Louis Misko doesn’t have much longer to live. Less than six months, if his doctors are right, because of Stage 4 lung cancer.
He doesn’t believe in God and he knows he won’t be seeing his friends and loved ones in the afterlife, so he did something unusual: He threw himself a funeral while he was still around to enjoy it:
Mark Waller at NOLA.com tells his story:
He didn’t want to waste away in solitude if he still could socialize with relatives and friends. He didn’t want to force people to make somber pilgrimages to his bedside in his final days.
So he threw his own wake.
That way he could hear the stories people would tell about him, instead of leaving those stories for his wife to hear after he dies.
Perhaps the trickiest part of planning such an event, he said, was timing. If he waited too long, he would be too sick for a party. If he did it too soon, he said, “You don’t want to be around two years from now celebrating the second anniversary of the pre-passing party.”
At the celebration of his life, people told stories about Misko had unknowingly helped them when they needed it the most. Even Misko’s Christian roommate from college attended the gathering:
“He talks about death very intelligently, not emotionally,” [Dennis] Goerner said. “When you’re around him, we really don’t talk about death. We talk about life.”
If Misko hadn’t shown otherwise, Goerner said, he might have thought the idea was strange, but now, if he ever faces similar circumstances, Goerner said he wants to throw pre-passing parties, too.
It’s such a beautiful thing Misko did — and a sign of his own strength when so many others in his position would’ve just resigned themselves to their fate. A living wake is something we all deserve, really; a chance to say goodbye and “I love you” to those close to us before it’s too late. (If you ever read Tuesdays with Morrie, you may remember that Morrie held a similar kind of celebration.)
Misko said the timing was an issue because it’s possible he might live longer than expected and maybe that would be awkward. But when you see the pictures on the NOLA website and you hear what his loved ones say about him, it’s pretty clear no one would have a problem with that.
Atheists often speak of how funerals ought to be a celebration of life, but if you can swing it, this is a much better alternative.