“You are invited to my pre-mortem wake and roast, a somewhat morbid, deeply irreverent, but joyous celebration of me. This is time for celebrating my life, loves, and dark, twisted sense of humor. Bring your stories (hysterical, at my expense), your tasteless jokes, and any and all expressions gleefully macabre. Come party with the man who has never passed up the chance to poke cancer in the eye and laugh about it.”
This was the invitation that friends received for Jay Lake’s wake (a ceremony traditionally held before a funeral, after someone has died). In case the phrase “pre-mortem” didn’t tip you off, it was an unusual event. Because, like everyone else, Jay Lake will someday die. Unlike most, however, Jay threw himself a wake before the end of his life.
Jay is a science fiction writer, avid blogger, and cancer patient. He’s been living with colon cancer since 2008, and earlier this year received a diagnosis of nine to twenty-four months to live. But “the man who has never passed up the chance to poke cancer in the eye and laugh about it” didn’t take this sentence lying down. Instead, he threw himself a wake while he was still able to attend—and turned what could have been a morbid affair into a beautiful, humorous, and personal celebration of his life.
Jay wasn’t only alive at his wake—he was the life of the party!
I love the idea of a “live wake,” and this isn’t the first one that I’ve heard of. While “live funerals” and “live wakes” aren’t exactly commonplace, I hope that the idea of celebrating life and accepting the inevitable will become more conventional. By acknowledging our own mortality, honoring the lives we’ve led, and doing it all while we’re still here, I think that we, as a culture, can have the lives and deaths that we want and deserve. As a speaker at the JayWake pointed out, “We are all terminal, after all.”