Recently I read a book suggested to me by Amazon. I forget which purchase or search led to its suggestion, but the title made it clear that it was a light-but-observant self-deprecating memoir by an openly awkward woman. For some reason I love those.

After I looking more closely at the cover, I realized that I'd seen the author before. "Oh, it's that woman from the show I watched on the airplane coming over. The show I kept meaning to DVR back in the States but then kept forgetting. The show I watched while flying over the Southern Ocean (the existence of which is debated by non-Aussie geography majors) because my allotment of 2 Broke Girls episodes had run out. The Mindy Project."

And so this was my backwards introduction to Mindy Kaling, writer/director/actor in hit show The Office. (And thus also my forwards introduction into just how old and out of touch I'm getting.)

The book was entertaining, although I did suffer that special disappointment that comes when you realize that you aren't going to become best friends with a celebrity. I don't mean because Mindy Kaling lives far away and runs in different circles - the kinds of circles protected by beefy entourages and anti-stalking laws - but because Mindy Kaling loves shopping and fashion. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure we'd be on each other's slumber party short list.

The bit in her book where I laughed the most had to be when she mentioned the "Funeral Gift Bag." Possibly, to some readers, just the notion of receiving a gift bag at a funeral is comical. Me, I was laughing in well, duh! recognition. Of course there should be gift bags! 

I know this is never going to happen at my funeral if only because I'm pretty sure I won't have a funeral. It's kind of like my wedding - either it happens in the ruins of a Scottish castle while I'm in a size-8 silk gown with an ancient tiara and fluttering pixies on standby to sort out the embroidered 18-ft train, or let's just go downtown and find a witness on the street. Since my funeral fantasy includes a special appearance by Rod Stewart with a classic cinema screen (velvet curtains, art deco trim) behind him showing a montage of my life (especially focusing on all of the brilliant things I haven't done yet) and follow-along-lyrics at the bottom, odds are my memorial will actually manifest as a series of "I wish there was a dislike button" comments on Mike's Facebook announcement of my death.

I should explain that I'm not particularly hung up on Rod Stewart. He's only one of several famous musicians that I expect to come to the front of the room (12th century church? auditorium?), quietly mention the circumstances of our dignified acquaintance that I was too cool to ever broadcast to my other friends, then lead people into song.

See, my parents have been telling me for years what music has to be played at their funerals. I think at one point my Mom even had a special mix on Winamp (remember Winamp?). The idea of presenting a mix tape (CD, flash drive, whatever comes next) to departing guests was being bandied about by members of my family long before I heard about Ms. Kaling's brilliant gift bag idea (which I'm getting back to in a moment).

Anyway. Rod Stewart. My song lists have changed over the years. (Never laminate. Remember Ross on Friends?) Despite being a Stewart fan since the 1970s and seeing him twice in concert, I somehow didn't actually really notice the song "Sailing" until a few years ago. Once I did, it went straight onto my "drive home from work" mix, which too often doubled for my "I survived today but how will I get through tomorrow?" mix, which naturally slipped into my "this is making me happy when everything else is crap, and therefore it should be played at my funeral" mix. "Sailing" is a great song, and how I missed it despite owning two Stewart Greatest Hits albums (the pink one and the double one - both pre-1980s) is a mystery.

So, when I was living in Texas with Dad some months back (where I still legally live, actually, but I've applied for my spouse visa a bit earlier than planned, so fingers crossed and more news later, etc. etc.), Dad often put on YouTube, because Dad loves YouTube. Loves it. One day, I heard the opening notes of "Sailing."

 "You know... this song..." Dad began.

Me: "You want it played at your funeral."

Dad: "How did you know?!"

Me: "Because I want it played at my funeral!"

And we laughed and were pleased that we'd unexpected bonded over our funeral soundtrack choices... until Dad emphatically specified that it has to be the live version, and I was all no, never the live version. I'm not a live version girl. I would make a terrible Grateful Dead fan.

This is good, though, because it means that whoever goes second won't be accused of being derivative. 

But again, Stewart is just one song, and he's not on the top of the list for either of us, fans though we are. Which means that if a lightning storm knocks out the power and the backup generators can only last long enough to play one pick from my phone, do the right thing and head for the Beatles. (Sorry, Rod. I understand if you're too miffed to come to the service/event/carnival now. So long as people link arms and sing themselves to joyful tears, the spirit of my grand plan will be intact.) 

