“Is Your Funeral Planned?”
The celebration of life (funeral) for a young husband, father, and friend gripped us all, as we confronted our own mortality.
Planning a wedding and a funeral really are not that different, the costs are significant, but usually a funeral is planned in 3 days or less, and you don’t know how many are coming.
As I celebrate a milestone birthday later this month, my goal is to have my funeral planned, so that my family knows my wishes. I also want to truthfully tell my coaching clients, that I too have faced my own death, and letting-go issues with a plan for my home-going.
Heaven is a wonderful place, and grief is hard on the loves one left behind, so let’s make a checklist of things to talk about and write plans for.
- Burial…do you have a spot at the family plot ? Is it well maintained? Can you plant a memorial tree there? What do we do with your ashes?
- Body…As you are dying, do you want to give new life to the organ recipients you have considered ? Do you want to be cremated, or in form for a viewing ? Do you want people to be able to touch your body as they say their goodbyes?
- Box…how fancy does it have to be? I have picked out 3 caskets in my lifetime, and I vote for the cheapest pine box, wrapped with a quilt. Some people store their caskets at home, but you can make other pre-arrangements! Cremation containers come in many formats.
- Bouquets…plant a tree in my memory, and have a few arrangements at my service, but don’t spend heaps on roses for my casket spray. I once made a casket spray using wheat, flax, ditch grasses, and tiger lilies for $35, not $350…you can do a great job yourself, but most people wouldn’t attempt this. What’s your favourite flower ? Do you want graveside roses in vials for your mourning family ? I have seen a toy tractor as part of the spray, and a viola at the altar.
- Bearers…who do you want to carry you to the grave ? Women can be given this honour, too. The pallbearers might all wear matching tee shirts and jeans, which honours a young life lost. List a few alternates.
- Bulletins…Get your picture taken, one you really like. In the digital world lots of great photo stories are possible for the service bulletin. You can put a copy in your funeral plans file which you are starting after reading this article. I have also seen a video screen picture on the altar, and a power point picture as the banner for the service.
- Beliefs…What is your favourite Scripture verse or saying ? A woman who died of cancer had a verse about “What Cancer Cannot Do”. You might have a special verse that describes your faith journey, and encourages the mourners. What message do you want your pastor to preach?
- Blocks…of granite. Do you know what you want marked on your tombstone…or graveside marker? “Love one another” was my mother’s choice. My sister’s grave marker has her signature. A walk through the local cemetery will give you lots of ideas. I won’t have a picture of our farm, but this too has been done! Some families dedicate the marker a year after the burial.
- Blessing with music. Music is a powerful release and great comforter. Choose the songs that are special to your journey which will bless the grieving congregation. I have witnessed young teens play for their dad’s funeral, and seen the power of bagpipes and the violin as solos. “Jesus loves me” is universal in its healing power. Some younger folks tune in with popular CD’s. Start collecting the tunes now that you want relayed at your life celebration. Three part harmony was a real blessing at a graveside ceremony where family members and friends covered the grave by hand with long handled spades. The physical action of laying the soil helps the healing process.
- Benefactor…which charity will receive donations in lieu of flowers? Do you have a special mission or local cause that you wish your friends will support in your memory ? Will a trust fund be needed to support your dependent children ?
- Balls and balloons. I have seen grandkids throw golf balls into the grave as they say farewell to a beloved grandfather. White balloons were a strong connection for our family to relate their love of fun to their deceased grandma who delighted in their water balloon games. The children released the balloons at the graveside.
- Biography…My favourite page of the Globe and Mail is the back page, where I read of a life well lived. What key points do you need to jot down about your story ? Would you spend some time writing your own obituary ? This is a key area where your foresight could really help out your grieving family. Reading the eulogy, publishing the obituary, these are big tasks, and you can soften the hardship by offering your words, recorded on paper and disk. Would you ask 3 friends from hockey, golf, and your Bible study group to speak about you?
- Buns…Raisin buns are a traditional funeral food, along with meat, cheese, pickles, and dainties. Breaking bread together around a table is a healing thing.
There is a trend to have no funeral, or a private graveside ceremony. I think this shortchanges the community. We need to grieve, to hug, and talk about the loved one lost. Don’t forgo the chance to create a community bond of caring, have a funeral!
- Barrister…If it is true that 50% of the people reading this don’t have a will, that’s very sad news. Get your will updated, and chat with your beneficiaries about your wishes. Make a separate list of special belongings you want to go to specific people.
- Books…on planning your funeral are readily available from funeral directors.
“That which is good to be done, cannot be done too soon; and if it is neglected to be done early, it will frequently happen that it will not be done at all.” (Bishop Mant)
I really want us all to act on this. Written plans are a wonderful gift to the family left behind, when they have some understanding of how you would like to be celebrated.
Elaine Froese is a catalyst for courageous conversations and change. Her passion is to encourage families to act on what they know they ought to do. Elaine is a professional speaker and certified family business coach from Boissevain, Manitoba.