5 Questions Your Family Hopes You Have Answered

This is part 1 of the five questions that every family hopes that you have answered when it comes to funerals.

The reality is that there are actually hundreds of questions that your family will wish they would have asked you when planning your farewell service. While space won’t permit me to print all of them, please allow these five questions some time to sink in, and then do your family a favor – and thoughtfully answer them – put it in a nice folder – and give it as a gift to a loved one.   If you would prefer a Free Personal Planning Guide contact us and we will provide you one.

It is a gift that you don’t have to shop for, it doesn’t have to cost you anything – unless you get a really fancy folder, - and it is the kind of gift that will grow in value some day – in a way people won’t appreciate until they get to rely upon the information inside it.

Question # 5: How should we account for all of your accomplishments?
Whether mom was a prize pie maker or head of the school board, there almost always exists a list of moments of achievement that some day your children will clamor for when trying to sort out details for your obituary. Do your family a favor – and put together a list of accomplishments that can be accessed easily.

Or – you may prefer to put together a draft of your own obituary.

Either way – listing what was important to you will go a long way in helping your family remember your contributions to their world.

Question #4: What wishes or preferences have you regarding public and private services?

Remember to try to be inclusive of the needs of your family when addressing this question. I have been a party to very sensitive discussions regarding this topic, in which the deceased did not wish for any public observance of his death. The family, struggling to honor his wishes, ends up sacrificing the healing that comes when extended family and friends surround those who have lost a loved one – and acknowledge that a loss has taken place.

Often, people have mixed feelings about being viewed following death. As a person who was present when a relative of my own passed away, I can share personally that the farewell at the hospital paled in comparison to the farewell we were able to give our relative in a private setting at the funeral home – when we weren’t quite as frazzled as we were in the hours leading up to the passing at the hospital.

Suddenly, there was no hurry – there was no busy medical staff, and no hospital public address system. Instead, we were able to see a more peaceful presentation of our loved one – dressed in clothing she preferred, not a hospital gown, with her favorite lipstick on – not hissing oxygen mask.

This viewing took place privately, with members of our family only. We would honor our relative’s wishes, and close the casket prior to public visitation.  If you wish you can even have the private viewing (which can be an emotional event) on a different day than the visitation and not have the casket present for the visitation at all. 

So when addressing preferences regarding public and private services, I always encourage people to be inclusive of family needs. – Viewing is an important part of grieving the reality of death, especially for immediate family. Likewise, allowing a time for family and friends to gather to remember the person who died is almost universal in its practice.

If you prefer cremation, know that most families still desire to view a person prior to cremation. Regardless of your decision, please take the time to weigh your options, and thoughtfully express your wishes to your family.

Question # 3: To what degree should spirituality play in your farewell service?

You’ll note that I carefully used the word spirituality in this question. I do so because more than a third of the families we serve today do not report a church affiliation.

Spirituality is defined as a more personal experience of enlightenment than the shared experience of religion. In fact, many people who do not consider themselves religious do consider themselves spiritual.

To this end, being inclusive of traditions, from musical to scriptural and ceremonial are important considerations.

If my life came to an end today – my own service would be very spiritual – involving the minister who has married my wife and I, baptized our children and has journeyed with us for the past decade.

If I have the luxury of living a long life, perhaps my service would be more inclusive of the spiritual needs and customs of my children and extended family.

Know that your funeral director can assist in providing suggestions on meaningful services tailored to the degree of spirituality you desire in your farewell service.

Question # 2: What preparations have been made for your final expenses?

It is helpful to consider final expenses (not just funeral costs) because they are inclusive of so much more than just the services of a funeral home and a casket (which are the national standards used to calculate funeral costs):

Final expenses can include:

The costs associated with cemetery purchases, grave openings and closings, the cost of a monument, travel expenses (if families come and go from a great distance) memorial gifts, flowers, meals and death certificates.

Life insurance is one option, as is a pay on death account at a local bank. But deciding on what option is best for you may take some planning. Be aware that many funeral homes are not able to bill estates for funerals due to the often long, drawn out process of estate administration.

Having some written instructions to your family regarding final expenses will relieve anxiety and uncertainty regarding important decisions that must be made in the hours and days following the death of a loved one.

And the #1 question that your family hopes that you have answered: Where will you be permanently remembered?

It may seem like a forgone conclusion to you – but considering that fact that over 40% of Americans today are cremated, and that of those cremated, only about half are arranging a final resting place for their cremated body – this is a concern that weighs heavily upon the minds of those arranging a funeral.

First – know your options. Is there existing cemetery property that you may have a right to use? If you are planning to be cremated – can your cremated body be placed upon an existing grave? – If you live in the Tuscarawas Valley –chances are very good that your local cemetery will permit multiple burials of cremated bodies in one grave.

There also exist columbariums – a sort of mausoleum designed specially for urns holding a cremated body.

Scattering remains an option of a small percentage of those choosing cremation locally. Discussing this option with family members and gaining consensus on the right place, and the right time to conduct a scattering ceremony is also important. You’ve read before in this column that once a person is cremated – they have the luxury of being able to be in more than one place at a time – so do not exclude the thought of being both scattered and interred in an ancestral burial plot.

Feel free to call my office at the telephone number given below to discuss these and other questions with a funeral planner. We even have special guides that can be completed the privacy of your home, that will help answer the many questions that your family will require some day, when you won’t be here to answer the questions personally.

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