person with flower at a casket

What will your funeral be like?

Death is one of those strange experiences that’s universal, and also completely unknown to us. None of us escape it; at the same time, none of us can really be sure what the experience is like. In that case, for those of us still living, the question becomes: how should we think about death, and how can we cope with death? 

Should we view death as a tragedy? A rite of passage? The end of something, or the start of something? Is the death of a loved one a horrible thing, or is it a celebration of life?

If you’re searching for answers about death, you probably won’t find them here — if I could answer them neatly in the span of just one blog, I’d be a millionaire, and I’d also be on every talk show in the country. 

Instead, what I can offer are a few different ways to look at death. Some of them will make the experience more manageable, and others will help you prepare for how you want others to view your death… 

When the time comes, of course. 

When mourning the loss of someone, remember that they’re not entirely gone

Coping with the death of a loved one is probably the most difficult aspect of the human experience. When a parent, child, loved one or close friend dies, there is no way to prepare for how it feels, and no correct way to grieve their passing. 

While that might not be a comfort, it is comforting to know that in some ways, people never really leave us. There are pieces of them in everything we do, in everywhere we go. When I look into my reflection in the mirror, I see my mother’s face — her lips, her smile… even her knowing glare. 

And I know that even though I can’t talk to my mother anymore, I can still hold conversations with her. I can speak to her in my head, and I’ll know exactly how she’d respond to what I’ve said. That’s probably true of many of us. If you’ve lost someone close to you, you probably know exactly what they’d say if they were still around.  

So why not do it? Why not speak to them? It might feel strange, but it’s also comforting. Plus, remember that none of us really know whether or not the dead are really gone — as far as we know, they might actually be listening to you when you speak to them. 

With time, death can be a celebration of life

Most funerals are dour, sad affairs. And that’s fine. But I don’t think I want my funeral to be that way. Instead, when I go, I want people to remember the good things.

I want them to remember the conversations we had. I want them to remember how I made them laugh, or think, or how I made them food when they needed it. I want them to remember the interesting exchanges we had, the conversations, the dialogue. I want them to think about the role I played in their lives, or even just the role I played in a singular conversation. 

Why do I bring this up? Because I want people to know that death is never easy, but it’s also not completely one-sided. Death can be tragic, harsh, unfair and unrelentingly sad, but it can also be cause for celebration, rumination, appreciation and nostalgia. 

Death means we all need to be more present in life

It might be scary to think about your own death, but doing so can help you make the most of your life. Think about it: what would you say to others if you knew you’d die tomorrow? You wouldn’t leave anything unsaid, would you?

News flash: you could die tomorrow. You’d never know it. So it’s important to squeeze every last thing out of every interaction you have with others while you’re here. Tell the people you love that you love them. Laugh with the people who make you laugh. Don’t spend another day compromising or reducing yourself just to placate to other peoples’ desires. 

Remind yourself that getting closer to death is akin to getting younger in life

Nobody wants to celebrate their birthday past age 25 — but why is that? Is it because we associate aging with death?

By contrast, I’ve always associated aging with life. When you get older, you start to shed a lot of the heaviness you carry in life. You shed the idea that what other people think of you really matters, you shed the idea that you need to accomplish some huge goal in order to live a meaningful life, you shed the idea that you need to look, talk or act a certain way to have importance. 

In short, getting older means getting more comfortable in your skin. And getting more comfortable in your skin means you’re ultimately carrying a lighter load, which can help you feel a lot younger… 

After all, when’s the last time you had a load as light as being a child? Think about that, and do yourself the favor of lightening your load a little. 

What do you think about death?

Death is many things, but mostly, it’s a way to look at life. A way to contextualize what we do and attribute importance to all of it. Or at least, that’s what it means to me.

What does it mean to you? Is it a subject you hate talking about? One you shield yourself from? Or one you engage with willingly? Let me know by getting in touch with me here, or by listening to my podcast episode on the subject of death (and don’t worry — I promise it’s not too heavy.)

