I grew up believing that you judged a person’s life by the size of his or her funeral. I remember when I was 13, there were over 25 cars in the procession at my grandfather Jake’s funeral. When we were sitting Shiva someone said, “That was a really good funeral. A lot of people showed up.” I felt so proud. Over the years I have been to small and large funerals. I snickered at the small ones thinking. “The guy was no good.” I also remember counting the ‘get well” cards in the hospital room when my mother was sick. We would make a list of the do-gooders. Those who did not send one were carefully recorded as “shitheads” and were no longer considered part of the inner circle.
That was 44 years ago. A lot has changed since then. When my mother was 58 and my father died, she started to realize that her favorite and most important sport, “people collecting” was not all that important. The same woman who was the centerpiece of my old neighborhood, now only wanted to be with her closest girlfriends. That threw me for a loop because I was a second generation “people collector.” Sometime after that, I started to feel the same way as my mother. When she died (pieces of me died too) a tough skin formed around me as my brother and I opted for a grave side ceremony for a limited group. I felt I had grown up and didn’t need a lot of people getting in my way when all I wanted to do was think about the loss of my mother.
That was my attitude for the last seven years until today. We attended a funeral for my friend’s father. It was at Riverside Chapel on the upper west side and there had to be over 1000 people in attendance. It was in the main Chapel and no less than a dozen people got up to speak. The running time was over an hour. The accolades were plenty. Judging by the speeches of his four adult children, their spouses, the nine grandchildren, his law buddies and community leaders, my friend’s father deserved a standing ovation. They said everything he did was surrounded by a meal. When he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer six months ago, he said he was in the mood for “Chinese.”
I panicked sitting in the Chapel. Maybe I wanted a big crowd so others could see I wasn’t really a “bitch.” Reality set in very quick. I am a “bitch.” I worked hard at being a “bitch.” The years of dealing in the fast lane trains you to be a “bitch” or get “bitched” at. I am not saying that there is not a soft, giving side to me, but day- to-day I err on the side of bitchiness.
The big question is how am I going to be a draw when I am dead? I thought a lot about it today, then moved on to something else when I got back to the office. About an hour ago I was on Twitter when I spotted a tweet from my girlfriend last Friday announcing her father’s death. It was less than 140 characters and it simply announced his death and the funeral arrangements. I then saw the same post on Facebook and Linkedin. My girlfriend is well known in the digital community and one post from her was instantly recognized by hundreds, if not thousands of people. I am not going to ask her, but she probably did a few email blasts, text messaging and other social media call outs.
When I thought about it, I had received my notification by email. There is no question that my friend’s father deserved the attendance of every single person in that room. But for us late bloomers who are not so revered, we can put together a social media/marketing plan that can really pull in those numbers. I have to get more followers on Twitter, more fans on Facebook and more connections on Linkedin. Maybe, I can go after friends of friends and relatives of relatives. I can also join meetups, online book clubs, and take senior courses online. That could easily add another 100 or so. As you can see, I have a lot of work to do. If that is not a good reason to live a lot longer, tell me what is?