John Beckwith Jr. has already outlined some of his own funeral plans, which include encasing his body in a glass casket. Like a Pope in the Vatican, he will be on display and wear a “death mask.” But that’s not all. His plans call for a five-day ceremony with more costume changes than a Cher concert:
Day One. As a licensed Texas peace officer, Beckwith wants to be recognized as such and will be dressed in his reserve officer’s uniform. The observance will be complete with a bugle, 21-gun salute, and presentation of the flag.
Day Two. Attendees will celebrate the fact that he was a licensed minister and, as a man of the cloth, he will be dressed and mourned as such.
Day Three. If there were ever such thing as an undertaker’s undertaker, it would be Beckwith. His colleagues will be invited to say their goodbyes on this day.
Day Four. Attendees will rejoice in Beckwith the family man in what he promises will be “a more traditional service.”
Day Five. This will be the final service and resting place for Beckwith, dressed in his last Italian suit. Don’t expect any paid mourners at this event, but you can assume some great drama and passion. “I am down with the crying and hollering,” he says. “Those emotions need to come out.”
After hearing about this, it took very little time for me to decide that I want to have my services at Golden Gate, too, and for Beckwith—or, who knows, by then maybe John III—to handle the details. Of course, my observance will be dramatically different from what the undertaker has planned. After all, I imagine he has more capes than I do ties. But, here goes:
I am what they call an Irish Cafeteria Catholic (take what I want and pass on what I don’t). But Beckwith assures me that a priest can come to his chapel for both a rosary and mass. The chapel holds 300, and I am hoping for standing room only.
Thank goodness Beckwith is familiar with the great R.L. Griffin, owner of the Blues Palace #2 near the corner of Grand Avenue and Meadow Street in Fair Park. Beckwith will see that either Griffin or another R&B star, like Hal Harris, will be there with the band to play their favorites, and at least two of mine: “Hold On, I’m Comin’” and “Good News, Chariots a Comin’.”
The real fun in an Irish funeral is the wake the night before. This usually follows an early-evening cocktail hour, a rosary at the chapel, and adjournment to the closest pub. I assume my children will handle this, but Beckwith has been given a list of candidates, just in case.
I already have the casket thing figured out, sort of. In the town of Early, Texas, there is a company called Cowboys Last Ride Casket Co. The price is right, at $2,582, but storage is a problem. I hope I won’t be needing it for a while, but the current Mrs. Stephenson has put her foot down at my using the casket as a coffee table in my man cave. Beckwith says he’s got this covered.
I am in the process of buying a single plot in Central Texas overlooking some favorite hunting land. Golden Gate is taking care of the grave opening and closing ($800) and charging just $600 for the 3.5-hour hearse trip there. All of my pallbearers will be honorary only, as I definitely want the SWAAT Team at Golden Gate strutting their stuff with me in tow. At $1,350, that’s a bargain.
After the funeral, the mourners will adjourn either to my house or a restaurant, where I have promised my wife there will be fried chicken and cream gravy. Golden Gate will hold onto my body until the trek west starts the next day.
The entire funeral will cost less than $11,000, not including the off-site parties, and I will be paying out that sum over time. However, Beckwith reminds me that to protect customers from a funeral home going bankrupt, those payments actually will go to the Security National Life Insurance Co., “until such time as we need it.”
Read more about John Beckwith Jr.’s Golden Gate Funeral Home here.