Dying? Not Me! Why you should plan for Transition
Remember the Eulogy projects we had to write back in High School? Death is a tough subject to broach, and many would rather deny death then embrace it. Someone once said, "...There are only two guarantees in life: Death and Taxes." How true is this phrase? It is normally when we are faced with the imminence of dying or death that we only begin making plans or arrangements for our transition.
Having firsthand knowledge, it is very difficult to experience the physical death or passing of a loved one. It is even more taxing when you are subjected to last-minute funeral arrangements when physical death does occur.
To gain better insight in dealing with death, and to establish a better understanding of death altogether, I present the following:
I personally don't like the word "death" myself; so I prefer to call it "transition." While it is vital to focus on our living it is equally important to focus on our physical departure as well. We often view this passing as a permanent end to life. And, in all actuality, physical death after physical life is imminent. Like everything in nature, the cycle of physical life begins with physical birth and ends with physical death. Our earthly bodies are merely shells that provide housing to our living energy. Because energy is neither created, nor destroyed, it can only transform. So, in retrospect, physical death is the death of the physical being, but never the inner being, or soul. This is what I refer to as the "transition."
That being said, we now redirect our attention to our transition plans. I never quite realized the meticulous details that surround death's event. Funerals just don't "happen." They take planning, organization and a great deal of in-depth research and modus operandi. Just as painstakingly, we pre-arrange parties, receptions, births, and weddings. Of course, the aforementioned are much easier with which to deal. They are "living" and "vital" events, so we don't mind contending with them. But mention the word, "death," and suddenly, we shy away from it. We shelter ourselves from the reality of death as long as we can because we fear it.
Through my own experience, I've learned that the best way to deal with physical death is to embrace it. After all, it is a natural occurrence in human life. We cannot choose "Option C," when we only have options A and B. Below our some common excuses people use with regard to funerals:
- "But I'm not dying - why should I plan for death?"
- "I'm too young to worry about that kind of stuff..."
- "It won't be a big deal, I'm getting cremated anyway..."
- "I've got my whole life to live. Who cares about funerals now?"
- "Why should I worry about planning a funeral now? I need to focus on living instead..."
- "How can you even ask such a thing?"
Really, the above answers are an all-too-common means of running away from death. It is much easier to remain in denial. The truth is that anyone can die at any given moment - death is not picky. And remember, when - not if-- our physical death does happen, we leave behind our legacies, our coworkers, families, friends and even our pets. Have we thought about them? Of course we have. We love the people and living creatures that are part of our lives. And the thought of being without them can be heartbreaking. The imprints we leave with them create a lasting and loving impression. The last thing we want our friends and family to do during our transition is to plan our individual funerals for us. Preplanning our funerals eases the financial and emotional burden on our family members and is one of life's greatest virtues we can bestow (upon our families).
Funeral Arrangements are an Individual Choice
Ask yourself the following Questions:
- What will you wear?
- Cemetary or Mausoleum?
- If you choose to be cremated, would you like your ashes placed in an urn or scattered?
- Church Services or Funeral Home Services?
- Do you wish to donate your body to those in need medically; scientific research, etc?
- Do you know what type of vault and casket you'd like?
- Do you prefer a viewing and/or funeral motorcade procession?
- Would you like someone to sing at your funeral?
- If you're an Armed Forces Veteran, do you wish to be buried in a National or local cemetery? Would you like full Veteran burial?
These are just a few, detailed questions you will need to ask yourself when planning your funeral. Next items to research are cost. Remember that funerals can be as simple or elaborate as you wish - but do you have adequate life insurance to cover the cost? According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), 98% of American funeral homes offer preplanning options to families; and three ways individuals can prepay a funeral are:
- A licensed funeral director can establish a regulated trust.
- A life-insurance policy can be purchased, equal to the value of the funeral.
- Individuals can establish a savings or certificate of deposit account earmarked for funeral expenses. The account can be designated as "payable on death" (POD) to the funeral home.
In addition to prepayment, the NFDA offers invaluable insight with their "Bill of Rights for Funeral Preplanning." See their guidelines below:
"An ethical and reputable NFDA funeral home will ensure the following rights and protections:
Provide you with detailed price lists of goods and services before you make your selections.
Provide to you, at the conclusion of the funeral arrangement conference, a written statement listing all of the goods and services you have purchased and the price.
Give you a written preneed funeral contract explaining, in plain language, your rights and obligations.
Guarantee in the contract, that if any of the goods or services you have selected are not available at the time of need, goods and services of equal or greater value will be substituted at no extra cost.
Explain in the contract the geographical boundaries of the funeral home's service area and under what circumstances you can transfer the preneed contract to another funeral home if you were to relocate, or if the death were to occur outside of the service area.
State in the contract where and how much of the funds you pay will be deposited until the funeral is provided.
Explain in the contract who will be responsible for paying taxes on any income or interest generated by the preneed funds that are invested.
Inform you in the contract whether, and to what extent, the funeral home will guarantee the price of goods and services you are purchasing. If the prices are not guaranteed, the contract will explain who is responsible for any additional amounts that may be due at the time of the funeral.
Explain in the contract whether and under what circumstances you may cancel your preneed contract and how much of the funds you paid will be refunded.
Because death, or transition, is inevitable it is our responsibility to make arrangements for our funerals before they occur. Though sometimes, a daunting task, preplanning our transition can be an enlightening experience that enables us to appreciate life that much more. Don't wait until it's too late.
For more information on options and preplanning funerals, please visit the National Funeral Directors Association at NFDA. If you would like to share your story or experience, we always welcome your insights.
An insightful prose on "transition" can be read here: Fly Away.