THE BLOG
08/30/2013 03:20 pm ET Updated Oct 30, 2013

At My Funeral I Want...

"Death is a black camel which kneels at every man's gate." -- says an Arabic Proverb.

It is the one visitor we are sure will show up one day at our door, yet it is never easy when death finally visits your household.

I recently had a death in my family, and what I saw and heard made me wonder about my own funeral one day.

There were lines of people pushing and shoving, all trying to get through to my relative's coffin inside a church in Poland. Almost every person there had something good to say about her, and I discovered things about my old aunt I never knew, even though I knew her my whole life.

"Thank you for believing in me and giving me my first job," said a man I didn't recognize and who I later found out had knocked on her door as a young boy begging for money, and instead got a job in her backyard as a gardener. He now own several shops and has done well for himself.

A handful of elderly people sent her kisses as they passed by her coffin and thanked her for "the warm soup made by a warm heart."

They later told me my aunt had ran a kind of a shelter at her home, where every weekend she would cook up huge meals and open her backyard for the countless elderly that were homeless and neglected by their families and by the government.

"You were our family, when our own families abandoned us," said one of them tearing up, remembering harsh winters that were made easier because of my aunt's soups.

Each of her neighbors had a funny story to share about her, from how she would always wear those "ugly beat up communist looking slippers" to how she always put too much sugar in all her homemade desserts to how she always repeated some story about her pet chicken from her childhood and their "adventures."

"It was always about how she and her chicken would go exploring the forest nearby and finding treasures or how her chicken sensed bad people around," laughed one neighbor. "She never did forgive her parents for cooking her chicken."

Then the neighborhood's baker passed by and stood by her coffin talking to her and I overheard him saying: "Who will come and complain each morning that the bread I make is not like how it used to be?"

Other stories that came up at the funeral included the plumber who would pass by her house even when she hadn't called for him as she would always wrap up some "tasty leftovers" for him to take home. Apparently on a regular basis, unhappy housewives would seek refuge in her home as she adviced them over tea, and sometimes even unhappy husbands would pass by and ask her what to do.

One such husband quipped: "One time I was complaining that my wife doesn't understand me, and she said, does anyone understand anything these days? People don't even know how to hold a pen properly these days."

While I laughed, I knew my aunt well enough to know she wasn't joking. She was a tough lady who had struggled through hard times and I don't recall her laughing much. She also didn't talk about emotions and she didn't complain, she would just go out and "do it," whatever "it" may have been at that time.

As I sat there, I noticed tears in peoples' eyes, but they were all smiling and laughing in that church.

My aunt was a widow, and her two grown up children live outside the country. She would barely see them as they had their own lives and were busy with work and responsibilities. I used to worry about her living alone with just a dog, called "pushka" and a cat simply named "Kot" (Cat in polish).

But she never complained when I called her. Now I know why. She wasn't alone or lonely, she was too busy giving and being there for other people.

The funny part is that I don't think she even noticed she was doing so much for so many, it just came naturally. My aunt never did become famous or rich or anything like that, but somehow she left a rich legacy of kindness and openness that is hard to find these days.

I hope I have at my own funeral even a handful of friends as she had at hers. A group who will miss and remember me by laughing at our shared moments, instead of crying.

Rest in peace dearest aunt.

And it is never too early to start thinking: what would you like at your funeral?

Rym Tina Ghazal is a senior feature writer and columnist for the National Newspaper. She is working on her second book, Single in the City.