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Your presence is important. If there is any way possible, please, just be there. When a child is born it is a life changing event for the parents, siblings and grandparents at the very least. It may also be a life changing event for the kindergarten teacher five years in the future. Bottom line, life matters.
When a life ends, it is also a life-changing event. Regardless of the age at which the person dies or circumstances of the death, lives will change. Family and friends will never see that person again. They will not share in each other’s joy. Neither will they have the opportunity to heal old wounds. They will not hear that voice in praise, love or anger ever again. It’s over, and in some way everyone close will have to adjust to the change.
The funeral, the gathering together, acknowledges a living person is gone. Your presence says, “Yes, this life mattered. And, yes, your lives have changed. But not everything has changed, you still have us.” Going is important.
The funeral home is a safe place for the family to receive guests and their condolences. It’s ok to cry at the funeral home. In a few weeks when you see this friend of yours who lost her mom, you will want to say something. And when you do, the emotion will open up and the sadness will surface. Crying at the grocery store or the soccer field is uncomfortable for everyone.
When people organize a funeral gathering and ask friends and family to come to them to share in their loss and sorrow, to help them. Please go, hold a hand, give a hug, share a memory, offer your condolences, and smile at the video. Let them cry in a safe place.
There are two ways to take care of funeral planning: 1) you can plan your own funeral in advance or 2) your survivors can plan your funeral for you after your death. Regardless of when or who plans the funeral, the planning needs to begin from the inside out. It needs to start with your family. Your family should be the foundation for funeral planning.
After all, the funeral is not really for the deceased…it is for those who survive. We show respect for all human life in the manner in which we care for the body that housed the soul or spirit of our loved one. Respect and dignity for the body is important. The funeral helps those of us who survive as by changing our focus from the cause of the death to the life that was lived. The funeral is the beginning of our grieving process and that is why funerals are so important.
If you are planning in advance for your own final remembrance, begin by thinking of those who love you. Your spouse, your children, your grandchildren, your friends and even your co-workers, what will they remember? What will make them smile? What will comfort them? What will they need? When they think of you what will come to mind? How is faith a part of their lives?
If you are planning a funeral for a deceased family member, involve the children, grandchildren and even close friends in the process. Ask them how they remember their friend or relative. Remember, we have all had a unique relationship with the deceased, so what you want to remember may be different from what your brother remembers. Ask your funeral director for ideas so they can help you capture and express the unique personality of your family member in the service plan.
For many years funeral planning started with a different set of questions. It started with questions about the faith. What church did your mother belong to? It followed with questions about the decedent’s wishes. What do you think your dad would want? These are still good valid questions but basing the entire funeral plan on only these aspects may not touch every family member.
Mother may have preferred that no one see her after death, but if you, her daughter, need to see her, speak up. If you don’t share your brother’s faith and you need to hear a eulogy that is all about his life or see pictures that bring back your time growing up together, speak up. The imprint of the funeral sticks with the surviving family. It is literally the last memory we carry of someone we loved.
It is not uncommon for people to ask themselves, “Since I never had any children, who will take care of my funeral plans?” That is all the more reason to preplan your own funeral!
Each state has laws that say who will “own” your body when you die. The “owner” is responsible for making and paying for your funeral service and “final disposition”. Final disposition is simply what happens to your body in the end and those choices include burial, cremation or donation. Regardless of disposition, a funeral service with or without a religious component will take place before or after disposition. These are all choices the responsible person will make.
If you are to be cremated, there is still the matter of what will be done with your cremated remains. They can be kept by a family member, scattered on private property, buried in a cemetery, or kept in a columbarium niche. Again, this is a choice the responsible person will need to make.
In most states the responsible person is your spouse. When there is no legal marriage then your parent will be responsible. If your parents are deceased, then your child will take the lead. When there are no children then your eldest sibling will be responsible.
As you can see, this system only works if you and your family are all of like mind regarding the funeral and you are on the same page regarding faith. Since this is not always the case, you can break the legal chain and designate a person of your choice to carry out your wishes.
It’s not at all difficult or even expensive. You just need to call the funeral home of your choice, ask for an appointment with the person who does the pre-planning. Be sure to tell that individual that you want to designate someone to carry out your wishes. He or she will need to get the proper paperwork for you to complete this task.
This is also a perfect time to talk to the pre-planning person at the funeral home about your ideas regarding both your funeral service and your final disposition. A funeral professional can help you get everything written down so that your designated person will know just what to do. Since this person will also bear the financial burden for your funeral service and burial or cremation, you will want to talk to the advance funeral planner about eliminating that burden by prefunding your plan.