Episode Transcript

[00:00:05] Kim Ades:Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching™ and the Co-founder of The Journal That Talks Back™. Today you have just joined Fridays with Ferne, where I invite my daughter Ferne to come onto the podcast and have a discussion! Ferne, welcome.

[00:00:23] Ferne Kotlyar:Thank you so much! Always a pleasure to be here.

[00:00:26] Kim Ades:So a really cool thing happened last week. And I just wanna share with everybody what that cool thing was it was your graduation and that was a fun experience. But the highlight for me was when you went up to an old professor of yours, that you hadn't seen in over two years 'cause of the pandemic, she gave you a massive hug and she said, "I love your podcast!"

[00:00:56] Ferne Kotlyar:[Chuckles] That was a big highlight for me too.

[00:00:58] Kim Ades:That was definitely a highlight. And she even said hi to me as though she knew who we were. So, what's her name? Mrs– Professor? Professor Cherestes?

[00:01:08] Ferne Kotlyar:Doctor, yeah.

[00:01:09] Kim Ades:Doctor! Sorry, Doctor Cherestes, if you are listening, we are so grateful for having you tune in, keep listening. All right, Ferne, what are we discussing today?

[00:01:23] Ferne Kotlyar:All right, so today the topic is a bit more somber. We have been to a few funerals lately, unfortunately, and every time we go to a funeral, you have this little comment, and you mention how at your funeral, you would want things to be different.At your funeral, there has to be a lot of food and there has to be music and everybody has to look good, but wear comfortable shoes because...

[00:01:57] Kim Ades:[Laughs]

[00:01:58] Ferne're gonna be standing or sitting, but you have to be comfortable, and there has to be music and it's going to be a celebration of life. And that's very different, I think, than most funerals, at least the ones I've been to. And so, I'd like you to tell me a little bit more about your vision of death and how you see kind of, I don't know, the next world, I don't know how people perceive it, but, you know, the ending of this one.

[00:02:28] Kim Ades:The ending of this one. So I think that a lot of us think about death as very, very tragic, right? Somebody dies and it's a very, very tragic experience. And we think about that for all ages, the young and the old, it's still tragic. And we look at how someone dies and determine whether or not that was a good way to go or a terrible way to go. And we have an uncomfortable feeling or a lot of discomfort when it comes to the subject of death. It's something that a lot of us don't like to talk about. For me, it's an interesting subject because there's nobody on this Earth who escapes it. We all have different paths in this world, we all experience different things throughout our lifetimes, but every single one of us experiences, death. We all do. And most of us experience the death of a loved one. And so for me, when someone dies, it's the end of their lives on Earth, as they know it. Is there something that comes after? I like to think so. Do I know for sure? I don't, but I like to think so, and I have some evidence in my case to support that belief, that there's something going on, that we can't quite tangibly wrap our heads around, that people's souls continue on, and there's something that's like an eternal life where there's a continuation, but we can't be sure. And I'm not here to really debate that or discuss that as though I really know, 'cause I don't really know. But what's interesting for me is, how do people deal with the death of a loved one? What does it do for them? How are they affected or impacted by it? Do they view it as a tragedy? Or do they view it as an opportunity to spend time really focused on that person in their lives? Thinking about them, remembering them, feeling their presence even in their absence, noticing and understanding the impact they had in their lives? Or do they just feel the sadness?So for me, when I go, I want people to remember the good stuff, I want them to remember the conversations, I want them to remember how maybe I made them laugh or I made them think or how I made them food and how I made them eat. Right? I want them to remember the interesting exchanges we had, the conversations, the dialogue. I want them to remember the unique role that I played perhaps in their lives, or the unique role that I played in only one conversation and how perhaps that left a mark. Right? But I remember when my parents died. I think one of the greatest absences for me was that nobody in my circle really shared a whole lot of stories with me about my parents and how they interacted with my parents, and how my parents perhaps made an impression or left a mark or had an impact on them. Right? That was very rare. And so from my perspective, when I pass away, and I will, I want for my children to be surrounded by people who knew me in some capacity, whether it was that they heard me speak somewhere, or whether it was that they had a conversation with me about a challenge they were having, or whether it was that they went to school with me, or camp or that we had a great time on some trip together, whatever it is, right? I want them to share that with you, so that you could get flooded with good experiences from the people around you about the space that I took up in this world, 'cause I think what happens is when somebody dies, it seems like suddenly they're not taking up space in the world.

