Among Tim Peck’s last wishes was that his celebration of life be held before his death.
“He was saying what a bummer that he would not be at his own funeral to hear all the people talking about him, visiting with each other and not with him,” said Peck’s daughter Jeri Kehoe.
For Peck, his passing is inevitable because doctors have diagnosed him with stage 4 renal carcinoma, which is almost always terminal.
The longtime Pine resident is undergoing medical treatments but he and his family realize they are only attempts to slow down the disease’s progression.
“We started to discuss the inevitability of his passing as a family and I had a thought, why not celebrate his life while he is still alive?” Kehoe said.
That set in motion plans for a pre-death “funeral” or celebration.
“It was fun planning, gathering, looking through old pictures, talking to long lost friends of Dad and listening to old-timer stories,” Kehoe said.
With the planning complete, the family settled on Saturday, April 20 for the celebration in Pine.
Kehoe almost immediately began mailing invitations and posting notices in the post office and other locations around Pine.
“Tim’s not up with the angels yet, so please come celebrate with our guest of honor, the one, the only Tim Peck,” the notices read.
With word of the event spreading, the family anticipated a good turnout since Peck is well known in P-S having run the now defunct Pine Lumber yard for years.
Friends from his tour of duty in the Air Force and his work in construction in California were also expected to attend.
The family’s best laid plans came to a screeching halt when Peck was hospitalized following injuries incurred in a fall.
As Peck was on the road to recovery, Kehoe and family members opted not to throw in the towel, but rather continue with a celebration that would include mostly out-of-town relatives.
“They had already bought (airline) tickets, so we were happy several of his brothers and sisters could come to visit,” said Kehoe.
The scaled-down fete turned into just what Kehoe was hoping for — a tribute to a good man, father and husband.
“It was a real blessing; there were a lot of smiles. Special things were said about Dad and a lot of good memories were shared,” Kehoe said. “Dad’s grandnephew brought his guitar and played for hours on end, mostly old songs that were Dad’s favorites.”
With the celebration now a fond family memory, Kehoe is hoping her dad can enjoy one more special occasion — his 50th wedding anniversary on Feb. 28, 2020.
Author Mark Twain wrote in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” of his fascination of attending his own funeral.
About the fanfare, Sawyer said, “It was the proudest moment of my whole life.”
While these celebrations or “living funerals” might seem a bit odd, they are growing in popularity.
The celebrations give family and friends an opportunity to honor their loved one in a non-traditional and personal approach.
Others tout them as a refreshing change to stuffy and somber funeral services.
Funeral homes, churches, taverns, fraternal organizations and families host the celebrations as opportunities for the terminally ill to celebrate life in the warmth and love of friends and family.
Most often, the celebrations have a theme or activity — play charades, dance the limbo, sing, tell jokes, share memories or forgive and forget.
Others are more somber with collective prayers, Psalms or Bible readings, anointing and last rites given by clergy.
Most importantly, the occasion is about spending time with the people the terminally ill have spent their life with.
For Tim Peck it was obviously that and more.