GriefSpeak – The Mortician’s Daughter: Reprise

By: Mari Dias

When I die there will be no questions to ask. Why? Because I’m in the business of death and dying and this is what you think about. You plan. I’ve worked with too many clients who deal with unanswered questions. I’ve been planning my exit for years, having prearranged my wake, funeral and burial. Just to make sure it’s done right. My way. I’ve been doing this for over 15 years. My obituary is written in the first person and completed, except for the date of death, and updated along with my resume on a regular basis. It begins with my favorite Mary Oliver quote: “Tell me what you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I’ve chosen my casket (the one with the apostles at the last supper, bronze, with a white interior to match the flowers. Oh yes, the flowers. I will have only white flowers, any kind (but multitudes of them), and one black rose in their midst. The black rose is significant to only a few but suffice it to say it’s so memorable to me that I have one as a tattoo.

My hair and make-up will be done by my stylist Aurora, and Lashes by Karissa Cairo. I’m thinking I’ll just wear my favorite jeans and a sweater…and my signature boots. (You won’t see them because the casket will be closed near my feet, but I’ll know I have them on and no one will ever borrow them or give them away). No jewelry. I’m not an earring person and anything valuable will be left to my children – I won’t need gold or diamonds in the afterlife. But I may need my boots.

Now for my wake. Given the stereotypical Rhode Island mentality, I plan to have two wakes: one in South County where I reside, and another in Cranston where I grew up. Grievers will have no need to travel. There will be photographs and a streaming video of my life in snippets, lavender diffusers, and subdued lighting. 

For my funeral, an honor guard has been chosen (names and contact information on file at the funeral home) to greet my casket as we enter the church. Pall bearers will include my children’s friends who spent most of their lives at my house. They are my surrogates.

I struggle with the music though. I have my vocalist and a few of my favorite tunes, (“Come to Jesus” by Chris Rice will make a nice recessional, but I am partial to “When the saints come marching in” (perhaps a bit too jaunty) but I’m sold on the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  I truly love the Beatles song, “In My Life”, but I’ve been advised that the Catholic church won’t allow it at the church, so I’ve decided to have it playing at the wake with a few other non-denominational songs. (#The Complaints).

There are so many awesome ways to use cremation remains that I am entertaining a cremation after the funeral, so people can use my ashes in jewelry, mixed in tattoo ink, in the dirt to plant a fledgling tree, or off the Florida Keys, placed by a scuba diver at the Neptune Memorial. I’d like to be part of a reef… although I do love a good graveside service… Perhaps I’ll have both.

Now for the tombstone. This is the most difficult of all, as I am a woman who loves words. And there are so many good ones. But after long and arduous thought and research, I’ve decided on a quote from Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”.

“Was that life? Well, then once again”

Mari Dias 1952 –

Dr. Mari Dias is a nationally board-certified counselor, holds a Fellow in Thanatology and is certified in both grief counseling and complicated grief.

She is Professor of Clinical Mental Health, Master of Science program, Johnson & Wales University. Dias is the director of GracePointe Grief Center, in North Kingstown, RI.  For more information, go to: