Have you prepared for your own death? Whether you’re a millennial with a full life ahead of you or a baby-boomer in the twilight years of life, I don’t know whether there’s a consensus on when to prepare for one’s own eventual death.
For most of us, I think we all imagine ourselves living a long and fulfilling life – then enjoying our senior years traveling or sitting in a comfortable chair watching the setting sun with a glass of wine. This should leave us with plenty of time to get our affairs in order, right? Sometimes this is not always the reality we face. Tragedy can attack us unexpectedly from every direction – accidents, disease, violence and other events that are out of our control. These things can strike at any age, forcing the thought of our own mortality to the forefront. But whether a death is expected or not, most of us don’t position ourselves for the inevitable. As funeral directors, you are front and center of it all on a daily basis. You also see the difficulties associated with death when it impacts those who are left behind. Unfortunately, some people don’t plan, or for that matter, even care about what happens to their bodies after they die. This leaves surviving family members with the emotional and financial leftovers of one’s life.
Acceptance and action will go a long ways in your planning. The first step in addressing death is getting to the right place, emotionally - to accept, rather than deny the fact that you will die. Personally, it’s only been the past ten years or so when I’ve come to accept my death is coming. During that time, the loss of both my parents, and more recently, an older brother made it more personal and real. However, accepting the reality of my eventual death certainly doesn’t mean I’m ready to die. Heck, there are way too many things I still want to see, do and experience. I’m just getting to a place in my mind that I need to go to the next step – preparing.
Before my parents died, the topic of death never came up. When my father died rather suddenly in his mid-70’s, this was really the first time I was faced with the question funeral directors hear all the time… now what? Fortunately, this was also when I found out about how organized and detailed my parents were in preparing for their deaths. Then, when my mother passed nearly seven years later, again, everything was already planned out. For us children, it was a valuable gift and demonstrated how to advance plan and manage their inevitable passing the right way.
There are numerous reasons to prepare for your own death – but the two most common one’s are to control how you want leave a remembrance for your family; and to minimize the burden left in the wake of your passing. Below are several areas one should consider when addressing these reasons. While you may already know them, it’s a great reminder to yourself, your loved ones, and the families you serve. Please feel free to share!
Share Your Mortality with Family
Whether through the assistance of the “Have a Talk of the Lifetime” campaign materials or simply sitting down for that ‘uncomfortable’ conversation with your children and family, it’s important that it be done. This not only prepares everyone for the inevitable but also gets everyone on the same page (hopefully) on how to handle the affairs later.
Plan Your Funeral
What kind of service do you want, if any? How do you want your remains handled? Burial or cremation? If cremation, where do you want your ashes to go? Religious service or not? Private or public? With the help of an Advance Plan program from a respected professional you can address the details and finances associated with the plan.
Through the help of a well written will, your property can be distributed in the fashion you desire minimizing conflicts that could occur. If this isn’t done well, you’d be surprised how bureaucratic problems can easily arise from the lack of a will.
Once you have addressed your pre-need plans, minimizing all other financial burdens for family members may include estate planning, inheritance tax issues, trust funds, unpaid bills or other debts.
Today, we all have a digital footprint out there, from bank accounts, investments and, of course, social media. Make sure you provide the information, access and passwords so someone can take care of this once you are gone. Not only does this tidy up your affairs, it may avoid the potential for identity theft – yes, even after you’re dead.
When a person drops into the world, it’s like a pebble dropping into water, creating ripples that flow outward so around you is affected by your presence. In other words, you’ve made a difference in the world in which you live. Be proud of that, and consider preserving your legacy through photos, video legacy and even your own obituary. My grandmother, with whom I’d lost touch with for 20+ years (that’s another story) took the time to create a wonderful album containing photos, letters and notes that helped me better understand my family history that I never knew. This is a priceless gift that I will always cherish.
Like my parents, a part of one’s legacy can be the preparation and effort they make in minimizing the burden of their death upon the family. You, too, have the opportunity to set an example on how to handle the dying process without creating trauma or stress for those remaining. And eventually when you die, you’re going to try to do so with that same love and grace.