Kent Lindsey has been a rock musician, a television host, an actor and a producer.
In partnership with his wife, Pepper Lindsey, he has been producing the Jacksonville Legacy Series, documentaries about some of Jacksonville’s most significant leaders, and is currently at work on an episode about Jake Godbold.
But he’s got another production in the planning stages: His own memorial service. He wants to make sure it’s been planned in advance, so his family doesn’t face any last-minute decisions. And he wants to make sure his friends and family celebrate his life joyously. He doesn’t want it to be mournful or maudlin. He doesn’t want anybody dressed in black.
“I want it to be happy,” he said. “It’s a gift you give to your family.”
Lindsey, who is 61, was diagnosed with lung cancer on Jan. 19, 2012.
With typical humor, he named the three-centimeter tumor in his right lung “Lumpy” and set out to beat it. For a while it looked like he might.
Lindsey, who had never smoked, underwent four rounds of chemotherapy, surgery that removed part of his right lung, another four rounds of chemotherapy and a series of 33 radiation treatments.
In October 2012, after a PET scan, Lindsey was told he appeared to be disease-free. For a year, he did well. But last Oct. 4, he had a seizure. The cancer was back and it had spread to his brain.
He has undergone more radiation and more chemotherapy. He says he hasn’t given up.
“I’m not on an expiration date,” he said.
But he’s preparing for the worst.
“Nobody gets out of this alive,” he said. “Or so I’m told.”
So a few days ago, Lindsey met with Camille Ott, a Dignity Memorial advisor, and Jody Brandenburg, president of the Hardage-Giddens family of funeral homes and cemeteries, which is part of the Dignity Memorial national network of funeral, cremation and cemetery service providers. Their purpose: To talk about Lindsey’s ideas about how he wants his life celebrated.
“I remember a dear friend of mine who died,” Lindsey told them. “And she had a birthday party. That’s what I want.”
Lindsey said he’s already planning to make a CD of some his favorite songs that will be distributed to those attending his celebration. His friend Mike Shackelford has agreed to sing a couple of songs.
Lindsey and Shackelford performed together in the band Justin from 1974-85, before Lindsey left the band to concentrate on hosting “Safari Sam,” an afternoon children’s show that ran on WAWS TV-30 from 1985-98.
Lindsey said one of the blessings of his illness has been that it helped renew his close friendship with Shackelford after they had drifted apart over the years. They even did a Justin reunion, playing together at European Street Cafe on Beach Boulevard in March 2013.
Lindsey is also planning to make a video to play during the event. It will be a chance to go for a few laughs and to thank the people who mattered to him, he said.
In choosing to plan a non-traditional memorial service, Lindsey is part of a growing trend, Brandenburg said.
“A lot of people now don’t want the traditional sad funeral service,” he said. “They want a celebration.”
Dignity Memorial did an online series of 2,200 interviews last December and found that nationally about 37 percent of those responding would prefer a non-traditional ceremony. In Jacksonville, 35 percent said they favored non-traditional. The preference for non-traditional was highest among respondents under the age of 35 (42 percent) but 28 percent of those 55 or older who responded, like Lindsey, want a non-traditional service.
Lindsey, said he talked with his psychologist about his decision to plan his memorial service. It worried him that his 11-year- old daughter Samantha “doesn’t want to talk about this.”
He asked the psycholoigist: “Am I getting too far ahead of myself? Am I forcing what’s inevitable? I don’t want to rush it.”
He said the psychologist told him to go ahead and make his plans.
“I want to get this off my plate,” Lindsey said.
And he doesn’t want to leave it to his wife and other family members to have to make arrangement after he’s gone.
“Why would somebody do that to their family?” he asked. “To me that’s selfish.”
Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413