I don't want to get into the entire music program(me) right now, though, or this post will never be done, and that will lessen the chances of me later posting about the koala I held last week. I HELD A KOALA. We are best friends now. (So don't feel bad for me that I don't have quite enough in common with Mindy Kaling. Koalas are furry fans of sleeping, eating, and smelling like eucalyptus. Our alliance was inevitable.)

Ever since finishing the Kaling book, I've been preoccupied with what should go into my funeral gift bag. Even though I'm unlikely to have a grand funeral, there's every possibility that someday I will be the victim of an accidental manslaughter caused by a tycoon who, although innocent in the eyes of the law, begs my family to let him make some sort of gesture. (He also privately gives both Mike and my Dad $20 million each.) This is how all of my cousins and former co-workers will end up being flown to an uncharted Greek island with well-preserved ruins, Minoan murals, and a series of waterfall bathing pools like those in the TV miniseries of The Odyssey, starring Armand Assante. I wish I could be there!

I even thought of making a Pinterest board called "Funeral Gift Bag Ideas," but I don't want to risk a bunch of copycats. I can talk about the bags here, though, because the only people I know who actually read my blog are those who are probably going to get roped into assembling said bags. Sorry in advance. (May I suggest those nylon kind of bags with a zipper? Something dark or natural with my coat of arms in the corner. Remind me to design a coat of arms. No wonder people are urged to make their funeral arrangements well in advance.)

The first thing I'd like to make clear about my funeral gift bag is that sponsorships are welcome, so long as it's a product that I didn't mind. Like, I enjoy Butterfingers candy bars. They aren't my faves, but I think they're nice, and if Big Candy says they'll kick in X amount towards gift bag costs if each gift bag also includes a sample size of their new dark cacao, sea salt-laden, chili-infused Butterfingers (because this is inevitable), don't fret over whether I would have personally endorsed such a treat. Think to yourself, "Shari liked to try new things, and she liked chocolate. This sponsorship will help pay for the mini SMASH books."

I do love SMASH books. I'm not saying guests have to use the small scrapbooks as some sort of feelings journal that reflects on how their lives were enhanced by knowing me, but it would be nice. Butterfingers nice. A few gel pens in different colours would be good, too. Something with an easy glide. A woman can't have too many pens.

Soap. You should see all the soap I've acquired since coming to Australia. (And you would, if I ever composed a post about our trip to Margaret River or on how stupidly the ensuite bathroom here is designed. I even recently took several photos to illustate the latter, so if I can stop holding koalas for a moment, I may write that up.)

All of my guests should get some kind of pretty, rustic soap in pretty paper. I suggest foresty scents, sandalwood, jonquils, honeysuckle, and wisteria.

Socks. This is kind of a joke because I never ever wear socks out in the world, but as I get older I find I have to wear them at home or else freeze to death. Fuzzy, fun socks. "This is so funny because Shari hated shoes and socks," you will say. I will hear the laughs from beyond the veil.

(But future guests are heretofore pre-advised not to check the gift bag for shoes. There will be no shoes. What, do you think you're at Mindy Kaling's funeral?)

Some kind of book. I know that I'm all about the e-reader, but I do still love physical books. The easy thing to do would be to give everyone one of my books, but if Mike outlives me, he and his hoarding inclinations are not going to agree with that, even though I'm pretty sure he will never pause wistfully in our domed stained glass library (that the $20 mil helped build) to run his fingers along the spines of my Maeve Binchy paperbacks. I guess, therefore, that every guest should get a book from my Amazon wish list. That way, you can read it for me. That would be sweet.

Recipes! These will be a small selection from the desserts that I have pinned to Pinterest and have never made. Like the books, you will have to enjoy them on my behalf. (Or not - you know I like being critical, too.) So few of my friends actually bother to go to Pinterest that I know many will be surprised by some of my choices. "Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Frangipane Tart? I thought Shari wasn't so into the berry desserts or the dark chocolate?" Alas, it will be too late for you to ask why I pinned this. (This is why people need to stop signing up for Pinterest then never coming back again. It leads to regret down the road. MIKE.)

I have so many ideas on what to include in the bag, like maps to a secret geocache and personalized fortune cookies and Where's George dollars ("received in gift bag at Shari's funeral"), but MasterChef (Australia, not the US one - don't get me started) is about to come on plus I'm hungry, which is a dangerous combination. I wish I had one of those gift bags from my funeral to graze on. (Sicilian olives in rosemary oil and stuffed with garlic - you're going to love them.)

16 July 2013 |






Carnival Elation (2009)
Carnival Splendor (2009)
Carnival Spirit (2010)
Carnival Spirit (2011)
Carnival Splendor (2011)
Norwegian Pearl to Alaska (2012)