If you can find it, check out the short film, Carpet Kingdom, shown at the 2009 Telluride Film Festival. This 17-minute gem by Michael Rochford was his Master’s of Fine Arts thesis. “Love. Death. Carpet.” is the promotional tag line.
The story involves Owen, a young scion of the family carpet business, and the funeral of his great-uncle Grover, who became an eccentric black sheep of the family in his later years. Grover dies unexpectedly at the start of the film, which brilliantly explores themes of living life playing it safe in hypocrisy versus embracing our true heroic, expressive selves. Here’s a trailer of footage from the film.
It also illustrates the importance of doing more than writing down your funeral plans. Without giving away the story, it shows how the deceased’s wishes for what they want in a funeral can be ignored or hijacked. This happened to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Jessica Mitford, author of the landmark book The American Way of Death published in 1963, told the story of Roosevelt’s unheeded last wishes. Roosevelt had written down instructions, but kept the document in his private safe. He wanted a simple, dark wood casket, no embalming, no hermetically sealed coffin, no grave lining, transportation by gun-carriage, not by hearse, and no lying in state anywhere. The document was discovered a few days after his burial. Unfortunately, the only instruction followed was that he did not lie in state.
Funeral planning is important, but it takes more than writing your wishes in your last will and testament. That document usually isn’t looked at until after the funeral anyway. The people you leave behind will be in charge of implementing what you want done, and they may have other plans. If you want a particularly creative send-off, you might have to pre-plan and pre-pay a funeral home to make sure your wishes are carried out.