Don’t make a fuss when I’m gone

Don’t make a fuss when I’m gone

“Don’t make a fuss when I’m gone.”

Have you already heard this  from a parent or life partner? They say it because they don’t want you to spend a lot of money on a funeral or memorial service when they die. But there is more to it than money. What about the religious, cultural and practical aspects?

Do your family funeral traditions require an elaborate church service?
Is there always a viewing followed by a graveside service? Are survivors expected to provide a substantial meal for mourners afterwards?

Are there friends and family scattered all over the country – or all over the world? It will take time to make arrangements and travel plans to gather everyone in one place. Someone needs to tend to details like choosing music and passages to be read, and inviting people to speak. Funeral directors and clergy/celebrants can help with the planning, but family members still need to make most of the decisions. They need to know a person’s wishes in order to get it right.

Funeral industry expert, FUNERAL ONE, conducted a survey to discover how people felt about attending funerals. In their blog, Rochelle Rietow wrote about the surprising results: “People want a fresh, celebratory take on the dark and dreary funeral.” The survey asked about the last funeral they attended, “…18.4% of respondents said that it was a “typical funeral…sad, boring, creepy.”

Adding special elements to a traditional funeral can personalize it and make it less boring. Does Mom like certain hymns? Did your father volunteer as an athletic coach or Rotary member? Adding photos, program highlights, and unique music make a funeral memorable and not just something to sit through.

Money may not be the real the issue. A friend who prefers burgers instead of steak told her sons, “…just get together with some salami, cheese, and a good bottle of wine.” An overly fancy send-off would be out of character for this modest woman. Another family is holding a barbecue picnic, inviting friends to play guitar and sing. Their mother was cremated months ago, but the casual outdoor memorial service is what she wanted: a less somber, more joyful way to remember her life.

Do we know what our loved ones want? They might have memories of funerals that made them uncomfortable, or left a family in debt because of overspending ‘for appearance sake.’ (Sadly, it happens.) They may recall a wonderful service they attended and want to include the same features and details. Planning should take into consideration their personality, lifestyle, and financial means.

Families are increasingly asking for more party-like celebrations, with balloon or butterfly releases, yacht cruises, hikes, or tree-planting events. Have you discussed these ideas with your family? Once we talk openly about what we consider a good funeral, there is no guesswork when the time comes. Planning ahead eliminates family squabbles and saves time. It allows survivors to focus on their grief and not on event planning and managing expenses.

Share how YOU want to say goodbye at the end of your life.
Talk about your plans!

Cemeteries offer a special place to connect with our past

Cemeteries offer a special place to connect with our past

Cemeteries offer a special place to connect with our past.

We can feel a sense of belonging (especially if there is a family plot) and have a lasting way to honor those close to us with cultural, religious, and patriotic symbols.
Today’s expansive, formally designed and landscaped memorial parks offer visitors a rich experience with walkways and gardens to enjoy. Generally a quiet place, anyone can find peace and a moment to reflect during a cemetery visit.

People say they find comfort from their visits and are eased through the grieving process. Lucy Kalanithi wrote in an epilogue to her husband’s book, WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR, that she visits his grave often, bringing a small bottle of Madeira wine. “Each time I pour some out on the grass for Paul.” She describes how Paul’s grave “…looks west, over five miles of green hill crests, to the ocean.”

Full body, in-ground burial is not the only option. Caskets can be placed in mausoleums, or in crypts easily viewed from outdoors. Those who choose cremation can appreciate a scattering garden at a cemetery, or a niche in a columbarium.

Is it tradition in your family to have an in-ground burial? Is that what you desire most? Then it is important to have that discussion now, while you can express your wishes clearly. Does the idea of being below ground bother you?
Make your preference known to your family. Don’t leave it to them to guess.

If one spouse favors cremation, and the other prefers burial, arrangements can be made to have both interred in the same space, so that both wishes are met. And the family need only visit one place.

Talk about your plans now, and for couples, choose your final resting place while you are both living. Should it have a hilltop view? Or be a private garden with a bench? Will a quiet indoor setting be more comforting?
It is wise to make the purchase early to get exactly what you want.