Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pre-Planning, Part II

There is something very special about funerals and memorial for people who helped plan those services. I have attended a number of those for friends, and it brought an added depth to the ceremonies to know the deceased had picked scripture readings and music and asked certain people to speak. It was like the person was with us spiritually that day.

The thought of pre-planning a funeral scares the bejeebers out of a lot of people. They think that if they actually put the plans on paper they are somehow alerting death and he will pounce. That is especially true with people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. But planning a funeral service will not hasten death. It merely gives a person some small measure of control in a situation where they have so little control.

We can’t control what illnesses we might get. Well, okay, we can do some things to stay healthy. But even so, cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and other terminal illnesses strike almost randomly at times. So the only control we have when we are looking at the stark reality of death is what happens afterward. We can decide if we want to be cremated or not. If so, where do we want our ashes to end up? Where do we want to be buried? What kind of service do we want?

Memorial services that celebrate a person’s life have become very popular and appeal to a lot of people who are making these decisions. “I want people to remember me as having a good time and enjoying life,” one patient said. “And I want a party afterward.”

Some patients have told me that being able to make these decisions and plan for the “afterward” has made their last few weeks or days much more bearable. And family and friends attending services planned by the deceased have shared that knowing that is what made the service more meaningful.

Until next time

1 comment:

Paula S Yost said...

Right on, MaryAnn! Pre-planning can be very beneficial for both the person leaving us and those left behind. When I interviewed my father for a book about his life, I asked him to share his thoughts on religion, death, etc. Three years later, as I stood before friends and family at his memorial, it was a blessing to be able to read his words to them. He, in effect, was delivering his own eulogy, and we all felt the gift of his presence that day. I also had no doubts regarding his final wishes and the appropriateness of his memorial service.