Planners get things done.
This is not an opinion – it is a proven fact. Or at least that is what I tell my husband who must put up with my desire to prepare in advance for just about every moment of our lives. Deep down, he is quite grateful that I take care of the thinking so he doesn’t have to, but he draws the line at hearing about the songs I want played at my funeral (Starlight by Muse and Brokedown Palace by Grateful Dead, in case you were wondering).
“I’m going to go first,” he tells me.
“Okay, so what would you want for yours?”
“I don’t want to think about that. Can we talk about something else?”
The reality is, a conversation like this is probably happening in homes across the globe every single day. The world is full of planners and non-planners. Even the planners don’t always like to think about their own mortality. For this reason, it is quite rare thing when a person takes the time to not only prearrange their funeral, but to prearrange it in a truly epic and unique way. After all, most people aren’t that prone to thinking too hard about an event they themselves will not be there to witness. However, those that do have been able to leave their loved ones with a meaningful and lasting memory of a final goodbye like no other.
Every so often, a planner comes along who is not afraid to confront death and devise ways to impact others even after taking their final breath. These extraordinary individuals planned their farewells in unexpected and grandiose ways, with the intention to leave an enduring impression on their loved ones or make a positive impact on society. They thought beyond the conventional to cement their legacy, bring a smile to their family and friends, or perform a final act of kindness to benefit others.
7 Stories of Individuals Who Preplanned Their Goodbyes in Unexpected and Meaningful Ways
Woman Leaves Final Gift With Funeral Car Raffle
It’s not every day you attend a funeral during which you have a chance to win a car. In fact, we’re pretty sure that Diane Sweeney’s funeral last year was likely the only time in history when such an opportunity arose. By all accounts, Diane was a woman with a quirky sense of humor who wanted to make people smile even after her death. Before her death, she expressed her desire for a raffle to be held that included everyone who attended her funeral service. The winner would receive her 2016 Volkswagen Beetle, not to mention the best “how I got this car” story to tell for years to come. (Full Story).
Teacher Design Custom M&M Themed Casket Before Death
Mary Stocks Martin had a sweet idea for her funeral. As a teacher for over 30 years and a longtime lover of M&M candies, Mary had developed a special relationship with the candy-coated chocolate we all know so well. While M&Ms may melt in your mouth, not your hands, they also melted Mary’s heart when the children she taught would bring her the candy as a gift. Over the years, Mary acquired a very large M&M collection from all of the gifts she received from her students.
Mary’s love for M&Ms inspired her to pre-design her own M&M casket with the help of her son, Tom. The casket featured a giant blue M&M resting with its hands holding a pile of smaller M&Ms, each engraved with the names of Mary’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. During the funeral, Mary’s family wore M&M tees and hats, creating a unique and personalized farewell. The footage of the funeral soon went viral on social media and many were touched by the sweet story of this chocolate-loving teacher and grandmother. (Full Story).
Good-Humored Grandmother Delights Family at Funeral with Surprise Ouija Board
When Jodie Perryman passed away from cancer last October, her family was surprised to find a memorable note to be given to guests at her funeral. In the note, she included a photograph of herself with a makeshift Ouija board and a message that read, “Let’s keep in touch!” At her funeral, Perryman’s loved ones received handmade paper Ouija boards that included a photo of Perryman sticking out her tongue with her middle fingers in the air and her simple message. After the image went viral online, Perryman’s granddaughter said that everyone enjoyed the note and found it to be typically humorous of her grandmother who was remembered as a “firecracker” with “a great sense of humor and a huge heart.” Her unique and humorous approach to her own funeral left a lasting impression on those who knew her. (Full Story).
Norm MacDonald’s Final Standup Special
If you haven’t yet discovered Norm Macdonald’s comedy, I highly recommend taking a break from this blog and searching for him on YouTube. (Start with his interview on Conan with Courtney Thorne-Smith) Trust me, my words won’t do justice to the incredible wit and intelligence of this comedy legend. Norm passed away in September 2021 after a private nine-year battle with cancer. In 2020, he was working on material for a new special and received a negative test result. This was during the peak of the COVID pandemic when all comedy shows were temporarily halted. Concerned that he would never be able to share his new material, Norm decided to secretly record his own special himself.
