Posted by: Diane | April 3, 2014

My Life, My Death

I received a lot of emails about mentioning my funeral in yesterday’s blog.

Many people expressed surprise that I had actually thought of which songs I wanted to be played when I died. For me, this is a healthy thing to do. Death is inevitable. I know where I’m going but more importantly, I know Who I’m going to. Each day on this earth is a gift, for which I am so thankful but heaven? Well, that’s my home.

My husband and I have talked about our deaths and funerals. He’s written “a letter to my wife” with explanations about everything financial in our lives and this letter gets updated twice a year. Our will is current and Chris knows exactly where to find my funeral songs – my big leather journal, page 53. (The list of his funeral songs is on page 52.) We know which funeral home we will work with and if we could figure out how to put some money aside, I would very much like to plan and pay for our funerals, so that our children aren’t burdened with difficult decisions and financial uncertainty during their time of grief.

Volunteering at a funeral home for two years really helped me process my feelings about death and dying. Being a Christian gives me hope and security about my death. I find it so odd that our culture does not provide strong platforms from which to process death, one of the few certainties in life.

When I was teaching high school, one of my favourite field trips was taking Grade 11 students to the funeral home. There was always some initial hesitancy from both the students and their parents but this particular funeral home was absolutely phenomenal, when it came to opening up conversation about death. We would tour the entire funeral home and students were given complete freedom to ask all the “taboo” questions about death. Let me tell you — they had many, many questions.

How much does a casket cost?

What is embalming? How and why is it done?

What’s a mausoleum?

How do different religions deal with a dead body?

What does a dead person feel like?

How long are you legally allowed to keep a dead person in your home?

What happens to the body when it dies?

Why do people want an open casket at a funeral?

Are there different kinds of grief?

What do you present a body in an open casket that has been in a car accident or suicide?

Can you make funeral plans for a pet?

What happens if someone can’t afford a funeral?

As a post-field trip assignment, I asked the students to write a reflection paper, draw their tombstone and write their own obituary. Thinking about how they wanted to be remembered after their death proved to be one of those “stake in the ground” moments for many of the students.

The day after the trip to the funeral home, we would debrief and discuss the poem, The Dash, by Linda Ellis. If you haven’t heard this poem, it’s well worth your time to listen.

I want to live and die well.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die. and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this? John 11. 25,26 NIV

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  2 Corinthians 5.8 NIV


Responses

  1. I too have planned out my entire funeral service Diane. I think it is a practical thing to do. My children will be distraught enough without having this extra burden to deal with. I have a chaplain conducting the service. She came to my home and spent several hours getting all the details down and getting to know me. All of my previous pastors have passed away and my present pastor does not know me well enough to conduct a service for me. I have selected my favourite portions of scripture and hymns that I love. My granddaughter Rachel will start the service playing my favourite piano piece ‘Clair de Lune’ and the service will conclude with Rachel, Emily and Jess singing my favourite country song ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ which my husband and I played and sang years ago.
    I want it to be a celebration of my life rather than a sad occasion. I want the people attending to know about my faith and my excitement about this new journey I will be on….meeting my Saviour and spending eternity with Him and all my loved ones who have gone on before me. I think everyone should consider arranging their funeral…I am sure their loved ones would be so grateful. xo ‘Mrs. B.’

    • Thanks for sharing this, Mrs. B. I totally agree. If one can do financially swing it, I think prepaid funerals are the way to go.

  2. Couldn’t agree more! I think it is really healthy and helpful to go through the process. Then people know exaclty what to do so it take a lot of pressure off.

    I know it upsets people but I think that we should be open… heck when my Dad died we were looking at caskets, my mom and I had a crazy time in the funeral home basement going through them.. Checking out our “dream” casket! Hahah – we even contemplated cremation and I told her we’d buy the necklace version so each of us kids (and grandchildren) could carry her ashes around our necks . We were laughing so hard that I think the funeral director was wondering whether we were loosing our minds.

    Is that bad taste? I don’t think so… I think it’s coming to terms with the reality of the situation – we started dying the minute we are born. The last thing I ever want to do is to have to say good bye to my loved ones but it sure makes it easier when you know that you are fullfilling their wishes when they do go.

    Everytime I go to a funeral home I check it out – I have criteria – if they don’t meet it then it comes off the list… my funeral is not for me anyway – I’m already at the party! The funeral is for my loved ones who remain behind to remember me and my life – so why not make it personal? Why load them down with trying to figure out what I want – why not just tell them!

    Thanks for posting your thoughts Diane – I always enjoy reading them…

    • You have a wonderful perspective. Truly. You’re right – when we die, we’re already” at the party”! My desire would be that my loved ones would celebrate my life, not mourn my death. Thanks for your comments!


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