HomeStoryJune’s Memorial Service

June’s Memorial Service

June McFadden died of pancreatic cancer on a Tuesday morning. It was stage four when they found it and she didn’t last long once they did. She was fifty-three.

About a week later, everyone who knew her received a very simple invitation to her afternoon memorial service in the mail, with the address to a local community center. On it, in large print, were the instructions: “PLEASE WEAR WHATEVER YOU WANT TO WEAR AND BRING WHATEVER YOU WANT TO BRING.”

Mourners showed up in droves at the appointed time and place, looking confused and watching each other for cues. At the door of the community center there was a large whiteboard which read, “JUNE MCFADDEN MEMORIAL SERVICE. PLEASE STAY AS LONG AS YOU WANT TO STAY AND DO WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO.”

Inside was a very large room with a bunch of folding chairs all stacked up against the walls. And that was it. That’s all there was to June’s memorial service.

People flooded in and stared around. Attendees were a bit taken aback by how many mourners had turned up; June was a pleasant enough lady, but she’d never married or had kids, or been a teacher or church community organizer, or anything that might cause one to expect a large sendoff. She’d worked from home and accomplished nothing noteworthy.

Many were also surprised by how literally their fellow attendees had taken the instructions to “wear whatever you want to wear and bring whatever you want to bring.” There were guitars, a beach ball, a frisbee, a bubble machine, games, a full magician’s act in a child’s wagon, snacks, lots of booze. There were top hats, propeller hats, kilts, bright suspenders, Daisy Dukes, full gothic makeup and dress, a light-up flashing bowtie, a suit covered in Jeremy Corbyn’s face, a drag queen.

The mourners milled around a bit, and, with nothing else to do, began talking.

“Hi I’m Steve!”







“I’m Pete and this is Rosie.”

“I’m Lulu and this is Max.”

“So I guess you don’t know anyone here either, huh?”

“No! It doesn’t look like hardly anyone does.”

“What is this, anyway? What’s going on here?”

“I don’t know, the sign said do whatever we want to do.”

“That’s weird.”

“Yeah, she set the whole thing up herself though.”

“All by herself? How is that even possible?”

“Well her niece helped. She’s over there, she just told me.”

“Did she say if there was going to be any kind of, uh-”

“Nope, no ceremony. This is it.”

“Wow. Ha! Okay. Uhh, want a beer?”


People got tired of standing around and started grabbing chairs. With nobody officiating and nothing to look at there was no set direction to face, so everyone just set their chairs up with whoever they happened to be speaking with in pairs, circles and semi-circles around the room.

“So how did you know June?”

“She helped us set up our business.”

“She did graphic design work for my business.”

“She designed my company’s logo a few years ago, and we just kinda stayed friends afterward I guess.”

“We used to work together at A-Space, back before she started working on her own. Been friends ever since.”

“Do you know the Black Lab pub over on Vine and Main? I’m a regular there and she’d come in for a drink sometimes.”

“From the pub down on Fifth Street.”

“From the pub.”

“Ha! Me too. I never saw you there though? Finnegan’s?”

“No, the Back Door over in Ellenvale. We had a conversation one night and stayed friends.”

“She was such a dear woman.”

“Yes she was. I was surprised how devastated I was to hear she was gone, you know? I mean, we only spoke once in a while, but I feel like I’ve lost my best mate.”

“Me too! Oh my god I was crushed. I haven’t been so affected by a death since my parents died.”

“Oh you lost both parents? But you’re so young!”

“Yeah, it’s a long ugly story.”

“I don’t mind. Unless you don’t want to talk about it?”

“No, it’s okay. Yeah it’ll be eight years ago next month, my parents were on holiday…”

People, united in grief and a somewhat awkward social situation, began talking to each other, first about June but very quickly about everything under the sun. Drinks were passed around, and after while people were starting to loosen up.

“Is that a bubble machine?”

“Yeah, I dunno I just kinda thought it would be appropriate for some reason.”

“Well come on man, let’s fire that sucker up!”

“So when are you gonna play your guitar for us, Abby?”

“Oh man, I don’t know, I just wasn’t sure what to bring and-”


“Gahhhhhh. Really?”

“Yeah! Plays us a song!”


“Go Abby!”

Music and games began to be played, and laughter started filling the air. The beach ball got smacked into the air, and the whole room started collaborating in keeping it from touching the floor. A man and his wife performed a whole children’s magic show for a small crowd after showing them the business card that June had helped them design for their act.

Meaningful conversations were had all around the room, and people began sharing stories and ideas that they’d never shared with anyone else before. Life and death featured prominently in many discussions due to the setting and situation, and after surprisingly deep dives into people’s ideas about dying and what living is supposed to be about, conversations kept surfacing for air on the memory of June McFadden. Whenever this happened, things got a bit awkward.

“Christ, I’ve been babbling about myself for like half an hour at someone else’s funeral.”

“Oh shit I forgot we were at a memorial service!”

“Okay, well maybe should we talk about our memories of June and our favorite things about her and stuff?”

“Yeah, that feels about right.”

