PART ONE- THe F-Word
Why should I think about my funeral Ceremony?
If you are in any doubt about why on earth you’d want to think about your own funeral, here are three good reasons…
1. One day you won’t be here any more and your spouse/partner/children/parents will be trying to come to terms with that heart-breaking event, while at the same time being asked to make all sorts of decisions and answer questions like ‘did your mum want to be buried or cremated?’ If you can at least give your loved ones some clues before you go, it will make a huge difference to how they cope with all this.
2. Your family will, of course, want to make their own contributions to proceedings – this is the last thing they can do for you, so, it’s incredibly important that they are given the opportunity to express how they feel about you and your life. BUT, when all is said and done, it was indeed your life. And no-one knows your life better than you. So as others give their own perspective on who you were, what you’ve done, and what it meant to them, how about sharing what it meant to you and making a few contributions of your own?
3. Thinking about your own funeral ceremony can have a positive effect on how you view your life. Yes really! The idea of it may seem depressing at first, but acknowledging your mortality can give a meaningful perspective on your life and what you choose to do with the time you have. Life is precious and finite, it helps to be reminded of that.
What’s a funeral ceremony for?
Choices… Choices… That’s the beauty of funerals these days. You can decide, among other things, the type of ceremony you’d like, where it’s held, who conducts it, how you arrive, what music is played, what is said… You can even decide not to have a funeral at all if you don’t want one. It’s not a legal requirement. The only laws you must abide by after someone has died are registering the death and disposing of the body in an appropriate way. So, like David Bowie, you could just be cremated without family or friends present. No fuss or farewell.
But for most of us, a funeral ceremony provides an opportunity to give thanks for a person’s life, to express our feelings of love and affection for them, to celebrate and pay tribute to all they achieved, enjoyed and experienced while they were here, to share memories, to comfort each other, and, of course, to say farewell. If you feel the same way, and want to play a part in the creation and content of your own funeral ceremony, then Remember Me will give you all the information you need to do just that.
You can think about and decide on as much or as little of your funeral ceremony as you like. It’s entirely up to you. And while this isn’t a definitive guide to the world of funerals, if there is something you’d like to request or comment on that hasn’t been covered, such as style of headstone, or even how you’d like to be cared for should you become terminally ill, then add it to your wishes. You may also have a preference of funeral director. If you don’t, but would like to specify one, then ask for recommendations from family and friends who may have required the services of a funeral director within the last 12 months. It’s best to have current recommendations as, like all businesses, funeral directors can change hands or staff. You will have a choice of independent, family-run funeral directors, together with funeral homes belonging to chains, such as Co-op Funeralcare. I’m only familiar with the funeral directors in my own area, so it’s not fitting for me to make recommendations to you. And anyway, you’ll have your own preferences and tastes. But the most important thing is that they come across as both caring and professional, they listen to your needs and provide information without giving you the ‘hard sell’. You can always contact you local funeral homes yourself – perhaps even pop in next time you’re in town. Don’t worry – you’re not tempting fate – just being organised!
How do you want to capture all this important information?
Two desirable outcomes to Part Two of Remember Me are, first of all, getting down all your thoughts, ideas and wishes regarding your funeral ceremony, and, secondly, being able to pass on that precious information to those who will need it. You may wish to make your ideas known to your loved ones as soon as you’ve compiled them (or even share them as you go along) or simply place your wishes somewhere they can be found when the time comes. So with that in mind, it’s important to think about what format you’re going to work in. We did discuss this at the start of Part One, so you may simply wish to continue with whatever format you began with then. Or you may want to try something different. Here’s a reminder of your options, together with a specially-designed workbook…
Remember Me Workbook
I’ve designed a workbook for you to print out and use in conjunction with Part Two of this course. It provides the space for you to write down your thoughts and wishes, once you’ve considered the information provided in each section. You can then share the workbook with loved ones or keep it safe. You may, however prefer to capture your thoughts and ideas in your own way…
It’s highly likely you have a digital device of some sort at home – either a desktop computer, a laptop, or iPad. So you can type up your wishes – easily adding to or amending things as and when you want to. You can also get as creative as you like, designing your ideas, adding images, links etc. And when you’re done you can save the document to your desk-top or tuck it in a folder somewhere. Just make sure your loved ones know it exists and it can be found when needed.
If you’d rather get your thoughts down on paper, that’s absolutely fine. In fact, in this intensely digital age, there’s something rather lovely about leaving hand-written funeral wishes. Every now and again, families show me hand-written lists of music, poems, even final letters, from their loved ones. And just seeing the unique, personal handwriting of someone whose life I’ll be giving thanks for, gives me a meaningful connection to them – even more so than seeing their photograph. Some of these precious bits of paper I’m given are used envelopes, shopping lists, even betting slips! But you might want to get yourself a nice notebook instead. Once again, make sure your family/friends know it exists and where you keep it. And if you are known for having, let’s say, an ‘interesting’ handwriting style, remember it needs to be legible for others!
Audio and Video
If handwriting captures our individuality, then you can certainly say the same about our voices and faces. In fact, even more so. Recording your farewell wishes is certainly an option and, with computers, iPads and smart phones, there are plenty of ways of doing this. You might want to mix it up and combine typed or written notes with a recording. Certainly hearing the voice of someone dearly departed, or seeing their face in front of you once again, is a gift technology has made possible for everyone. And it’s great to be able to use this technology in such a life-affirming, positive way. But remember too that if this is a ‘surprise’ you are leaving for people after you’ve gone, it is going to be hugely emotional, both for you to record and, especially, for them to experience. So that does add a whole new layer of meaning to what you choose to say.
If you have artistic talents and would rather collate your farewell wishes in a more visual and creative way then… wonderful! Drawings, illustrations, photographs, scrap books… it’s entirely up to you. They will make a lovely memento for those closest to you. Just remember, the same ‘rules’ apply – are your wishes clear, do your loved-one’s know they exist and will they find them?
“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. Now is the
time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
- MARIE CURIE