The gift of peace
My mother-in-law passed away peacefully on June 10. She was in hospice care for one week. I hope she has gotten back to her bridge club.
Funerals are difficult and no one likes attending them. It is a time to say goodbye; to show support for family or friends; a time to reflect on the life and times shared with the dearly departed. Depending on the person, a funeral can be very personal or very religious or very long or very short and not so sweet or a combination of all the above. There can be music, prayers, readings, masses, poems, speeches, fire and brimstone, tearful goodbyes.
My family lost four important members in a 4 year succession. We learned a lot about funerals and how to plan and implement a decent, respectful and personal service. There are so many details that you just don’t know about – so many choices to make. What type of service? Where will it be held? Who will preside? Will there be a viewing? Casket or urn? Flowers? Special program for the service? Who will write the obituary? Where will they be laid to rest? Who will be pall bearers? Will there be a reception afterwards? Where will it be held? Who will bring food?
These are all details that people have to think of when they are at their weakest and most vulnerable. For some of us, having something constructive to “do” actually helps. For others, it is overwhelming. It is a very emotional and raw time.
In the case of my mother-in-law, she requested a full catholic mass. She belonged to a large church and the priest did not know her personally. The service was typical of a full mass and because the priest knew nothing about her, he read her obituary during the sermon portion of the service. He mispronounced her name and the name of her home town (Butt? Montana). He had not read through the obituary beforehand so it was read in a choppy manner and it was hard to understand. It was supposed to be a celebration of her life and it really wasn’t. Fortunately, at the reception afterwards, the family held a more personal service in remembrance of their mother.
There is a saying, “Funerals bring out the worst in people”. Families have broken apart in the aftermath of a funeral – the loss of a loved one and the arguments that ensue. Past hurts come to the forefront and the battle over material things can be a detriment to most families. Wars are waged and lines drawn in the sand over grandma’s crystal gravy boat or the diamond dinner ring. It just isn’t worth it but it happens frequently. Having a will is very important for legal reasons but it is the responsibility of the survivors to deal with division of property and personal items with consideration for each other and in honor of the memory of the departed.
I realized after my dad’s funeral that it is important to think about, and to make known, what your wishes are prior to your death. But it will save your family a lot of stress if you also plan what you want as a final goodbye. I have a file titled – “when I die” and it talks about what I want for a service. It is not overly specific, just little tidbits. Songs I like, that have special meaning to me; things I feel would be nice to say about my personality; my feelings about religion; how much I love my kids, grandkids and my husband. Most importantly, I have included my wishes that my children stay close – rely on each other – no matter what.
I’ve heard it said that it is morbid and depressing to think and talk about those things. I don’t feel it is because it provides clear instructions for your loved ones and saves them the stress of having to wonder what you would prefer. It can be as specific or generalized as you want it to be. In truth, there are so many things that we don’t know about each other and that we don’t normally share. I’m certain that my mother, who now has dementia/alzheimers, had no idea that she would never have the chance to say the many things that she was saving for “someday”. There are so many things about her that we don’t know, she never shared, and now there is no one to ask.
It is sad to think of your final days, your final resting place, leaving those you love behind. None of us knows WHEN that will happen, but we do know that it WILL happen. To provide a means of saying a final goodbye and of saving your loved ones from that difficult process is truly a gift. Your final wishes conveyed in black and white will give all of you peace.