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Grave Expectations: There’s More to Funeral Planning Than Sourcing Free Funeral Program Templates Online. Have You Already Begun Planning Your Own Unique Memorial Service?

January 21, 2010 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Living, Spirit & Faith

Grave Expectations: There's More to Funeral Planning Than Sourcing Free Funeral Program Templates Online. Have You Already Begun Planning Your Own Unique Memorial Service?

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 20:  Funeral director Pete...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

A recent article in the AARP Bulletin, titled “The High Cost of Dying,” discussed how easily funeral costs can spin out of control. The article noted that this happens primarily because your surviving relatives — faced with unexpectedly having to quickly put together a funeral while simultaneously grieving your demise  — just don’t have the time or energy to price shop or bargain.

Hey, you can understand: They’re grieving for you, right?

Besides which, it’s human nature to want to provide a loved one with the best funeral possible, as a show of respect, right? This classic skit by Nichols and May really exemplifies the dilemmas grieving relatives experience. You’ll find yourself laughing out loud as you squirm at the man’s discomfort with the sales pitch he’s receiving. After all, she’s not even offering him the option of free funeral program templates!

Sadly, if you’ve recently found yourself planning a funeral, you may believe that not much has changed in the years since they first created it:

The AARP article also points out many people have the impression that the magnitude of the casket is an indicator of socioeconomic status. No doubt that accounts for all those solid bronze caskets still offered in most funeral homes.  (After all, who wouldn’t want to be packaged for death like an ancient Egyptian pharoah, right?)

How about you?

Do you want to exit the world in a solid bronze casket? Or would you rather have a deeply meaningful service that you’ve planned in advance — and the opportunity to leave the money that could have gone for that fancy casket to your grandchildren or a worthy cause?

If you’re more into benefiting family or charitable causes with your worldly goods, they now is the time for you to take action to assure your wishes are met. Why not plan your funeral now — or at least discuss it with your family?

Think of funeral planning as being just as important as the plans families make for a birth, a wedding or a graduation. That you can both enjoy the funeral you’d really like, as well as save your family a lot of future pain. (After all, you’ll be there, both in body and spirit.)

  • Don’t you agree that now — when you’re still hale, healthy and able to speak your mind — is really the best time for you to give some thought to what you’d like to have transpire at your personal memorial service?
  • That way your surviving family members will be saved from the pressure tactics and indecision many currently encounter when talking to a funeral director while trying to give you the send-off they think you’d prefer.
  • After all, you hate to waste money, and you’re well aware that the “traditional funeral” — complete with embalming, viewing in that expensive casket, funeral ceremony and graveside service — is not the only option.

If You Just Want to “Dip Your Toe” Into the Concept of Personalized Funeral Planning, Here Are Some Small – But Extremely Helpful – Things You Can Do:

For starters, how about writing up your obituary now – except for the specifics of when, where and how?

After all,  if you can provide all the “nitty gritty” specifics – such as what high school you attended, or the names of all relevant survivors, this is a real help for whoever is managing your final arrangements.  If you’re famous, the newspapers already have an obit on file for you. Thankfully, for the rest of us, there are readily available fill-in-the blank forms, which will help get you started.

Here are a few you can review. Keep in mind that in addition to the specifics of your death –  which you obviously don’t know at this time – the obituary gives you a chance to tell your story, to create your legacy statement, and get it out there the way you’d like it told:

OK, That Was Easy:

So Why Not Take a Figurative Deep Breath and Jump Into the Deep End of the Memorial Pool? You Know, Spend a Little Time to Plan Your Funeral – EXACTLY the Way You’d Like It?

After all, unless you take the time to write up your plans – and keep them somewhere where they can be found in time – only you know that you’d always secretly wanted something special and personally meaningful, like:

  • To have your funeral procession led by your high school’s marching band
  • A real Irish wake
  • A Viking funeral, complete with a burning pyre floating off to sea
  • A huge send-off party at your country club, with all your friends toasting your life – and maybe you’d like to sign off by treating them to a “hootenanny” and a hot air balloon ride
  • A quiet memorial service after you’ve donated your body to science
  • A service with full military honors. Perhaps you’ve even wondered whether – since you are a war veteran —  you might even qualify to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery?
  • Then again, maybe your dream is to have your ashes scattered over place that holds special meaning for you. Perhaps your dream is to be:

Now’s the time to think about what really appeals to you.