“Who wants to start? Adam?”

“Uhh, okay, well… I dunno, she was just really sweet is all. I don’t really… like I don’t have any stories about her doing anything wild or hilarious or anything. She was just really easygoing and easy to talk to.”

“Like what would you talk about?”

“I dunno, myself mostly I guess. Kind of like I’ve been doing here. Fuck I’m such an asshole.”

“No you’re not! You’re right, she was really easy to talk to. I would sometimes—beach ball!—I would some times wind up just babbling at her about stupid nonsense, but she was always nice about it.”

“I feel bad I can’t think of anything to say about June. She never gave me any mind-blowing advice about my life, or any advice at all actually. She never saved the day or made me laugh real hard or did anything that really stands out in my memory. And I’m still absolutely gutted that she’s gone. What the hell, man?”

“Yeah I don’t really have any amusing anecdotes about her or anything either. She was just good to talk to and I never felt like I was being judged by her or pushed into being anything other than myself. I’d always feel really good after talking to her, and feel really okay about myself, which was always rare for me, you know? That’s actually when I finally started dressing in drag in public, come to think of it.”

“Hey you’re right, I did always feel really good after talking to her.”

“Me too.”

“Me too, yeah. Like, happy. For days. I never really thought about it before but that’s totally true.”

“Yeah, same. I guess we don’t really notice when we feel okay, just when we don’t, but yeah. I always felt really okay about myself after seeing her.”

“She was like if a hug were a person.”

“Exactly! That’s exactly it! Like her whole everything was always saying ‘You’re okay. You’re fine how you are,’ and saying in a way that you really felt it, without ever actually saying it with words.”

“That’s what got me comfortable singing in front of a crowd, actually.”

“That’s what made me feel entitled enough to file for divorce.”

“That’s what made me realize I need to stop talking to my mother and cut her viciousness out of my life.”

“That’s what gave us the courage to quit our jobs and start doing our magic act full-time.”

“That’s what made me stop hiding the fact that I like women and finally come out of the closet.”

“That’s how come I started my own online jewelry business, just like I’ve always wanted.”

“That was when I started painting.”

“That was why I decided to take the trip to the Amazon rainforest.”

Conversation by conversation, everyone in the room began to realize what June was and had always been to them all.

“She was like a big open space. A space that just let me be how I am without trying to fiddle with me or fix me or make me be different. And I think… I think maybe that’s the single most loving thing anyone’s ever done for me.”

“Oh my God, June was the most loving person I’ve ever known and I didn’t even realize it until she was gone.”

“I just hate the fact that—beach ball!—the fact that that’s gone from my life forever, you know? I finally get it now. I get why I’m so devastated about her death. It’s because I’ll never get to experience that space ever again. That feeling is just completely over. The last time I spoke with June was the last time I’ll ever get to be in that place where everything I am is just unconditionally okay and I’m fine however I show up.”

“Well, not the last time.”

“What do you mean?”

“Look around you man!”

“Oh. Huh. Ha! Hahahaha! Well fuck me dead. God damn, June.”

These realizations hit home around the room in different ways, some spoken and some unspoken, as people kept eating and drinking and playing and talking late into the night. Close friendships were made. More than a few people fell in love. Some people cried until they felt like there were no more tears. Some people laughed until their sides and faces ached. Some people did both.

The room was filled with the din of people peopling, exactly as they showed up. It echoed off the walls of the community center, and it echoed within the hearts of everyone who attended, for the rest of their lives.

And that was June’s memorial service.







Thanks for reading! My articles and poems are entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitterthrowing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypalpurchasing some of my sweet merchandisebuying my new book Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone, or my previous book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for my website, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish.

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Latest comments

  • Exquisite gem—thanks Caitlin❤️

  • This is so incredibly beautiful. A wonderful Monday morning read. Let’s wake up the spirit of June!

  • ‘Everything I am is just unconditionally okay’ – what if I’m a warmonger, a Nazi or a rapist? Will CJ tell me that’s okay, refrain from judging me and from pushing me into being anything other than myself? I somehow doubt it; I’m sure many warmongers, Nazis and rapists have felt extremely uncomfortable, unwelcome and judged reading most of her articles. She is admittedly very tolerant towards libertarians, classical liberals and the like, but a general all-encompassing tolerance is, thankfully, not found in her articles, which usually have a very sharp, categorical and aggressive tone.
    The world isn’t divided into a majority of perfect humans and a minority of evil sociopaths. Some parts of every person are bad, some are good, some are indifferent. Being a drag queen, an out lesbian, a magician, a jeweller, a divorcee are things that are indifferent per se (and therefore good if they happen to make things work better for people), and that’s why it’s OK to be them. Being a warmonger, a liar, a selfish pig are bad things, and that’s why it’s not OK to be them. (Singing in front of a crowd may also be an atrocity against your fellow-humans if you sing too out of tune.) The ‘being oneself’ and ‘tolerance’ paradigm works for stuff like homosexuality, but taking it and extrapolating it as a general rule for life is as misguided as it gets. The reason it works for stuff like homosexuality is just because the old rules forbidding homosexuality happen to be stupid and wrong, and that can be proved with rational arguments. That doesn’t mean that *all* rules and *all* prohibitions are stupid and wrong. Saying that would make one a fundamentalist bigot’s caricature of a liberal.
    ‘Everything you are, do or may want to be or do is good’ is always false, since none of us is perfect and all of us have room for improvement. You may want to be told such a thing in the same way as a child may want to eat only sweets and never brush his teeth afterwards. Children should not be spoilt, and neither should adults.

