Sunday, February 22, 2009

Funeral Planning

No one wants to think about death and dying, but in general I believe it a good idea to do some funeral planning.

There are many funeral planning guides out there (google it), but here are a few simple suggestions for everyone.

We can’t plan our lives with the thought that we are invincible. Planning ahead is the key to not incurring financial hardships with funeral expenses. Funerals are not cheap, but with careful planning, you can eliminate much of the emotional pain as well as the monetary one.

There are between 50-90 separate decisions to make when planning a funeral. Where to bury the loved one, what type of casket, what type of flowers, who can come, an after ceremony get together and many other things. By doing it all in advance, every detail can be discussed and the prices of every item can be explained and paid for in advance or over a period of time, so there are no financial burdensome surprises to deal with.

Most of us would be too busy grieving to be able to think about these things. I remember when Marcy died, I couldn’t think; I didn’t want to think. I knew I couldn’t do the planning. I knew nothing about planning a funeral for any loved one. When my dad died long before, my mother did everything. When my mom died a year and a half before Marcy, my step-dad did everything.

When Marcy died suddenly, she had made comments to a good friend the week before as they were attending another funeral that she thought it was ridiculous to have a service at a place of worship and then a procession to the grave for another service. “For me, I want just a grave-side service.” Since she had never said anything to me (it was something never discussed at her age), I was stunned to learn that information, but decided to follow her wishes. Who would have ever thought it would be so soon after her casual request to her friend. We only did a grave service and then had friends and family over afterwards for coffee and a bit to eat.

Pre-planning also allows more freedom and creativity for the funeral service. As an example, friends of Marcy’s spoke and recited words to a song they thought appropriate. At some funerals, songs are sung, balloons released, and flowers displayed for loved ones. Loved ones are asked about contributions to favorite charities, and that information can be included in the information handed out at the service. Choosing a casket and what type to choose are as important as the obituary to be written. Some individuals choose to write their own if they know they don’t have long to live. If a loved one has to write it under emotional duress, it is even harder.

Talking to loved ones, understanding their desires, and following their wishes will help everyone during this emotional time. Death is never welcome in any home, but preplanning a funeral takes some of the sting away.

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