Assuming you’ll want some sort of memorial service involved, you can even pre-determine the specifics including:

  • What sort of coffin you desire. After all, not all coffins are made of solid wood anymore.
    • There are “green” coffins made of cardboard, for example, which can be decorated to suit your personal style.
    • Or you may prefer something natural and recyclable, such as bamboo or wicker.
    • Or – can you imagine – there’s an “ecopod,” that’s actually made of recycled newspaper?
    • And, then there are all sorts of caskets, urns, body bags and shrouds. You could have a unique clay pot specially commissioned, for example. Eco Urns are made from completely natural materials and are fully bio-degradable and are suitable for either burial or cremation.
  • Your funeral budget. Funeral expenses can quickly add up.
    • Few relatives want to worry that they didn’t provide you with the send-off you deserve, so they often spend money on things which might mean nothing to you.
    • Currently you’d need to budget $10,000 for an average funeral in the United States. More if you’re really intrigued with the special events and party planners…
    • If you’re determined to have your money go elsewhere, you may want to join the Funeral Consumers Alliance in your area.
  • Any special poems or readings you’d like shared with your friends and family
  • Your preferred music and songs so that you can set the tone for the ceremony.For example:
    • Do you want your favorite rock music blasting out triumphantly as people enter the service?
    • Or would you prefer a simple flute – or maybe a throbbing drumbeat?
    • Or maybe some Cajun zydeco that merrily sets everyone’s feet a-tapping?
  • Your preferred pallbearers – and you’d like to have offer your eulogy?
  • The funeral venue is important too.
    • Do you feel that a traditional church or funeral home chapel is where you’d like people to assemble?
    • Or maybe you’re an outdoors-y kind of gal, and you’d rather people gather in a lovely bower in the woods.
    • Then again, perhaps you feel drawn to the sea, and you’d like your service to be held on the water, or overlooking your favorite beach.
  • You’ll even have the opportunity to dictate what sort of catering and transport you’d prefer. Here’s where you can let your family know that you’d love it if everyone:
    • Finished off the ceremony by feasting on BBQ ribs and toasting your memory with your favorite micro-brew beer
    • Enjoyed a campfire meal at your favorite national park, complete with hot dogs roasted on a stick and s’mores, or
    • Toasted your memory with your favorite vintage champagne before riding off to the opera in a fleet of white limos
    • Hey, it’s your funeral, as they say… And it’s your last chance to tell your loved ones where you’d like them to go!

One easy way to assemble this information for posterity would be to plan your service and even create the program for it now. Again, there are planning forms available online – and even free funeral program templates.

Heck, you can even order the stock for the funeral programs in advance, selecting your photo, the cover image, etc.

Alternately, you can create a video of your life story, and make it permanently available online or on your headstone. Or, perhaps hand out  CD copies of your video as funeral keepsakes.

Recently Carmen Flowers and Sue Bailey, authors of the recently published book, “Grave Expectations,”  Were Featured on NBC’s “Today” show.

Here’s their take on funeral planning:

Need Even More Help and Ideas? Here’s a Handful of Additional Sources For Funeral Planning  Services:

And Here Are Several Other Great Funeral and Memorial Resources:

Final thoughts on Pre-Planning Your Funeral

As the cliche points out, no one can escape death or taxes. So why not take some time when you are healthy and pre-plan your own funeral? It is a surprisingly simple thing to do and really don’t cost much.

  • If you’re at a loss for ideas, not really sure how you want to be memorialized, the links are great starting points. The book “Grave Expectations” is actually subtitled “Planning The End Like There’s No Tomorrow,” and it’s a fantastic resource for idea starters.
  • Or if you’re not into reading, you can start your planning efforts by contacting a funeral home in your community and ask them to come to your home and discuss what you’d prefer. Once you’ve decided on your arrangements, the company will provide you with a quote, and you can choose to pay for it in monthly installments.
  • As you can see, pre-planning allows you to the peace of mind of knowing that your funeral will be exactly what you want — and the price will be locked in and will not change – no matter how long you live.
  • Given that, you have to agree that pre-planning your funeral is not a bit morbid – especially since it means that when your time comes, your family will be freed from having to make arrangements in the midst of their grief.

Based on personal experience, you know they’ll appreciate the fact that they can focus completely on celebrating your life with friends and family – and of course, their grief! Given that we all have to go eventually, isn’t that really the way you’d like to leave this world?

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