatter about my spot in the next life. This is it and mine is over. Any spectator at the funeral is welcome to talk about whatever s/he likes, but please don’t try to spread a canopy of faith over my life.
- No Bible verses. I’ve chosen a reading or two, and don’t want two-thousand-year-old Palestinian voodoo disrupting the flow.
- No hymns of any kind.
That said, there is one prayer I say, and that about 78 times a day. “Thank you, God.” This prayer sums up my entire theology. Also, mourners chanting this makes me giggle now, so please feel free to intersperse this prayer freely.
“Hard Times Come Again No More”
A Stephen Foster song I tried diligently and fruitlessly to learn on harmonica. I mean, I learned the notes and could play them accurately, but couldn’t find the musical grease to make them become a song. Instead, the sound was like the dripping of water from a tiny leak. One. Note. At. A. Time. Having this done on harmonica would mock my memory, so a tuba orchestra would be nice. Or a singer, I suppose.
I’d like for my friend and mentor, Mark Roth, to speak for a little bit, using this as his text:
“I don’t quite know what we’re doing on this insignificant cinder spinning away in a dark corner of the universe. That is a secret which the high gods have not confided in me. Yet one thing I believe and I believe it with every fiber of my being. A man must live by his lights and do what little he can and do it as best as he can. In this world goodness is destined to be defeated. But a man must go down fighting. That is the victory. To do anything less is to be less than a man.”
Funny Stories of Keith’s Walk
My sainthood is well documented. Here, instead, people should tell stories of their encounters with me and how crazy I was. Anything that veers into my kind, generous of physically-attractive nature should be shouted down by angry prayers of “Thank you, God.”
I’d like to have my friend and spiritual confidant Bob Kendall speak on the following passage:
Rule #62 . . . “Don’t take yourself too damn seriously.”
“We Walk On” by Tonio K. I’ve raved and ranted about how great this guy is—now I’ll make a final pitch for it. Bringing in Senor K from his desert retreat or his mountain lair would be best. If that’s not possible, then a tuba orchestra rendition would be acceptable. If all else fails, a live version by local singer will suffice.
“So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Yuh” by Woody Guthrie. If anyone wants to make up new lyrics, I’d be happy. If not, so be it. I’d kind of like this to be a singalong with handclapping and roof-raising volume. Since I’d kind of like to not die at all, I’m used to disappointment.
Freshments should be served in other room. Since this is my special day, I want fresh freshments—not refreshments.