Planning a funeral right after a family member dies is probably the last thing you want to do. But by putting some plans and information on file with a funeral home, you can make it so much easier on your surviving loved ones.
While conducting research before writing A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die, my husband and I met with a funeral home to preplan for my father-in-law, Norman.
Norm had undergone three open-heart surgeries during his lifetime. After the third operation, he was in a coma for ten days. When he came out of the coma, his doctor said, “You’d better get your affairs in order.” He had taken care of financial and estate planning, but six years later, he still hadn’t done any funeral planning.
At the funeral home, we were surprised at how much information was needed. We were glad to have the luxury of time and Norm’s availability to provide more details.
Discussing Death Over Dinner
Over dinner with Norm and Myra, his wife of almost 60 years, he was upbeat about our arrangements. “Sure, I’ll get you my veterans papers, my Social Security number and the family history,” he said. “I’ll even write my own obituary!” I’m thinking, this is great!
Then I looked over at Myra. She looked down at the roast beef and the mashed potatoes, saying nothing. She didn’t want to think about this. She didn’t want to talk about this. Norm is going to live forever! We know how that goes, don’t we? I got the information and put it on file with a trusted local funeral home.
This was three years before Norm actually died at the age of 82. Following a fall and a broken hip, he experienced a seven-week decline, going back and forth between the hospital and rehab facility. During his third ER admission with trouble breathing, the doctors suggested palliative care: make him comfortable and allow nature to take its course.
It was a tough decision for Myra, his named medical advocate, one which she did not want to make. My husband and I advocated for palliative care.
Norm died peacefully in the hospital a week later, with the family gathered around him. At midnight. On a Tuesday. After seven weeks of schlepping back and forth to hospitals and care facilities. We were exhausted.
Planning Ahead Helps Enormously
When we went to the funeral home the next day, finalizing the arrangements was easy and quick. We just tweaked a few of the elements we had already put in place and Myra put it all on her credit card.
We were done in an hour. The part that took the most time – writing Norm’s obituary, which he failed to do as promised. We were too exhausted to write anything eloquent to put in the death notice announcement. However, he was eulogized well at the funeral.
After meeting with the funeral director, Myra admitted, “I really didn’t like it when you were preplanning, but now, when we needed it, I’m glad it was done.” A few months after Norm’s funeral, Myra had us put her information on file with the funeral home for her eventual demise at some future time.
As of this writing, she’s still alive and kicking nine years later. These examples set by my in-laws offer living proof: you can plan ahead and not die.
Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist, is a pioneering death educator who connects companies with baby boomers concerned about end-of-life issues. An award-winning speaker and author, she’s also the coordinator of the second annual Before I Die New Mexico Festival, October 30 to November 4, 2018. Learn more at www.BeforeIDieNM.com.
Academy Guest Blogger
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