The hour-long, self-filmed posthumous standup, Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special was released on Netflix last year. It covers a wide range of topics, from aging and death to political correctness and the state of comedy in society. This last gift from Norm captures what made him so uniquely and absurdly funny. Most impressively, it was recorded in a single take, which only further cements his legacy as a genuine comedic genius. (Full Story).
Backpacks With School Supplies Line Aisle at Teacher’s Funeral
Tammy Waddell‘s funeral service gained widespread attention in 2018 and became special due to a unique request she made before her passing. Tammy Waddell, a beloved teacher from Forsyth County, Georgia, asked that instead of flowers, mourners bring backpacks filled with school supplies to her funeral. At the funeral, hundreds of people honored her wish and showed up with backpacks filled with donated school supplies.
The sight of the church filled with backpacks served as a powerful symbol of her dedication to education and passion for helping students succeed. The donated supplies were subsequently distributed among schools in the area, providing essential resources for many children. Tammy Waddell’s selfless act and the community’s response exemplified the impact she had on her students and the admiration she garnered from those who knew her. (Full story).
Woman Pre-Arranges Flash Mob to Crash Her Memorial Service
If you’ve ever come across a funeral sketch on SNL, you might have noticed their inclination towards incorporating music and dancing. Traditionally, these elements are considered taboo or inappropriate in the solemn context of a funeral. The stark contrast between the expected decorum and the unexpected burst of music and movement inherently creates humor.
That’s precisely why Sandie Wood‘s ingenious idea of arranging a flash mob to crash her funeral and perform a routine to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” is so brilliant. It playfully flips the notion of solemnity upside down, which aligns perfectly with Sandie’s persona as someone who always defied seriousness. It’s a fitting and remarkable way to bid her farewell, embracing her lively spirit and showcasing her unique sense of humor in the most memorable way possible. Laughter and tears intertwined, creating a bittersweet but beautiful atmosphere of celebration and remembrance. This extraordinary woman’s desire for a flash mob at her funeral serves as a powerful reminder to cherish the moments we have and to embrace life’s vibrancy. (Full Story).
Man Requests Shoes In Lieu of Flowers for his Funeral
In 2018, the directors at Snow Funeral Home in Saginaw, MI helped fulfill a special and generous final wish for Dennis Wright. Wright had grown up in a family with limited means and as a child, he was always excited to get a new pair of shoes. Before his death, he requested that at his funeral everyone bring a pair of shoes for kids in need. This act of generosity inspired many. According to funeral director, Brandon Hurren, over 300 pairs of shoes were donated during the service! We commend the directors for helping to coordinate this gentleman’s kindhearted last wish. (Full Story).
HONORABLE MENTION: Woman Creates Hilarious Pre-Recorded Message to Be Played During Her Funeral
Earlier this year, I was riding in an Uber, when a voice from the car radio cut through my thoughts.
“I slayed every day and now I’m going to lay every day. I hope you slay while I decay. And Bertha better not be here!” proclaimed the warbly and comical voice. The radio station was doing a story on a grandma who had pre-recorded a video to be played during her funeral service. As the rest of her hysterical message played, my Uber driver and I both started cracking up together over how funny and sassy the woman was. I immediately turned to Google to learn more about her.
It turns out, the voice in the recording belongs to 93-year-old Lilian Groniak who is still currently slaying in Shelton, CT. The video is even more hilarious than the recording as you can see Lillian laying down the rules for her future memorial service while wearing a shirt that says, “You’re not invited to my funeral.” When it comes to prearranged funeral wishes, this is probably the funniest example to date. It still remains to be seen if those in charge will follow her instructions and play the video when her time comes, but if they don’t, they can expect a good haunting from Lillian. (Full Story).
Which one of the stories on our list did you enjoy the most? Do you have any unique or unexpected prearranged funeral plans for yourself? Please share in the comments below?
About The Author
Jess Farren (Fowler)
Jess Farren (Fowler) is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD’s company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at Jess@myASD.com