[00:06:56] Ferne Kotlyar:Yeah.

[00:06:57] Kim Ades:And so for me, yes, I want my life to be a celebration. In fact, sometimes I think, "man, I wish I could be at my own funeral. It's like the best time". Right? But you– [00:07:07] Ferne Kotlyar:What?

[00:07:07] Kim Ades:I just think, you know? And sometimes I think funerals are kind of sad because you get 30 minutes– [00:07:14] Ferne Kotlyar:[Chuckles] Of course they're sad! [00:07:16]

Kim Ades:To talk about a person's whole life and really a whole life is a lot more than your 30 minutes. Right?

[00:07:23] Ferne Kotlyar:Yeah. [00:07:24] Kim Ades:But I do, I think a funeral could be a good time. It doesn't have to be a terrible, horrible, awful time. It could be tears, but your tears can be a little bit sad and your tears could be tears of laughter remembering some of the moments you had.

[00:07:43] Ferne Kotlyar:Gotta write down your jokes.

[00:07:45] Kim Ades:[Chuckles] I gotta write down my jokes.

[00:07:47] Ferne Kotlyar:So we can use them for the future.

[00:07:50] Kim Ades:Yeah. But they're not– Like, I don't have stand up comedy material, right? The jokes just come as they come.

[00:07:56] Ferne Kotlyar:Well, write some of them down as they come.

[00:07:59] Kim Ades:What do you think about death?

[00:08:03] Ferne Kotlyar:I don't know. I think it's really tough. I mean, you lose somebody and it's not like they're in another country and you'll never see them again and never be able to talk to them. It's like they're gone and there's no other chance to communicate with them at all. And did you say all the things you needed to say and do all the things you wanted to do and did you get everything out of that relationship? And I think there's often a lot of feelings of missing out because they're gone and there's no more chances.[00:08:41] Kim Ades:Yeah, that's why you gotta squeeze in your chances, right? You gotta say all the things you wanna say, you gotta let the person know how much they mean to you. You gotta squeeze it in.

[00:08:53] Ferne Kotlyar:Yeah.

[00:08:53] Kim Ades:And you have to be conscious about your interactions, you have to be present to the greatest ability. But I wanna address something. When someone's gone, does that mean your communication with them is? Maybe yes, maybe no, we don't know. But a funny thing happens, is they stay in your head and their voice stays in your head, and you could literally have a conversation with them where you know how they're going to react and respond to the things you say, the questions you ask, the challenges you're having.And so for me, I often look in the mirror and literally see my parents in the mirror. I see my mother's face, I see my mother's body, I see my mother's glare in her eyes. I see her in my reflection. And so when I go, you will see me in your reflection. And so, it's not like I disappear. I'm inside of you.

[00:09:52] Ferne Kotlyar:Yeah, but I can't just pick up the phone and call you.

[00:09:55] Kim Ades:No, but you can have a conversation and hear my answer. In fact, you do that already.

[00:10:01] Ferne Kotlyar:[Laughs] Yeah, a bit.

[00:10:02] Kim Ades:[Chuckles] Yeah, a bit! You already know what I'm gonna say about things.

[00:10:07] Ferne Kotlyar:Sometimes. But it's still nice to have a voice that responds.

[00:10:11] Kim Ades:Yeah, so that's the cool thing about this podcast, right? You're gonna be able to look back and hear all the times when we talked. You're gonna be able to look back and hear some of the thoughts that I had about some of the subjects we discussed.

