Funeral Planning

2 Nov


As difficult as it may be, when you are terminally ill it is important to make funeral arrangements as soon as possible so that your loved ones don’t have to worry about how you would like to be remembered.

My mom and I started my funeral planning entirely spontaneously.  We were out running errands and happened to pass a cemetery full of headstones sporting tacky fake flowers.  I couldn’t really tell her that she could only use fake flowers over my dead body – after all, they would be situated over my dead body.  But I did let her know in no uncertain terms that there would be no flowers over my grave.  Instead, I wanted for all of my friends and family worldwide to send in a rock or a stone of some sort to be placed on the gravestone.  (This made for a funny mental picture of the postman trying to deliver all the rocks, struggling under the weight, thinking to himself, What the hell’s in here, anyway?  Rocks?!)

Then my step-grandmother died.  As her five sons and their families drove in from Texas and Oklahoma, her daughter had to make just one phone call to set all the pre-arranged funeral services in motion.

That led to an appointment with my rabbi to discuss funeral arrangements and customs and cemetery plots.  The rabbi doesn’t usually plan funerals in advance, but he was willing to explain the general process to my mom because she is not Jewish and had never been to a Jewish funeral before.  We bought a cemetery plot, discussed the headstone design, and found out which funeral home the local Jewish community used and where to buy a casket.  We even had a conversation about what kind of casket I wanted (a plain pine box) and what clothing I wanted to be buried in (a plain white shroud and my chai necklace, since even though we all die, I still believe in the power of life and G-d’s promise of a bodily resurrection).

I think that making funeral plans in advance was a huge relief to my mom, since it got a lot of important choices out of the way.  It’s not an easy conversation to have, but you just have to dive in head-first and get it over with.


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