By: Christine Hersom
(4 min. read)
As I mentioned in my previous blog, my sister-in-law passed away suddenly about one month ago. This was such a shock to my husband and me. We have talked about making our end-of-life plans for a few years. You know how it is when an elderly or sick family member passes away. It makes you think about your own death. When a person from your own generation dies…it brings it all home. We want to have our plans all made and paid for so that our loved ones aren’t stuck with that duty while they are grieving.
So, while we have neglected to really do much surrounding our end-of-life plans, this death caused us to kick into overdrive. I have been planning and researching like my life depends on it…interestingly it’s my death that depends on it.
I am a true Yankee when it comes to things such as this. I want little to no fanfare and take care of it as cheaply as possible. This probably sounds weird to some, but I did it with our wedding, too. Forty years ago, I planned our wedding for less than Two Thousand Dollars. That included my dress, his tux, the church, and the reception. See what I mean…I am cheap.
Did you know that you can plan everything online now? This made being cheap so much easier. I didn’t have a funeral director constantly suggesting expensive caskets, urns, etc. Technology is wonderful…until it isn’t.
When you fill out the information needed for end-of-life plans, one of the questions is your date of death. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get past the date of death. It is required for the death certificate. While I understand that the death certificate needs my date of death, I thought that is something that would be added after I died. The online program wasn’t having it. I tried typing “Not dead yet” and “Not Applicable.” Nothing worked. I couldn’t continue my planning without having a date of death. I was quickly becoming very frustrated. Having buried several family members, I knew I didn’t want to sit down with a funeral director. I do not want a viewing, church funeral, memorial, wake, or anything. I want to die, be cremated, then buried, PERIOD! I really want my ashes to be dumped in the ocean, but I guess announcing that is a no-no. It’s considered illegal to do that. That is another story for another time. Cremains are biodegradable.
After several hours of trying to override the program, I was forced to call the funeral home. Their answer was to put today’s date. They understood that it was pre-planning and would correct the date when I died. Although this seemed a bit creepy, I ended up putting today’s date as my date of death. Not to worry, though…I made it through the day alive.
The second part of the plan is the obituary. I put my name, place of birth, where I lived, etc. It then gave space for you to list your family members. The places available were like a family tree that went back ten generations. I left it all blank and sent the papers in. I don’t think the forms had all arrived at the funeral home before I received a call from the funeral director. “We need to list your parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, In-laws, and your first boss and his family. I mean REALLY! I gave him my parents’ names, my immediate family, and their children. Then I begged that he please stop. Just because somebody is related doesn’t mean they care whether I am dead or alive. Let’s keep it to a bare minimum.
The funeral director decided that while he had me on the telephone, he wanted to clarify a few things. Was I serious about being cremated in a cardboard box? Why yes, I am. I cannot imagine paying Five Thousand dollars for a maple casket for it to be burned. “Did you want to set aside a fund to purchase an outfit for cremation?” Are you serious?? I am not going to spend any money on clothes to be burned. Burn me the way I came into the world…. Naked! “I notice you haven’t chosen an urn.” Indeed, I haven’t. I don’t want an urn. I want my ashes to be dumped directly into the earth. You know the old saying, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Let’s work with that idea.
The poor funeral director must think he has just spoken with the craziest person in the world. What he doesn’t understand is that all the pomp and circumstance is for the living, not the dead. I will be dead, so there is no need for all the fancy stuff. I am not a fan of viewings. I am not sure anybody wants to see the corpse of their loved one. I know I don’t.
I finally convinced the funeral director that I wanted the bare minimum required by law. I can now say that my end-of-life plans are complete. Good Lord, that was trying.
My advice to everyone is to plan as much as you can. It won’t get any cheaper, and your loved ones can grieve without having to make all those plans. More importantly, if you plan it yourself…you get what you want.
Christine Marshall Hersom
All Things Wellness, LLC
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