A few years ago, after my dad had suffered the ups and downs of leukemia for about two years, mom and I were in his hospital room while he was sleeping. She looked at me and said “I think you better go buy a casket.” I asked her where she wanted me to go, called my husband and we went to a local funeral home, sat down with a funeral director, were handed a catalog of caskets and asked to choose one. I looked at a few choices, pointed to one and said “that one.” She said “ok” and closed her file folder.
That was the extent of our “pre-planning” although my parents had purchased burial plots a few years earlier. Several days later, I was at the same table, being asked questions, wondering why I was being asked some of the questions, told “thank you” and that was our arrangement conference when dad died.
While I was treated kindly, I was given few or no choices, was not given an obituary to proofread, was told when the next available service time was, asked to write a check and ushered out the door. A few days later at the funeral service, a totally different funeral home staff member, whom I had never met, was conducting the service, alone, with no assistance.
When we drove from the church to the cemetery, it was raining, and as we drove to the burial site, the vault was on top of the ground, no tent was set up, and unbeknownst to any of us, the funeral director and my dad’s casket were waiting for us indoors, and we had to search to find them.
Prior to this time, I had no idea what “pre-planning” was or why it is so vitally important to family members. There are so many things I would have done differently had I been given a choice or had I been told why that particular information was important.
When no pre-planning has been done, the most common question asked is “what are we supposed to do?” Would you send your loved ones to plan any other major life event, with an average cost of $7,000 to $10,000 without any instructions or direction about what they should do?
Pre-planning helps decisions to be made in an informed, educated manner so that your final arrangements may be as you wish them to be, and making those decisions are not a burden to your loved ones at a very difficult time. None of us want to be a burden to our loved ones, yet by not making pre-plans for the one event that we know will come, we leave that burden to those we love the most.
When a death is expected, its hard because we don’t want to give up hope. When a death is sudden, we are in a state of shock and are not thinking clearly. When we are healthy and making preparations for other areas of our lives, final arrangements should be included. Postponing those arrangements does not postpone our death. Talking with our loved ones about our wishes is a great gift to them. Family members who are not comfortable talking about death should be encouraged to do so in a gentle, kind way. There are many ways to start that conversation, and even if family members are not in favor of those conversations, one day they will be thankful for them.
Think about the person or persons who will be left to make your arrangements when you die. Have you had the conversation about your final wishes? Have you set aside the funds to pay for those plans? If not, why not? What are you waiting for?