Funeral fantasy

Sanne Burger

11 January 2022

When I was a little girl I often fantasised about what would happen after my death – not to me, but to the people that would be left behind. I imagined how everybody would react. I really regretted the fact that most likely I would not be at my own funeral, because as a child I already noticed how lovely people behave at funerals. They only say good things about the dead person. They say how much they loved them, how much they miss them, how special and unique they were, how much they meant to them and they all cry with fondness. I just imagined how nice it would be to be at my own funeral and hear all these nice things being said about me.

But in fact the same thing happens when you travel. When you travel, you often have to say goodbye. And every time you say goodbye it is as if you die a little. I believe that I subconsciously developed a way to make this funeral fantasy a reality without actually having to die. I have been so many places where I lived for a while, made friends, got pets, got attached and then had to leave again. And every time the leaving would be so bittersweet.

Because when you leave, people get the same urge as they have in funerals: they want to let you know how much they love and appreciate you. They say things like: ‘Oh, I will miss you so much’ and ‘I wish we could meet again’ and ‘I’m so grateful for the time we spent together’ and ‘It’s been amazing’ and ‘You are so special’. The animals show their love by just not wanting to leave by your side and trying to jump in the car to come with you. This always gives me such a great feeling of being loved and appreciated.

And honestly, I believe that’s why I do it. That’s why I travel. I just want to receive all these compliments, all this love. I want to hear it, I want to feel it. I want to feel the pain of saying goodbye, because these moments create such a precious acknowledgment of the connection I have with others, because suddenly it’s not obvious anymore. Suddenly it becomes special.

Often, in relationships and in day to day life, when you have the possibility to see each other all the time, you just don’t make the effort. It just does not occur to you or you think it is not worth it. Or you are too bored, or too busy, or too tired. Or you are more preoccupied with what you do not like about that person. Or you just don’t want to make the effort to go see that person and spend time with him or her.

The indifference that we have towards the living in our lives, towards the ones that are present, the ones that are actually close to us, is a very tricky thing. It makes us not appreciate the ones closest to us. Only if the other person leaves, there is the heartbreak and the regret: ‘Oh, I wish we spent more time together.’ Which in a way is weird, but it is also a beautiful, addictive, bittersweet thing. It is almost as if to miss someone is to love them. Or maybe I am just crazy, by apparently feeling the love the most when I miss someone.

I have experienced so many goodbyes in this life. There has been so much missing. Maybe this is my way to feel love. Maybe this is my way to feel how much I love people and to feel how much they love me. However, this is a rather painful type of love, not just for me, but also for others. I wish I could feel the same appreciation and love without leaving or dying. How does one do that?

In fact, I don’t think that we humans are designed to travel. At least not to travel by ourselves and having to leave our tribe, our loved ones, our lover, children, friends and pets behind, go through a period of heartbreak, for then to do it all over again. I feel that we are supposed to be with the same tribe from birth to death. Really, I wish I had that in my life.

As a traveler you are almost destined to break the heart of others and have your heart broken many times. I think that I got it all wrong. I’m now halfway through my life and you know what? For the second half of my life I want to be in one place with one tribe, with pets, friends, trees and a garden, without having to say goodbye ever. I want to deepen my love through being there, not through leaving. Would it be possible to reverse that twisted relationship I have with loving and leaving? Would it be possible to feel as much love, without leaving or dying?

Sanne Burger


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