1. After the week of waiting, and then the nasty phone call, finally shake off compulsion to deny/scream/weep/drink compulsively that you were already carrying around with you. Toughen up. You've got others to think about.

2. If you're far away, in the middle of school/work, make travel arrangements while either chain smoking or writing terse e-mail explanations to your bosses. Do not negotiate. Do not think about money. Do not think about time. Note to self : Forget self.

3. It would seem that 72 hours is the stipulated (if unspoken) de facto period of mourning for the contemporary workplace. This sadly (yet eerily convenient) is just about how long a cat, if provided music to listen to, a large bowl of food, and two dishes of water, can hang out in an apartment alone without getting too skittish. Try not to think about it.

4. Remove baggage small enough to carry-on during flight in order to avoid a) possible loss which would currently make you go postal and b) baggage carrousel crowds, which would have you pushing people on the conveyor belt.

5. Remove best dark suit from closet, regardless of current state, along with dress shirt, dark tie, shoe polish. Fold carefully. Fold again. Try once more. Start getting really, really angry as shirt continues to not fold properly, so instead bundle it into a ball.

6. Taxi to airport. Get on plane. Cough/cry/clench your teeth a lot to avoid being talked to or sat with.

7. Now is the time to either a) try to catch up on a week of no sleep, or b) begin the fortifying drinking immediately; appropriate action here will depend largely on your current Guilt deficit, which itself is a sum of a) the last time you saw the departed, b) the circumstances of that meeting, c) overall closeness, d) other crap things happening in their or family's life at the time, e) other crap things happening in your or family's life at the time.

8. In other words, commence bottling like wild, press forehead firmly against window, try to convince yourself the plane crashing would be a remotely negative outcome.

9. Arrive at airport. If lucky this will be in the middle of the night at a very small, one terminal affair. If not, you're on your own.

10. Greet younger relative(s) who've arrived to pick you up. If you're from a family of ten aunts and uncles, this number may be slightly inflated. However, if the funeral is on for ten hours after your arrival, some of them may be a little out of it. Make attempts at defusing through humor. Fail miserably. Try again.

11. Drive to home town/childhood locale which you haven't seen in years. Marvel at how things have remained seemingly frozen in time. Breathe deep breaths before arriving at the church : you need oxygen to breathe. Keep this in mind after you park and walk towards the archway.

12. See state of family and immediately forget 11.

13. Resist overwhelming desire to get back in car and drive away. Recommence bottling. Funerals are not about your feelings. Do what is asked of you, do not argue. Read in front of hundreds from the Bible, be a pallbearer, kneel before the casket, take Communion. You are the strong young, there to support the grieving old.

14. See the state of your younger brother and immediately forget 13. Crack into a million, tiny jagged pieces near the end.

15. And then, suddenly walk out into the blue sky and sea air, see the gulls whirling above, hear the sounding of the bells. Think how sick and wrong it is, for a half second, how everything is so pretty when you walk out of a funeral. If you're burying your nanny up the hill, in a rocky rural cemetery from the 1800s, try to suppress this thought even more. Until your mom arrives, in which case it'll disappear anyhow, on its own.

16. The Wake, and a drink to the dead, and then slowly, joking here and there, and then a slight unbinding of nerves, and then food and more drink, and more laughter. Then stories, as many as possible, as funny and exaggerated as possible. Then the younger ones cart off, maybe down to the shore. By the banks of the bay. And then the sunset. And then the stars and the waves. Think about the other Dead, wish them well, and finally, then when it's all over - the ceremony and structure, the formality and ritual, then really say goodbye.