It could be as simple as deciding what type of funeral service you want, or what you want done with your body. Think about it? What kind of reception or viewing you want, better yet, what kind do you not want? Who’s supposed to handle the arrangements? How will it be paid for?
It may sound morbid, but in reality this is just responsible planning.
The death of a family member or close friend is something we are all going to experience or be involved in—planning for it in advance makes sense in five important ways.
1. WHEN MY MOTHER DIED, WE DIDN’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING BUT MOURN.
My Dad had already handled everything for both of them and left specific instructions…the cremation from Cremations Only in Gainesville, Florida. Interment at the Florida National Cemetery (Dad was a vet) right next to his ashes. Wham, Bam…..done. And, just knowing that Dad had it taken care of was such a relief for our family, all because everything was planned out in advance.
When the daughter of late singer Whitney Houston and Bobbi Brown died, her death sparked just the type of family fight that can result in bitterness and separation for years to come in some instances when the end of life decisions aren’t planned in advance.
Bobbi Kristina Brown died under suspicious circumstances at the age of 23. It‘s not surprising that she had no end of life plans, but the result is that both sides of her family, mother, Whitney Houston’s relations and father, Bobbi Brown’s family are in a fight to the death over Whitney Houston’s multi-millions. I read that the Houston relatives even got into a verbal fight with the Brown side of the family at the private funeral service.
Written funeral plans would have prevented most of what developed around the Brown death.
2. YOU COULD SAVE YOURSELF OR YOUR LOVED ONE A LOT OF PAIN.
I heard a story about a man named Ted who was suffering from a terminal cancer and ended up in the ER one night experiencing shortness of breath. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and his breathing became progressively more labored. About 2 AM, one of the medical residents was called to check on him since his breathing was getting worse.
The resident did what he was trained to do. He gave Ted a sedative to put him to sleep and carefully fed a tube down his throat and attached the tube to a ventilator that mechanically began pushing oxygen into Ted’s lungs.
A day later, Ted was breathing but needing more and more oxygen. The ventilator was working harder but his circulation and kidneys were shutting down. The oncologist in charge continued to insist to the family that everything needed to be done to give Ted more time. After another day of suffering on Ted’s part, Ted’s family came to visit while his primary physician was checking on Ted. The family doctor told the family that the battle wasn’t being won and they were losing Ted.
His wife spoke up and said her husband would not wanted to be kept alive this way but no one had bothered to ask them. They just kept doing intervention after intervention.
Pre-Planning would have probably circumvented a lot of the medical interventions that Ted had to endure.
3. YOU’LL SAVE YOURSELF, OR YOUR FAMILY, A LOT OF $
A couple of months ago, a friend of mine died. She’d been fighting breast cancer hard for over two years. Even though we knew she was dying (after trying everything her oncologist recommended), she wasn’t open to hospice and didn’t really want to talk about her funeral arrangements. I know, because I tried to have these discussions with her.
So, when she died, her husband ended up just calling the most prominent (read expensive) funeral home in town. This particular funeral home is part of a huge national chain. Their ‘funeral consultants’ were actually commissioned salespeople who were experts at up selling the grieving families on everything.
Her funeral service and reception was proof of how well the salesperson did his/her job. An elaborate coffin, handouts, slides, service and reception with loads of expensive flowers. A beautiful setting for those of us who loved her, but one that could have been done for far less money if the family didn’t happen to have the resources.
Having a conversation and making sure that your wishes are written down somewhere, is one way to make sure that your funeral won’t financially hurt your family members.
4. YOU’LL BE IN CHARGE OF YOUR FINAL WISHES
Over half of all families go to a funeral home for advise on what kind of funeral they should give their loved one. Funeral home will sometimes use the families’ stress and grief to increase profits—”I’m sure that you want the very best for your grandfather…” . They know that most of us don’t shop around and don’t really understand what is required and what is just unnecessary.
For example, if you want a memorial service for your loved one instead of a funeral service (the body is present at the funeral service), then you don’t need the funeral home or director. You can have that service anywhere including a park or your home.
Discussing these things in advance, helps avoid family fights and prices can be kept down. A lot of funeral rituals are unnecessary and unneeded: published obituaries (online obits cost MUCH less than newspaper obits), open caskets (embalming costs up to $1,000), flower arrangements (if you want flowers, buy them at the supermarket).
Planning for your death keeps costs down.
5. PLANNING FOR YOUR DEATH CAN GIVE YOU PEACE OF MIND WHILE YOU LIVE.
Most Americans plan things. We plan vacations, schooling, retirement, bed rituals, daytime activities in our planners. Planning makes us feel like we’ve accomplished things. It gives us a target to shoot for.
Planning for your death is the same. Few of us want to memento mori or remember that we must die, but we’re all going to. And age doesn’t matter.
I was walking with a friend last night and she mentioned something about her brother’s funeral. I asked her when he died and she said five year ago. I asked her how old he was and she said, “Nineteen”. I asked her what he died of (thinking it was some illness) and she said, “An automobile accident.”
That nineteen year old kid and his parents and sister never expected that an accident would take their son/brother away. But stuff happens.