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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Talking about Funerals

Oh, you weren't just talking about funerals? Well, on occasion you should. Your own anyways and your spouse's and for sure your parents. In the past 2 years I have buried 2 aunts, 3 uncles, a great nephew and now my mother-in-law. It is on my mind.

My mother-in-law passed away very unexpectedly on Saturday. She had made some arrangements prior to her death - she had been to the funeral home and paid to be cremated, a head stone and for her announcement in the paper. What she neglected to do was to make a will. She was 81 - that should have been done years ago. Now her kids have to make certain decisions that are not going to be easy. That could just possibly end some relationships. You know things like - what do they do with her house and her bajillion things inside? Her jewelry, her antiques, her knicknacks who gets what. Her car?

If you are young and still have children at home - it is super important that you have a will which designates who will become their guardian in case you and their other parent both die. No one wants to think about that but do you really want the state to decide who raises your kids? I didn't think so.

I know in this electronic age of digital cameras there are tons of pictures being taken but please be sure you have pictures with your loved ones also. We realized that we had no pictures of some of my kids with their grandma. The relationship wasn't close but we could have made sure that we that there was at least one picture was taken at Christmas.

The Short List of What You should do - bare minimum

1. Make a list - let your loved ones know your wishes - update it yearly around your birthday.

2. Make your Will - keep it current.

3. Be sure someone in addition to your spouse knows it exists and how to find it.

4. If you are older, it really is nice to have taken care of your funeral arrangements so your kids don't have to.

5. Even if you hate to have your picture taken - do it anyway. With everyone who is important to you. Get some of them printed.

My own list includes;
  • I don't want to be cremated - open casket if at all possible. It makes closure a little easier.
  • I want my family to purchase my casket from the Amish - $600 instead of $6000.
  • I want a rosary said at the wake.
  • I would like Memorials to go to my children or grandchildrens educations.
  • If I die soon I have a picture for the announcement in the newspaper.
  • My will is done, my plot is purchased I just need to go talk to a funeral home.
  • When at all possible not to miss opportunities to see extended family while they are ALIVE - so we don't have to say "it was great to see you but I wish it was under different circumstances".
Just a couple suggestions if you know someone who has lost a loved one.
1. Instead of saying "let me know if I can do something" just go ahead and do something. Bring over some cookies to the house, call and ask if any dry cleaning needs picked up, have pizza delivered or bring by a dish of food. Even drinks - water, pop, beer are always appreciated. Paper products - TP, plates, cups, plastic silverware - so they don't have to worry about dishes.
2. If there are children a bag of things to do at the funeral home is great - legos, crayons, markers, simple craft stuff, juice boxes and snacks all are appreciated.
3. A hug and a prayer go a long way. Showings are hard - no one likes to go but if you can it makes a world of difference to your friend.
4. If you are close, go over to the house and clean a little - dishes, bathrooms, places that will give a little order to the place and helps the family to relax.
5. Be sure to put your name and address on what you gave so the family can thank you.

I would love to know what you have done to help someone through this tough time.

I am linking this to Works for Me Wednesday at We Are That Family.


  1. This is a very hard subject to talk about but soooo important. We are all going to pass away someday, and you never know what is in your future. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. (found you via WFMW) - This is a great post. Yes, it is hard to talk about and no one wants to, but it is so important. I have done posts on getting your affairs in order, but you touched on so many other important aspects.

    We had a dear friend who served as a nanny for our son, who he LOVED and when she passed away, we realized we had zero pictures of them together. It was heartbreaking. the tip and just doing something rather than asking. No one likes to ask and frankly sometimes can put their thoughts together to ask for things. Or don't know what they want/need. The cleaning, the errands, the food, all wonderful.

    And if lots of family comes into town and you want to take food, breakfast food a awesome! Seriously...when my dad passed away someone brought two huge paper grocery bags of breakfast food to the house. Sure we had to cook it, but it seriously stocked the pantry and most people don't think of covering breakfast (plus you CAN eat it anytime!).

    Great post.

  3. I have to agree with everything you said, from the first words to the last. My husband is a funeral director and I work for a lawyer who does Estate Planning (which involves creating the will and living trusts,etc.) There are so many things we need to do now to help in the end. My own father will not make a will. He has told me time and time again that he is just sure as soon as he makes the will he will die. I can't say anything to get him to change his mind. I know I will have a difficult road ahead when he passes away if he doesn't do a will beforehand. Thank you for this post!

  4. Dee - you are welcome, it isn't a fun subject but it is necessary.

    Kaye - Breakfast is a great idea - I often take a breakfast casserole. If it doesn't get eaten it will freeze.

    Annikke - I know of people like your dad - my own dad won't make a will - he says "I will be gone - what do I care" it must be the era they are from. (well unless I am your parent's age)

    Thank you all for your kind words.

  5. Thank you for the reminder, Christy. I know a lot of people (including me) avoid it, thinking they'll do it "tomorrow". I don't want to keep putting it off until it's too late. Big hugs and well-wishes to you and your family.

  6. Christy, thank you for sharing this in the midst of your grief. It's a good reminder. I'd like to add that it's very helpful to make a list of all of your bank account, credit cards, bills, etc, and accompanying phone numbers. There are always an avalanche of phone calls to be made after someone passes, and it's good to have a list to go through, rather than try to figure it all out.

  7. I would add "get life insurance" to your list- my family is young, and it was a huge load lifted off my shoulders when we got term coverage. It will expire around the time we'd be retiring anyway, and if anything were to happen before then, the kids would be taken care of, the remaining spouse wouldn't have a huge financial burden on top of a crushing emotional one. It's ridiculously inexpensive, especially if you're young, but could be a huge blessing!