[00:10:26] Ferne Kotlyar:Yeah, I have to ask all the questions I'll possibly have in the future. All the issues I might run into, I gotta clear them out now.

[00:10:34] Kim Ades:Exactly, collect them.

[00:10:36] Ferne Kotlyar:[Laughs]

[00:10:36] Kim Ades:And maybe someday you'll sit and listen to this and you'll say, "there's your grandma!", you'll show it to your kids.

[00:10:43] Ferne Kotlyar:[Chuckles] Yeah, it's very possible.

[00:10:45] Kim Ades:Right?

[00:10:45] Ferne Kotlyar:But I mean, I hope you'll be around to interact with my kids in person.

[00:10:49] Kim Ades:I'm sure I will be, but they'll never see me this young again, right?

[00:10:53] Ferne Kotlyar:[Laughs] No, you get younger as you age.

[00:10:56] Kim Ades:That's the plan.

[00:10:57] Ferne Kotlyar:[Laughs]

[00:10:57] Kim Ades:That's my plan. My plan is to get younger as I age. You know why? Let me tell you, let's just talk about that for a second.

[00:11:04] Ferne Kotlyar:[Laughs]

[00:11:04] Kim Ades:What happens as you age? What happens as you age is you shed a lot of the heaviness that you carry with you through life. You shed the idea that what other people think really matters, you shed the idea that you have to accomplish some massive goal in order to have value and to be lovable or important in this world. You shed the idea that you have to look a certain way or that you have to be everything to everybody in order for you to have any type of importance. And so as you age, you get more comfortable in your skin. And so getting more comfortable in your skin means you're carrying a lighter load, which ultimately if you take it that way, can lead you to feeling a whole lot younger.[00:11:56] Ferne Kotlyar:That's fair. Well, I've gotta say that you look great and people tell me all the time that we look like sisters. [00:12:03] Kim Ades:There you go. That's the highest compliment. The highest compliment. Sometimes I don't feel so great, but I take the compliment. [00:12:11] Ferne Kotlyar:It's a start. I mean–

[00:12:13] Kim Ades:Also, it's a great honor to look like you. So it's a good thing.

[00:12:18] Ferne Kotlyar:Thank you. And for me, you. It's a great honor as well.

[00:12:23] Kim Ades:Amazing. All right. So, hopefully this conversation you'll look back on after I die and you'll review, and you have to remember the following. We need music, we need food, we need great stories.

[00:12:39] Ferne Kotlyar:Yes, ma'am. Anything else?

[00:12:42] Kim Ades:That's a good start.

[00:12:43] Ferne Kotlyar:What about good shoes?

[00:12:44] Kim Ades:I was just gonna say "get comfortable shoes".

[00:12:47] Ferne Kotlyar:[Laughs] Yeah, super important.

[00:12:49] Kim Ades:So important. Okay [Chuckles] for those of you who are listening, I'd love to hear what you think about death. It's a subject that I think about an awful lot. I think about it. I think about it in terms of those that I have lost, my parents, family members, aunts, uncles, that kind of thing. But I also think about it in terms of it really helping me be present and capturing the moments that are right in front of me, even if it's sitting on the couch with Allan and sharing bowl of fruits, even if it's having a conversation with one of my kids and knowing that these conversations are fleeting, and really being there, being present, really capturing the moment.But I'd love to hear from you. What do you think about death? Is it a subject that you hate talking about? Is it a subject that you shield yourself from? Or is it a subject that you engage in willingly with interest? I just wanna hear from you. If you wanna reach me, you can do so by emailing me, my email address is And if you have a topic that you wanna discuss, reach out to Ferne. Ferne, how did they reach you?

[00:14:01] Ferne Kotlyar:Please do, and please email me. My email address is

[00:14:12] Kim Ades:And we will see you next week. Have a great week, everyone!

[00:14:15] Ferne Kotlyar:Bye!

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