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Rich: A proper send-off includes wailing
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It is not certain how we got on the subject but somehow a friend mentioned that when he dies, he wants "What A Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong to be played at his funeral.

"I want people to laugh and be happy at my funeral," he said as if that is even a remotely normal thought. I rolled my eyes.

Though that's one of my favorite songs, I couldn't imagine any such. Nor do I want it. I made a face and shook my head at such a disdainful thought.

"Not me," I declared empathically. "I want there to be great wailing and weeping and gnashing of teeth when I die. I want people lying prostrate with grief across my casket."

He chuckled. "Somehow that doesn't surprise me."

"Truly," I continued in all seriousness. "I want it to be a pitiful, moaning display of sorrowful mourning."

"I'll remember that and if you go before me - hopefully, it won't be for many years - I'll be sure to display the appropriate amount of weeping and wailing at your funeral."

"And gnashing of teeth," I reminded him.

"Oh yes, and gnashing of teeth. I promise."

"And make sure that others act appropriately sorrowful. I'll give you a list of who needs to be the most laden with grief."

Well, really, who wants people laughing when they're gone? That would mean that they're happy that this world is no longer graced with your presence and that life is made better by death's summons. Though I have known a couple that passed from this world and there was silent rejoicing over those departures.

A while back, an old man I knew died and many considered it to be a cleansing of evil in this world. No one could recall a moment of kindness as he had drifted, grumbling, through our lives.

"There goes the meanest man the good Lord ever blew breath in," I mumbled, quoting Calpunia from "To Kill A Mockingbird" when she watches the body of Boo Radley's father carried from his house.

Others agreed and it became a discussion of how mean, ornery and downright despicable he had been. Stories were told of how he lied, cheated and tricked.

"He's gonna bust the gates of hell wide open," someone predicted.

"Well, maybe he made things right in the end," another demurred sweetly. Southerners always want to believe the best about death and those who have succumbed to its demand.

"Not likely. He made his deal with the devil a long time ago. It was a brotherhood of demons." Guess who said that?

My best friend, Karen, is a gospel singer who is constantly traveling for concerts and shows so I thought I should find out exactly where I stand with her.

"If I died and you had a show date somewhere, would you do the show or come to my funeral?"

I'm happy - and a bit surprised - to report there was no hesitation. "Why I absolutely would be at your funeral!" she exclaimed resolutely. "I'd either cancel the date or get someone to go for me."

"Really?" I grinned broadly.

"Without question," she assured me. "Absolutely."

Now, I'm really relieved because I know that if Karen is going to be there, I can count on a significant amount of mournful sorrow and uncontrolled weeping. Some, though, leave this world and all that lingers is the collective sigh of those who feel unburdened. There are a few who can bring more joy to people by dying than by living.

But please, when I'm gone, let there be no rejoicing or joy of spirit. I've got all my hopes pinned on huge displays of wailing, gnashing of teeth and bone-deep sorrow.

Plenty of it, too, if you would be so kind.

Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)." Sign up for her newsletter
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