RUSH: This is Summer, who is in Auburn, Alabama. Nice to have you with us. Hello.
CALLER: Hey, thanks for having me.
RUSH: You bet.
CALLER: So I am about to graduate from Auburn, and I just got my final assignment from one of my professors, and it is basically to go into great deal and plan my funeral, and I was just wondering kind of your take on it.
RUSH: Wait just a second here, Summer. First question I have, when do you graduate?
CALLER: Well, I finish classes in June. I walk in August.
RUSH: Oh, okay, so it’s a late semester.
CALLER: It’s the summer term, yes, sir.
RUSH: What class is this?
CALLER: It is strategic marketing.
RUSH: Strategic marketing. You got a good grade in it so far?
RUSH: Strategic marketing, and your final assignment is to plan your own funeral?
RUSH: Well, and what’s your question to me, whether you should do it, protest, or how would you do it? What’s the question?
CALLER: Really I’d just like to get kind of your thoughts on it. I’ve talked to a lot of different people and kind of get different reactions to it, I guess, so I know you’re really interested in like what they’re teaching in the classroom today and so I was just wondering what you thought overall.
RUSH: Of the assignment, or how to do it?
CALLER: Of the assignment.
RUSH: I’ve got mixed emotions about this, actually. I’ll tell you why — obviously at age — it says, you’re 22; is that right?
CALLER: Yes, sir.
RUSH: Okay, you don’t have to call me sir.
CALLER: Oh, sorry.
RUSH: Call me dude.
RUSH: At 22 you’re not thinking about this, so this assignment’s kind of broadsided you. ‘Wait a minute, you want me to think about my own death and how the funeral is going to be and so forth? That’s morbid.’ I’m sure you’re reacting to it that way.
RUSH: When I was 22, I mean this kind of assignment would have blown me to smithereens, too. What the hell is this? I don’t want to think about my own death, and hardly anybody does, until they approach it.
RUSH: And when you get older, when you start approaching it, and when you have a lifetime of accomplishments and a lifetime of friends and a lifetime of family, understand that the funeral is for them, and the funeral is — some people think funerals are pagan. That’s a bit extreme. Regardless, you can have any kind of funeral you want. You can make it a celebration of your life and you can make it a very upbeat occasion. If you have religious beliefs that suggest that you believe in heaven and you’ve transcended and gone, then it’s every reason in the world to celebrate, to help the people who miss you mitigate their sadness. It’s also a way to recount your achievements and your accomplishments, and it is a way for you to let people know what was important to you. So when you select the music, the setting, and this kind of thing, it wouldn’t be, I don’t think, a bad exercise.
RUSH: And I think the way you ought to look at this — and I don’t know what the purpose of your professor here is — but you’re not going to die tomorrow. She doesn’t want you to write a — is it a she or a he?
CALLER: It’s a he.
RUSH: It’s a he. I don’t think that he wants you to write or plan your funeral as though you’re going to die tomorrow. He wants you to think about you live the life expectancy, which, for women, 76, 78, maybe it will be higher than that by the time you get there. So maybe he’s trying to get you to think about your life and what achievements and accomplishments you expect of yourself, what are the goals. So maybe you can sit down and when you do this, you can pretend — well, not pretend, but you can, sort of like a goal-setting exercise: ‘This is what I want to do in my life. This is what I would hope to accomplish. This is where I hope to,’ and when you then plan your funeral, the funeral would then be a celebration of those achievements and accomplishments, the people you’ve met, the people you’ve grown to love, the family that you have, and, of course, the important artifacts of your life that you want on display, pictures and this sort of thing and basically save your family the trouble of having to do this themselves because they’re in the midst of grief.
RUSH: So it could be an interesting exercise. If you don’t focus on the morbidity of your own death other than the fact it’s going to happen at some point, it happens to all of us, nobody has yet, other than one person that we know of, beaten it, but I think it would be a fascinating exercise. It’s a little weird, it’s a little odd, but I can see where a marketing person, marketing professor might have this. By the way, I’m giving this guy the real benefit of the doubt. He could be a total kook. Is he?
CALLER: (laughing) He’s pretty off the wall, but I don’t think he’s a kook.
RUSH: Okay. Look at it as a learning opportunity and, you know, probably end up bedazzling the guy with what you put together.
RUSH: What were you thinking about it?