    • Oh, please. This is a story about how to be a good friend, not how to raise children. One thing we all could do, is give less advice. People like to feel they have some agency in their lives. It’s not your duty to “fix” everyone you meet. Too frequently we get advice, when we just needed to be heard. The message I get from this, is SHUT UP and LISTEN. (Although Caitlin put it much nicer.) Instead of lecturing, she painted a picture of how it could be.

      If you feel unsafe around someone, by all means, get out of his presence. If you are concerned for someone else’s safety, then take steps to remedy the situation.
      If you think his Momma didn’t raise him right, it is NOT your job to take over.
      Just saying

      • Good friends give each other advice. Telling another person your opinion does not remove their agency or reduce them to a child, since you aren’t forcing them to act in accordance with that opinion. ‘Shut up and listen’ is not something a good friend should demand of a good friend. If the only two choices are completely uncritical acceptance and approval of everything in a person and getting out of their presence, then human communication will be meaningless.

  • Beautiful story and woman… one of the reasons I get your blog via email too so I never miss any articles. Thank you so much for standing up for justice and those without a voice…

  • Many thanks, Caitlin. Erin go bragh.

  • Caitlin, you may not ever get it, but you and June just earned a Pulitzer.
    My father left this life at 92 years. My sister planned the post-Memorial gathering on the front lawn of our family home in Greensboro, N.C. : food, drink, chairs and shade. The majority of those who showed up were of our generation, had known Pop as children……. “I don’t know how many times he fixed my bike……my dad was no good with tools.” “He could fix anything.” “He always had time for us kids.” “My mom didn’t know how bad the cut was. She told me to go show it to him. He bandaged it up and told me to tell my mom to take me to the E.R. for stitches.” (Pop had finished Pre-Med before the War. When he came home he went to work in sales for a medical supplies company.) “He said I didn’t have symptoms of a concussion, but if I started throwing up, felt sick, or still had a headache that night, not to let me go to sleep and to take me to the E.R.” “He put my doll’s head back on. I was 4. I thought I had killed her.” “He would stop whatever he was doing…..” “He always had time for any child…..”
    – and I just thought he was my dad. Not fiction.

  • Fantastic Caitlin!! Happy St.Patrick´s Day.Slainte from Brazil.

  • Thank you for sharing this story. I know it is real because I just read it.
    Now I can’t help but know that I want so much to be like June.
    And I will be.

  • Thanks Caitlin…perfectly beautiful✌

  • Thanks Caitlin! The Little People who hold us together in the march to the solidarity society go too quietly. I have a friend like this. Promised to write a bit on him 3 years ago. He was just like June. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • I wish I had known her. I wish I could be remembered with positive feelings like June was. Please check out my website, I hope what I’m doing will make the world a better place and folks will miss me when I’m gone since I am a life long bachelorette with no offspring. My art is my legacy.

    Yoga for Peace, Justice, Harmony With the Planet! Unity of Mid, Body, Spirit – SPREADING THE YOGA LOVE through performances.

  • What a delicious catalyst. What if….

  • That was lovely.

  • What a wonderful concept Caitlin, happiness starts with oneself and radiates out. A life ethic to aim for, a Wake like that shows how little things matter in life, and can encourage great things in others.

  • June McFadden’s life points the way for all of us! Her life is like that Lennon song “IImagine” , imagined and inacted. Thank You very much for sharing this fantastic human being’s life with us.
    I wish we could get this memorial flown on a time capsule to distant galaxies, so they would know that some of us were absolutely fantastic.

  • Love your writing, Caitlin Johnstone. And your thinking — believing this to be a fictional short story.

  • Life lessons here. What an amazing woman and how privileged for all those who knew her. Wonderful story once again, Caitlyn. Grateful to you for sharing.

  • Beautiful stuff.

  • Very nice.

  • I’m forwarding it to my NVC trainer!

  • Absolutely amazing!

  • Beautiful story

  • That was amazing! Thank you, Caitlin.

  • While I was reading this I had a thought. This would make a great movie. People showing up to a funeral and meeting other people that touched others in the room that touched other peoples lives. The good, the bad and the rest. And then finally coming to the realization that this was Junes intention all the time.

  • That is so beautiful.

    Now all we need to do is exactly that for every moment of our lives and it will all work out just wonderfully.

    thanks Caitlin

  • Awesome read! Earmarking for the future…

  • I don’t know if this is a short fictional story or one based on fact….but it brought tears to my eyes and I got choked up a few times.
    It was….good. Thanks!

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