Little Miss Funeral Shares The Naked Truth About Pre-PlanningJuly 27th, 2016
I know the look really well.
If you’re paying really close attention, I swear you could see the air escape from their mouths as their lips curl into a relieved smile.
“I’m so glad I decided to do this” is what they normally say as they walk out of the funeral home.
I’m so glad that they decided to do it as well. And even though I can see a weight being lifted off of their shoulders, these people who pre-plan their funerals are still in the minority.
Normally, people come see me only when they’re forced to. Mom or dad is going into a nursing home and they’ve been advised to pre-fund their funeral arrangements, you know, for Medicaid purposes. Or maybe a loved one has been placed on hospice care and the inevitable won’t be very long now. Because, really, who in their right minds would come to a funeral home to talk about their death? That’s morbid! It’s absolutely terrible to talk about and I don’t know about you, but I have better things to do with my time!
Except, I don’t.
You see, the longer I work in a funeral home the more I realize that the relationships that I have with my family and friends are the most important things in my life. The love and respect that I have for my husband, mom, dad, brother and everyone else is so great that I would never intentionally cause them any sort of pain. So why would I not pre-plan my funeral?
The Truth About Dying
We are all going to die. Like it or not; I am not going to live my life pretending otherwise. I may die tomorrow in a freak accident or eighty years from now warm in my bed. No matter what the circumstances are, I don’t want to put my family through any more grief than I have to.
When I sit down with families who have just experienced a death and their loved ones have nothing prepared, I see the pain in their hearts. Not only from the death, but also from an internal struggle to do the right thing. Would mom have wanted to be buried or cremated? She hasn’t been to church in years, but would she have wanted a Mass of Christian Burial? There are so many details that need to be taken care of in such a short amount of time whether you’re ready to make those decisions or not. And on top of all of that, there is often the financial burden. Is there life insurance? Who is going to pay for this?
My aunt passed away from pancreatic cancer this past December. She was realistic about everything from the beginning, while still remaining positive. She was divorced and had no children of her own, just one brother who lived in England. And she told me that when the time came, everything would be real simple. She wanted to be cremated and placed in her mother’s grave.
Simple. If only she knew how “simple” her wishes really were.You see, in New York State, the paperwork that needs to be filled out giving a funeral home permission to preform a cremation cannot be signed until after a passing. Which means, the next of kin has to sign off on it. In my aunt’s case, her legal next of kin was her brother in England, who was not planning on coming to the states when she passed. So I had my aunt fill out an appointment of agent form (a form that NYS created so people could choose who will handle their funeral arrangements, despite who the legal next of kin may be) and she named her cousin as the one who would handle everything. By talking about her wishes ahead of time, I was able to not only help her as her niece, but also as a funeral director to make sure we had the appropriate paperwork filled out so she was able to have the services that she wanted. We were also able to set aside her own funds so when the time came, everything would be paid for.
Make Your Wishes A Reality
Funeral directors are not scarey people. Believe it or not, most of us became funeral directors because we want to help others. It is not my job to convince you that there is a right or wrong way to have a funeral. If asked, I will honestly give you my opinion, however, I am more concerned that you make your wishes known rather than having any certain kind of service.
You want to be cremated? Awesome. Do you know the appropriate forms that need to be filled out and who needs to sign them?
You want to have an at-home funeral? Good for you. Are you aware of the necessary professionals that you’ll need to work with to file the appropriate paperwork (death certificates, permits, etc.)
You want to have a celebration of life? Does your family know what music you’d like to have played, what food you’d like to have served or what items you’d like to have on display?
Do you know, that no matter how traditional or nontraditional you are, there are still laws in placed when it comes to final disposition. You can depend on and trust funeral directors to help create the services that you would like to have to honor the life you’ve lived and guide you through this difficult and often confusing time.
And even though you haven’t asked for my opinion, I’m going to give it anyways. Please, please, please talk with your family. Because everyone is different. When someone passes away, I need to see their body so my mind can process the death. I need to see the shell of the person who I’ve loved and laughed with. I need the proof. I’ve finally been able to convince my mother to allow our family to have a private gathering when she dies, so we can spend time with her before the cremation process. If we hadn’t talked, she wouldn’t have understood how important that opportunity will be for me when I go through that grief journey. You may not know what your loved ones may need when you pass away if you don’t have that conversation as well.
I know that I come from a family that may be a little more comfortable talking about death than others. But just because you may not work in a funeral home doesn’t mean that you can’t become comfortable discussing it as well. Talk with you family. Talk with your funeral director. Make sure you have the appropriate paperwork completed for whatever your wishes may be.
And then take a deep breath, smile. You have the end all taken care of. I know you’re so happy that you did this.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Little Miss Funeral is actually Lauren LeRoy, a twenty six year old licensed funeral director in New York State. Little Miss Funeral was started in March 2012 as a platform for Lauren to share her thoughts and ideas on the funeral industry. She has written for and been featured with numerous funeral publications including funeralOne, ASD and most recently, the BBC.