A short piece of advice written for children whose parents are nearing “that age” when funeral plans and estate planning are on your minds. You know who you are. Here’s some help from people who have already broached that awkward subject.
My mom and dad were divorced when I was a kid, and my mom never remarried. She lived alone in a small home with a big yard into her early 80s. I never worried about her safety or her ability to take care of her home: she was fiercely independent and remarkably healthy. But I knew her time would come sooner than any of us were willing to admit. When I started thinking about what I would do when she left us, I realized that I knew nothing about what she wanted. But how could I possibly talk to her about death and dying like it was an event I was planning? My advice: If you really can’t talk to your parent(s) about their funeral arrangement preferences, attend a funeral with them. My mom had lots of friends who were passing away right when I started worrying about this, so I accompanied her to multiple services and asked questions like, “How do you feel about that casket?” and “Do you like this funeral home, or the last one we went to?” I got a lot of information on her preferences in an indirect way.
Man of the House
My dad had a heart attack when he had just turned 70. None of us expected it! We were jolted into realizing the mortality of my father, who had always been the man of the house, had everything in control, a left-nothing-to-chance kind of guy. When I asked my mom if dad had a will, a burial plot, anything like that, she brushed me off with a “I’m sure your father has it all taken care of.” I had this nagging feeling that neither of them had made arrangements, so I knew I had to face the big man himself. My advice: Just do it. Be direct. If you’re thinking about your parents’ mortality, you better believe they’ve thought about it first. I approached my dad in a very business-like manner, after doing research about pre-planning and talking to a few funeral homes in the area. I presented what he needed to do and gave him the resources to do it himself. There was no awkwardness or misunderstanding, and I think both of us felt relieved to have it settled and taken care of.
The Family that Plans Together…
My wife and I began pre-planning our own funerals with our preneed insurance agent and the funeral home he recommended. It got us thinking: did our parents have this covered? We approached my parents with an offer: let’s pre-plan together! My advice: Make pre-planning a family affair. We all felt more comfortable talking about the inevitable future when we had others to lean on in the process. After making our own arrangements, my wife and I felt supremely confident that we could handle whatever came at us when it was my parents’ time. That kind of confidence is an incomparable blessing when that future moment arrives!