Most weeks the idea I present for this blog kicks around my head for some time until it becomes fully formed. Sometimes, however, I wake up on a Wednesday morning and have no idea what topic I will write on. Today was one of those rare days. I have a topic I am working on, but it is not ready. The idea needs more research, and so I was left without an idea. This morning at my day job I asked two of my friends who know what I do, “Give me a topic on death. What do you want to know that you do not already know?” They looked at me with such shock and horror streaming from their eyes. It was as if I had just committed some taboo, which of course I did. I forget that even when people know what I do, and know how important this topic is to my heart, that they themselves are not comfortable talking about death. This reaction also told me I need to be more open myself with the topic of biological death. I need to be more attentive to those who appear open the topic. I hope one day that the topic of biological death will not be such a taboo topic. Sometimes I feel dejected by the work I do. Sometimes I feel that the work it too much and wonder what change can I really make. When I meet up with an experience like I had this morning, I am reminded of the importance of my work and how suited I really am to it. I must encourage people whenever I can to talk about death so that when they must deal with death, they might have some place to begin their work. To be fair to my friends, once the horror of my question passed, they were able to give me suggestions which I might cover in the future.
What happens when you must plan a funeral for someone you love who has died with little to no planning for his or her funeral? If we have done our homework, and researched what we want to happen in our time of death, we can use that information to help plan for the funeral. If we know our rights and are aware of the sales techniques of funeral directors and family service counselors (cemetery sales persons) we will be better able to plan a funeral from scratch. We will have a leg up on the rest of the population who may not know their rights in death. Knowing what awaits you in a funeral home’s or cemetery’s office allows you to make informed decisions. Knowledge gives you options even if you do not feel like you have many. Knowledge is power especially in a situation where a provider does not expect the consumer to have much of knowledge. This is the good news.
What happens if you have all the knowledge and still the options available are not ideal? What if time is an issue? What if you want to spend more time with your family and shopping around for a funeral is not what you want to do? What if you have to cross state lines with a body? What if the options you had hoped for are hard to come by, are too expensive, or you cannot find a funeral director who sees your vision? We then take a deep breath and put things into perspective. We decide what is most important. We choose an option we can live with, even if it is not the best. We do our best that is all we can do. We ought not to spend our time trying to do this funeral thing perfectly. That might just be an impossibility anyway. The end of life happens once in a lifetime. We must honor this time. It will not come around again. Planning a funeral takes a lot out of a person emotionally. When you have to plan a funeral at the time of death, planning a funeral is even more difficult. Be gentle with yourself and do not let the planning get in the way of connecting with those who have come to remember your loved one.
Today is St. Valentine’s Day and the whole world seems to be absorbed in romantic love. If you have a sweetie, the world seems so bright and the day filled with promise. Not everyone, however, has a sweetie and the day can then seem so cruel. On Valentine’s Day we might feel more alone than on any other day of the year. Valentine’s Day should not be a day of sadness. It should be a day of love. Today, let us not focus on romantic love; instead let us focus on those we love – those who fill our lives with beauty and joy. Perhaps we might think of those who need our love, but are so hard to love. Perhaps today we might begin to lighten their load. Maybe we could show love to our friends and family. Love binds us one to another through millions of acts of l love and brings light to some of our darkest days. Love ties us to each other in this life and connects us through the generations. Today, let us act in love with purpose this Valentine’s Day.
When planning your end of life plan, you might want to include personal information for your obituary. This aspect of planning might have an unexpected impact on how you live or view your life once you begin thinking about what information you might want to include. You might include the name and birth and death dates of your mother and father. You might also include your date of birth. As it stands, this basic information might sound sterile. You might want to produce a more personal document. What about your life story? What about who you are? You might next begin by considering what kinds of other things you might want to have people remember about you. Consider looking at some achievements or important moments in your life you would want people to know about you. Death planning can be so heavy. You look squarely at your life and acknowledge that the you as we know you will one day no longer be. That is a huge shift in thinking and often once you acknowledge this, and begin planning your life will take on a more focused attitude. You might see your life more clearly and begin doing those things you have put off doing. Writing your obituary or providing information for your obituary is an interesting exercise. All it takes is you sitting down with a pen and paper or like me a laptop and begin to tell the story. If telling a story is too much, make a list of what you want remembered of you. There is no wrong way to do this. This process might help focus on what you find most important and you might see a pattern emerge about yourself. This process might just give you more insight into your daily life and your inner workings. As the other aspects of end of life planning, this process should enhance your life, not detract from it. Remember this is about things you love and your achievements. These things do not necessarily have to be worldly achievements; they just have to be those things you feel most proud of or things that have given you great joy. Just begin.