Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

A Fond Farewell

              As of this writing Isaura and I are in Virginia where we attended the funeral of a close family friend this week who had been battling cancer for the past several years.

Like so many of my colleagues in ministry, I have had the solemn responsibility of assisting families in the heartbreaking, and often expensive process of having to manage all the various steps that must be taken so that a final farewell of their loved one can be just that – final.

How a person or family goes about handling these necessary steps will determine if your final farewell is also remembered with fondness.

It’s well understood that no one enjoys having to discuss end-of-life issues. But ignoring this inevitability only makes the certainty of your death that much more difficult and painful for your loved ones. This is particularly true financially.

Many have experienced the high costs associated with laying a family member to rest. For instance, there were numerous costs surrounding my mother’s death last year even though she and my step father had purchased their burial plot in Fresno well over twenty years before which included mom’s being taken care of by the folks at the cemetery. What still needed to be paid for were my mother’s remains being taken care of first in Ripon where she died, then transported to a funeral home in Fresno, to then to be delivered to the cemetery for final internment. The extra costs above and beyond my mother’s pre-paid plan came to just under $3000.

In speaking with my brother about his plans, he told me that he and his wife bought eight lots in the cemetery in Great Falls, Virginia back in 1985 for $200 per lot. Today those same lots go for $3000! As an aside, a plot is a section of lots. Your plot may have two or more lots.

Let me suggest some steps for you to take since most folks have not done so. Sit down with your spouse and decide what you want to have done when you pass from this life. A medical directive is an important first step. An advance health care directive, also known as living will, personal directive, advance directive, or advance decision, is a legal document in which a person specifies what actions should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity.” You will want to carefully select the person responsible for making decisions for you should you no longer be capable of doing so. On they offer a great list of things to consider. The best item, in my estimation, is How to Create an In-Case-of-Emergency Everything Document to Keep Your Loved Ones Informed if Worst Comes to Worst.”

Then sit down with your children and make it very clear what your decisions are. If you don’t, I can guarantee there will be a crisis when you are dead or dying. If you wish to be cremated then you need to make that perfectly clear so there is no misunderstanding. I have seen families nearly split over this issue alone.

When my step father unexpectedly lapsed into a coma at age 80, we, as a family, were able to come to agreement concerning what should be done. He had been in a coma for more than a week. I remember specifically asking one of the doctors about the possibilities of Pop coming out of the coma. He said the chances of that were very unlikely, and that even if he did, his words: “The lights might be on but no one is home.” All of us knew that Pop did not want to be kept alive in such a physical state, for he had said as much numerous times.

Another step to take is to secure a burial plot for you and your spouse assuming you are fairly certain of where you want to be laid to rest. And even if you decide not to be buried there, you can sell your plot.

Make an appointment with a funeral director to begin planning your end-of-life particulars. They will have a list of those things you should take care of, for instance: where you keep your important papers, such as life insurance, investments, stocks, wills, power of attorney, funeral service plans, DD214 (military), bank and savings accounts, mortgage papers, and so forth.

Buy the casket or urn ahead of time. These things are so expensive! Do it now! They won’t get cheaper.

You should also sit down with your pastor to discuss the type of service you would like to have. Do you want a graveside service? A funeral service (your body is in a casket)? Or do you want a memorial service (you have already been buried)? List your favorite hymns, passages of scripture, poems, speakers, and other directives you desire.

It is best to take care of these things when you are not facing severe health issues or emotional upset. Make your plans ahead of time, because if you don’t, your family will have to step up and make decisions on your behalf. If you have done the pre-planning then you have blessed your family by relieving them of decision making while also dealing with the grief over losing you.

If you are a military veteran you are entitled to several benefits, so be sure you to inform the funeral director. They will handle all the military arrangements for you.

Please, don’t put this off. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. You need to make yours a fond farewell.

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