A friend of mine who is originally from South America told me that on her next visit home, she plans to make all kinds of legal arrangements for her elderly parents. She has an appointment with an attorney and plans to discuss burial options with her parents and make sure that she and her siblings are in agreement on what is best for the family. We all know stories of families who stop speaking to each other because of disagreements about end of life decisions. I commended her on her foresight and how she would be saving her siblings from additional stress at a time of sorrow for all. Then I thought about how many of us have neglected to take on this same task when we can. For those readers fortunate enough to have parents still living, this approach should be imperative. But as we age ourselves, how many of us have made such arrangements regarding burial plots, maintenance for the plots, updated our wills to include grandchildren or other matters?
Being baby boomers, we are used to reinventing just about every other life experience…so why not change how we deal with this sticky subject? Correction: this should not be a sticky subject at all. Death is going to happen to all of us and despite the anxiety and fear that may come with the subject, it doesn’t have to be avoided. In fact, the best way to avoid anxiety is to be prepared.
It isn’t difficult to be prepared these days. There are many books, articles and professionals who can help with the details. Organizations such as AARP or the Funeral Consumers Alliance can provide information and other resources. This is not about end-of-life issues like whether to be at home, in a hospital or hospice. It is about making sure the paperwork is in order for your survivors. It is an emotional time, no matter what, but knowing that you are lessening the burden on others can be a relief.
Educate yourself about the options available and make informed choices. You may want to visit a cemetery or consider cremation; think about the difference between a funeral and a “celebration of life.” And consider how you feel about ritual. Do you want to pre-pay your funeral and burial expenses or do you want the estate to deal with this? Whatever you decide, put your wishes in an accessible place so your family, or if you have no next of kin, your friends or ‘agent’ can make the right decisions. And while you are at it, think of yourself as an informed consumer. Check price lists, extras, use of vehicles and other options. Ignorance and lack of planning are the reasons the burial industry remains so profitable. It makes us complicit in keeping these prices so high.
Take some time soon to talk to your loved ones about burial plans. You will feel so much better to know that subject has been taken care of and can go on living so much less burdened!