CALLER: Well, I’ve kind of gone back and forth depending on who I started talking to, because at first I got it and I was like okay, it’s different, but I am a very organized person, so planning just kind of makes sense but then I started talking to people, and getting their reactions surprised me because they seemed so mortified that someone would even assign this and would think that that was a good thing for a 22-year-old to be thinking about and whatnot, so then I was like, well, maybe I’m not looking at it correctly and I don’t know.
RUSH: Yeah, I think your friends are having — they’re your age?
CALLER: Close to, a little older.
RUSH: Well, but they’re younger than 30?
RUSH: Well, they’re looking at it, ‘My gosh, he wants me to write about my death.’ No, don’t do that. Write about your life.
RUSH: Write about your life. Plan your funeral according to your life.
CALLER: Excellent. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
RUSH: Well, this is fascinating. In fact, can you hang on through the break? I want to tell you a little story —
CALLER: Yes, I’d love to.
RUSH: — about this to try to explain why I’m looking at it this way.
RUSH: This is Summer, who’s 22 years old from Auburn, graduating in June and walking away a free woman in August.
RUSH: It’s Open Line Friday, and we rejoin Summer, graduating from Auburn University in June, has one final assignment from her marketing professor, and that’s to plan her own funeral. Now, if you’re just joining us, I’ve already given her my advice on this, but Summer, I want to explain to you why I’m thinking about it this way.
RUSH: You may know, if you’ve listened to the program somewhat, that Bill Buckley was a friend of mine, and I was with him the couple weeks before he died. And I never asked him, I never talked about his death and funeral that he planned, but I just knew as a great man, he had to have done it. He was the type of person who would, and most people who have survived a catastrophic death, of course, and are running against the odds of life expectancy, and once you get a certain age anyway, you plan for it, even to account for a catastrophic death that might take you out before you reach the life expectancy. The funeral they had for the family was private, but there was a memorial service at St. Patrick’s and his son Christopher got up and actually admitted during the eulogy that he and his father had talked about it and that his father had made specific requests to St. Patrick’s cathedral for the memorial service.
So people think about it. This memorial service had only two eulogies, one was by Christopher Buckley, the other was by Henry Kissinger, and the rest of it was about an hour and 45 minute Mass, and it was just beautiful, and it was exactly what was called for. It was a celebration, combined with a religious service, and it’s a way for people to remember you the way you want to be remembered.
RUSH: I think this is a great exercise, regardless what the motivation of your professor is.
CALLER: Right. We were assigned the project yesterday, and then he spent about 45 minutes talking about it today, and to be honest, the reasons that you were giving pretty much sound exactly like his guidelines, like he wants it to be something that we get out and start at least discussing, because it is a reality that all of us are going to deal with, and so, you know, should you, heaven forbid, you know, die before my mom or whatever, she’ll know what I want and things like that.
RUSH: Yeah, but don’t do this, the frame of mind here is important — and I don’t know what the frame of mind he thinks you’re going to have doing it — but don’t do this from the standpoint of your death; do it from the standpoint of your life.
CALLER: Your life, right.
RUSH: And the funeral is for those who survive you, who love you —
RUSH: — for them to feel good about you. They’re going to be sad you’re gone, and they’re going to be devastated, and this is a way for their grief to be mitigated somewhat by them and your family not having to plan all this because you’ve done it. But it doesn’t have to focus around your death.
RUSH: Focus around your life, what you’ve accomplished, what there is to celebrate. And, by the way, my North Carolina mistress sent me a very caustic e-mail during the break while you were on hold —
RUSH: — admonishing me for telling you you didn’t have to call me sir. She thinks that, ‘Young people want to call you sir, let them, because they’re exhibiting good manners.’
CALLER: I think my dad would appreciate it.
RUSH: She may be right. So you now have permission to call me sir again.
CALLER: Well, thank you.
RUSH: Now, I’m real curious about this. I’m going to put you on hold, if you will let us, I want Mr. Snerdley to have a way to get back in touch with you.
RUSH: Because when you present this and you get your grade on it, I’d like to know how you did.
CALLER: Yeah, sure.
RUSH: I’d like to know what you did and what the professor thought of it.
RUSH: All right, so don’t hang up here.
CALLER: All right.
RUSH: Thanks much. That’s Summer from Auburn, Alabama.