Matthew Warner

The Pharaoh Party: A Tradition We Should All Observe

It takes a certain amount of psychological robustness to prepare for one’s own demise.

If you give a crap about your family, it’s worth it to write your will and purchase life insurance. Bonus points if you also leave a document at home, “Things to Do If I Die,” with plain-English instructions on finding your computer passwords and buttoning up the mundane details of your life, complete with the contact information of your accountant and lawyer.

Because, let’s face it: no one wants to admit they’ll die one day. And then to spend money preparing for it, the fruits of which you won’t be able to enjoy? Are you kidding? No, unfortunately I’m not. It’s part of what we call “adulting.”

Which is why my hat is off especially for my friend Keith Minnion. Keith not only went the extra mile, he went back and ran it twice. He purchased his own graveyard plot at a local cemetery and thenĀ designed his own tombstone and had it installed. All that it awaits is a death date and an occupant.

No, Keith isn’t sick. Just retired.

He did this for the same reason he has a will: to save his family the trouble of worrying about it.

We all gathered Saturday at the newly installed plot for an informal dedication ceremony. As you know, the trend these days is to re-label somber funerals as “celebrations of life,” complete with Hawaiian shirts and the attempt at happy thoughts. Why not have one, celebrating that person, while he’s still alive? And why not have it graveside?

Without the pressure of an actual expected demise, it helps prepare family and friends for the fact all of us will be gone one day. I believe it helped Keith accept this fact most of all as he stood on the platform of where, one day, he would like his train to stop.

We had a good time. Elizabeth Massie presented a hilarious poem she wrote about the grave, “Ode to a Tombstone,” every bit as good as “The Worms Crawl In,” and worthy of the same fame. Other friends presented poetic and musical tributes, and David Simms and I performed “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas. Then we all went out to eat.

(L-R): Megan Hillary, Thomas Warner, Owen Warner, Deena Warner, Keith Minnion, Keith Minnion’s tombstone, a Dementor (supposedly a panoramic photography malfunction), Phil Kalanta, David Simms, me, Elizabeth Massie. Not pictured: Nanci Kalanta, Cortney Skinner

It was great. It was fun. It was macabre. It was touching and poignant. And when I’m retired and planning my third act, I hope I’ll have friends and family who love me enough to do the same for me.

Did the Pharaoh Khufu hold a celebration like this at the foot of his Great Pyramid? So I present to you this proposal for a new — but old — tradition. The Pharaoh Party. It’s something we should all do. Before it’s too late.