How My Dad Welcomed Everyone to His Own Funeral

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My dad, Kent Bolsta

My dad, Kent Bolsta, died on May 1, 2005, after a lengthy decline from Alzheimer’s. Yet, he cheerfully welcomed all the guests at his own memorial service.

How? Nearly twenty years earlier, he had made a brief cassette tape which he labeled TO BE PLAYED AT MY FUNERAL. No one in my family had listened to it until after he passed away. Click on the audio player below to hear it:

Cracking jokes about his own death was just my dad’s style. One longtime friend told my mother after the service that she had come prepared to cry and be sad, but that she was leaving with joy in her heart and a smile on her face. My dad would have been pleased. That’s the kind of service he was after—a celebration of his life, not a mournful remembrance.

Oh, by the way, my dad also performed at his own funeral. We popped in a VCR tape of him performing his famous parody The Night Before Christmas. It was wonderful to see him bringing down the house one last time.

POSTSCRIPT 1: Here is an essay I wrote for the Minneapolis Star Tribune about my dad’s long, slow descent into Alzheimer’s.

POSTSCRIPT 2: A few years after I wrote the above essay, I shared an especially poignant moment with my dad shortly before he passed away.

POSTSCRIPT 3: Here is my eulogy from his memorial service.





Click here to see all my posts featuring my parents and grandparents.






ABOUT PHIL BOLSTA

Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, is a road map for living a more peaceful, beautiful life. It’s the one book that explains how dozens of spiritual principles interact, how to weave them together into a cohesive worldview, and how to practically apply this spiritual wisdom to daily life.

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28 Responses to “How My Dad Welcomed Everyone to His Own Funeral”

  1. jimfan155 Says:

    Your dad was sooo funny. I can tell he knew how to live life to the fullest and it’s nice knowing you are carrying on with his spirit. Thanks for sharing Phil.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    You bet, Jim! Glad you liked it!

  3. sheldonbuzz Says:

    Gave me goosebump Phil. Hard to do this unless you have a broad perspective in life after death. You gave me a wonderful idea. Hmmm….I might do it too. I hope I can crack a sense of humour and sound joyous like what your Dad did. Thank you Phil for sharing this.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    My pleasure, sheldonbuzz. I’m glad you found it meaningful!

  5. Kim Wencl Says:

    Wow … that is great … that had to help you tremendously in the grieving process. The day we returned home after learning about the fire and Liz’s death, we pushed the button on our answering machine and lo and behold there was a message from Liz from the previous night. I had won Wild tickets at work and had given them to her as a birthday gift. She had called us from the Wild game to thank us for the tickets and to tell us how great the seats were. We still have that message. We recorded it off the answering machine and loaded it on our computer. It’s so comforting to be able to hear her voice whenever I need to.

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I’m so glad you have that message from Liz, Kim. That is so precious.

  7. Max Says:

    Doesn’t it make you feel good to know your Dad took these pains to make his family think of his death as not the end of life but a new adventure.

    I love his attitude. It also gives me a little more insight into your personality. What do you have planned?

    Maybe I should be thinking more about this…I’m no spring chicken.

  8. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Actually, I don’t have any plans myself! Thought about it but haven’t done it yet. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Max!

  9. justcharrie Says:

    Oh I like your dad! It was wonderful for him to do that. Should I say you look like him, when I took a glance at his picture? Yes I saw the older you in him. I could sense that you inherited from him the same perception in life, which is a good one.

    I wish I can do the same in the future…you know leaving such kind of message…hehe…can I ???

  10. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks so much for the kind words, justcharrie! Yes, I am surprised occasionally when I look in the mirror and glimpse some part of my dad. I like it!

    Sure, you can do whatever you decide to do. Make it happen!

  11. Valerie Newkirk Says:

    What a treasure! I love his attitude towards funerals!

    My favorite person, my grandma Juhl, died in 2003 at the age of 90, leaving a whole mess of descendents. I told the preacher that I wanted her funeral to be a celebration of her life and not a sorrowful time. He gave us all the opportunity to tell our “Grandma story”. Not many took him up on it, but the things that did come out made us all laugh. It was a wonderful day of remembering how special she was. Thank you for sharing your Dad with us.

  12. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks, Valerie! I’m glad your grandma had the service you had hoped for.

  13. Ron Ross Says:

    Your dad sounds like someone I would have liked to have known.

  14. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I couldn’t ask for a better tribute than that, Ron. Thanks!

  15. lou Says:

    He’s truly a wonderful human being.

  16. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you so much, Lou I appreciate your kind comment about my dad.

  17. Erin Says:

    Dad,

    I’m glad you posted this so that people could get a glimpse of how amazing Poppa was and maybe inspire them to record their own messages. Poppa’s funeral was a great event! There was so much love and laughter; a true celebration. Listening to his message again warmed my heart; I love hearing his voice again. Many of Poppa’s wonderful qualities have been passed down to you and now to me. Some of his idiosyncrasies too! I am so grateful to have had such a wonderful relationship with him and it was a gift to be at his side when he passed.

    Love,
    Erin

  18. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I am so happy you had a long and wonderful relationship with Poppa Kent. Oh, how he loved his grandgirl!

  19. LunaJune Says:

    Thanks for sharing..it is important to remember the good things in life . My mom’s funeral was the best funeral I have ever been to. If filled me with everything, sadness, laughter, sorrow, joy, and so much love for the strong woman she was. Full of stories from across the years. Each and every person shared things about her and it was not just a 30 minutes speach about how she was with god now. We laughed at her, with her and for her :) we cried that way too :)

  20. Phil Bolsta Says:

    That’s wonderful, June. I wish all memorial services took that approach. We mourn a loved one’s passing but we should also celebrate their life.

  21. Tshombe Says:

    Phil, thank you! And thanks to your dad. What a great way to “attend” your own funeral and give everyone present (and all of us who weren’t present) a tremendous gift of love, humor, & healing.

  22. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Yes, my dad was a great guy, Tshombe. I’m glad you enjoyed his presentation!

  23. Martha (TAZ31263) on twitter Says:

    I loved the audio of your dad’s welcome to his own funeral. So AWESOME. His saying he gets the last word. lol. that was terrific. TY for sharing it with us.

  24. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, Martha! My dad was the best!

  25. Deepti Says:

    Very strange and wonderful to me! Your dad was a great guy and had a good sense of humour!

  26. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Indeed he was, Deepti! Thank you!

  27. Shelton Says:

    You had a very cool dad! Loved it. =)

  28. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Agreed! Thanks, Shelton!

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