Whether they’re hitting the Red Carpet or perfecting a book or a song, celebrities, such as athletes, actors, writers and singers, plan their careers with great focus and direction. They put much thought into when they should make appearances at award shows and whether or not they should agree to media interviews. But do many of them also pre-plan their funerals? Just like us non-celebrity-types, some do and some don’t. Whether it’s a Hollywood lifestyle or a Main Street USA legacy that we are leaving behind, some of us think pre-planning our final farewell is important, while others do not.
The Funerals of Muhammad Ali, Prince, Harper Lee, David Bowie
Muhammad Ali had planned every last detail of his funeral. But Prince, in stark contrast, did not pre-plan his funeral at all – and didn’t even have a will. The courts are now left to decide which family members should receive his $330 million estate, as well as the contents of a secret vault the musician left behind. In 2016, we also said goodbye to author Harper Lee and singer David Bowie. Lee’s service was pre-planned to be just as private as she was during her life. She told her longtime friend to deliver a eulogy that he had written as a tribute to Lee in 2006. Bowie was cremated ‘without any fuss’ – the wish he shared with loved ones. He wanted to be remembered only for his music.
Ali’s Pre-Planning Gave Him the Funeral He Wanted
The champion boxer and humanitarian began planning his funeral long before he died in 2016. Muhammad Ali wanted an open and inclusive service for his funeral, according to his spokesman. The planning for the memorials involved many people in the Louisville, Kentucky, area, who were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements. The 74-year-old, three-time heavyweight champion wanted the memorial service in an arena. He wanted multiple religions to have a voice while honoring the traditions of his Muslim faith. And he wanted ordinary fans to attend, not just VIPs. The celebration of Ali’s life lasted several days and included an “I Am Ali” festival in Louisville, with arts, entertainment and education offerings. This included a wall where children could write what they wanted to be “the greatest” in. The next day, an Islamic funeral prayer program was held with an overflow crowd in Freedom Hall, where Ali’s last fight in Louisville was held in 1961. The funeral procession and private burial was held the following day, with Ali’s casket being taken along the street named for him, Muhammad Ali Boulevard, and past his boyhood home before heading to Cave Hill Cemetery, where he was buried. Ali spent much of his life as an advocate for inclusion, so it was important to him to have that as his legacy at the time of his death. He didn’t just want to be remembered as a professional fighter, but also as a peacemaker. His funeral service was a portrayal of how he lived his life. “The love and the reverence and the inclusivity that we’re going to experience over the coming days is really a reflection of his message to the people of planet Earth,” said Timothy Gianotti, an Islamic studies scholar who helped plan the services.
An Ideal Time to Pre-Plan?
Life is so uncertain. Is there ever an ‘ideal’ time to pre-plan your funeral? Some say it’s when they felt comfortable enough to have the conversation with loved ones or a funeral home professional. Others decided to pre-plan their own funeral after losing a spouse, a parent or a sibling. Having gone through the emotional stress of funeral planning for someone close to them, they didn’t want that same situation for their loved ones.
It’s a comfort to family members to know that after we are gone, they only have to contact the funeral home and tell the director to honor your plan in place. And then they can focus on remembering you and celebrating your life.