I grew up in a funeral home and was often in the room as my father, the funeral director, would meet with grieving families.
When I was little, my job was to pick up blossoms that fell from flower arrangements. At 16, I was the only kid I knew who could drive a hearse. In my late teens, I met with families, worked at funerals and helped with follow-up calls to check on bereaved families.
I saw firsthand how unprepared most people are to write an obituary, advise friends and family of a death, or plan a funeral or memorial service.
Just as the coronavirus is prompting many people to rush to make their wills, it also can be an opportunity to think about what you'd want to happen if your family needed to arrange for a funeral. It's a hard topic, but it doesn't have to be morbid. It can be meaningful for you to make your wishes known, and when the time comes it can be a great relief to your family members that you did this for them.
Here's what you can do now to spare your loved ones the added grief of not knowing your full life story or your final wishes for burial or a service.
Gather the following items and place them in a file folder, whether a physical one or a digital file. Make sure your family members know where to find it when the time comes.
Would your spouse or child pick the photo you would choose of yourself for the newspaper or memorial service program? Pick a photo you like, preferably one with high resolution.
Nobody knows your story better than you; don't leave it to your family to get the facts right. As we age, even our spouses won't always remember what year we graduated from high school, our job titles or other details of our stories. You don't have to write the full obituary, but at least leave the family the key points for which you'd like to be remembered.
Talk about where your final resting place might be, and buy the plot now so your family won't have to guess. If you wish to rest in a place with restrictions, such as Arlington National Cemetery, check ahead to see if you qualify.