As I get older, the reality of mortality begins to be more prevalent as older family members, friends and even celebrities I grew up with begin to pass. However, the
conversation of one’s own eventual demise still isn’t water cooler or lunch time conversation – at least not yet.
Yet, there appears to be a growing trend to taking a more direct approach to facing one’s death. From an introspective approach, reminiscing about your life, the things you did and the legacy you leave behind come to the forefront. Taking a page out of the national awareness campaign by FAMIC (non-profit arm of the NFDA), their Have a Talk of A Lifetime focuses on senior family members sharing their stories of their past as well how they want to be remembered – all designed to help in personalizing their own funeral service.
With that in mind, there are a number of things people are doing now – before they pass that not only help them prepare for the inevitable, but also makes it easier for those who are left behind. While none of this is new, these are reminders of how people can face the death head-on, and on their own terms.
When it comes to death, celebration and how to approach it, let’s look at four areas to consider:
For many families, a death can be one of the most traumatic times in one’s life so filling out a standard obituary form can ease the burden. However, when the person is unique, special and unlike the ‘average’ person, many times a personal and custom obituary is more appropriate and fitting. Take the time to write about the personality, the people, places and events that excited them.
Are you curious about how your obituary is written? You should be.
But you have the ability to control that by writing your own obituary. Is that morbid? No! We’re all going to die so whether you’re 20 or 80, it can’t hurt to put something down. I have always liked the letter that start off with,”If you are reading this, then I am dead…” Have a Talk of a Lifetime is a wonderful project that will help families better personalize the obituary but also the funeral service.
Celebratory Funeral Services:
This is a tricky one for me personally. I truly believe that an older person who lived a full life should be celebrated for the fact they lived rather than the fact they died. The difference they made in the world around them is special and unique to them. When my father died, my mother mourned his death until the day she died, 8 years later, She loved to talk about him and the things they did together but always, always missed him.
For a young life that didn’t experience many years, this can be very difficult. We all have experienced the tragedy of those events. The heartache can be immeasurable and long lasting preventing one to appreciate their life for however short it was.
Celebration Before You Die:
I have no idea how a terminally ill person feels or thinks but I do like the idea that if a person is in that situation, they have the opportunity to join in a celebration of their life before they die. Depending on the circumstances, the positive experiences that are shared can be cathartic for not only the individual but for family and friends as well.
Leaving a Legacy in Your Words:
We believe every life has a story regardless of how boring you may think yours may be. To your family and friends, that may not be the case. Family history is a huge interest to folks these days – the heritage, family roots, ancestry, genealogy are all top-of-mind. Sharing and preserving your family history for your children, grandchildren and future generations is important to understanding who we are.
As mentioned, the NFDA FAMIC supported Have a Talk of a Lifetime initiative can be terrific in helping families better personalize loved one’s services. At the same time, it can be a wonderful recorded family history if you take a moment to record these conversations. The information and stories can last for generations as their voice, inflections, accent, facial expressions and body language all reveal the person behind the name.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, ‘I wished I had recorded her/his stories before she died…’ Considering taking a proactive role in planning your own service, obituary and even legacy!