This is not a post about the afterlife, or what we think happens at death. This is a post about those left behind. Inspired by a friend of mine who wrote a great article here, I want to implore you to talk about death with those you love and who love you. In particular I want you to talk about your death.
When my father died I sat in the funeral director’s office with my sisters and we discussed what we thought Dad would want. His death had been pretty sudden, though we knew he had been unwell for a while. When it’s a sudden death it takes you by surprise. When there a number of people involved with the planning it can make it harder, not easy. Fortunately for us we had a couple of things that helped us. Firstly, we managed to get through it with shared love and a sense of humour.
Secondly, I happened to know what he wanted.
Dad’s wife Patsy had died the year before and she had known for some time that she was dying and so Patsy and Dad had planned her funeral together. He had commented to me that he had wanted exactly the same service – the same readings, hymns, everything and to be buried with her. He also, on a previous occasion, had said that at his funeral he wanted “none of this no flowers nonsense – I want the place brimming with flowers!” Dad had been a champion delphinium grower and had loved his garden. It made everything so much easier. The flowers on his coffin would have delighted him and so they delighted us.
Contrast this with my beloved mother-in-law, Sandy, and her sister having to make decisions about their mother’s funeral, who had also died suddenly – at a ripe old age but nonetheless shocking when it happened. Sandy and Gilly sat in another funeral director’s office choosing coffins, flowers, hymns, etc etc etc. Then they were asked one simple question “What do you want her to wear?” It was a question too far. It was a question that didn’t really matter but it was a question that they just couldn’t deal with and they both broke down.
Sandy later arranged a funeral plan for herself for the simple reason that “I never want you to go through that.”
Please, let your loved ones know. Decide what sort of funeral, what readings, what music, where you want to be buried or cremated. Write a list of friends that you want told. If you are having to arrange this for your parents it’s hard. If you are just a child or a spouse whilst doing it, then it’s horrible beyond belief – the one person who has the answers isn’t there.