The Gift of Pre-Planning Your Funeral
Five years ago I went with my grandmother to pre-plan her funeral arrangements. She was always so level headed about these sort of things, I, on the other hand, felt very uncomfortable sitting in that room, and I work in the funeral industry. I remember sitting across from the funeral director thinking this is so dumb, why are we even here? My emotions were running so high I even had that thought – Grandma is never going to die, she is in great shape, still driving and always has a full social calendar. Fast forward two short years. Grandma got sick and eventually ended up being placed on hospice care. Because she had set everything up in advance my dad knew exactly what to do the day that grandma passed away. He knew which funeral home to have hospice call and within a few hours, they lovingly carried my sweet grandmother out of her daughter’s home.
Some days later I went with my father to the funeral home to go over the plans she had made a few years earlier. Emotionally this was an incredibly difficult experience for the entire family, losing our matriarch. However, taking care of grandma’s physical remains and working with the funeral home was effortless because of the pre-planning that she did before her passing. My dad didn’t have to question if he was making the right decisions on her behalf. She had made all those choices herself. He was gifted the peace of mind knowing he was carrying out her wishes with exactness. Taking the step to walk into the funeral home and plan her funeral was the last selfless act my grandmother gave to her children. There is no price tag for that gift. It relieved emotional and financial stress and allowed her family to focus on celebrating her life and begin the very necessary grieving process
What Not Pre-Planning Looks Like
Jane and I sat across from each other in one of our arrangement rooms and began discussing her mother’s funeral. She told me she had no idea if mom wanted to have a casket burial or if she wanted cremation. It wasn’t something they ever thought to talk about. Jane was terrified of making the wrong decision on her mother’s behalf. She was already struggling with the loss of losing her best friend, her mother. Now she had to make huge decisions and was lost on what to do. After some time she decided not to have her cremated. Then came more decisions… Now it was time to choose a casket. She sobs as she looks at the options. All these decisions were emotionally draining and she didn’t have much left in her tank. Three painful hours later we have all the big decisions made. This common scenario about Jane is one that I see time and time again. It is such a different experience than the one that my father experienced laying my grandmother to rest and drives home a very important lesson, we have the power to make those decisions for ourselves and save our loved ones from further heartache when we die.
Unfortunately, in my experience as a funeral director, I see Jane’s experience far too often. People have different reasons for not wanting to plan their funeral. Death is the one unknown that no one living has experienced. The reality is the unknown is scary but it is inevitable. It is the one thing that each person on this earth has in common, we will all die. There is a tangible difference between meeting with families whose loved ones pre-arranged their funerals and the ones that didn’t. Having sat with hundreds of families during my career I can say that it is almost always more difficult for the families whose loved ones didn’t pre-arrange.
Benefits of Pre-Planning
For me, the starkest benefit of pre-planning is the financial one. At the time of death, payment is due in full and during this already incredibly stressful time that burden can seem overwhelming to people. With advanced planning, you can make smaller monthly payments which are less stressful and more manageable for many families. An additional financial benefit is that it helps against the cost of inflation. Things like the service, the casket and other merchandise we guarantee the cost at the time the arrangements are made. I have other grandparents who did their pre-arrangements in the 1970s! The amount they paid then verses the costs today is pocket change.
The benefits of pre-planning your funeral service are numerous. One I hadn’t even thought of was the benefit it is to you after the task is complete. I asked Josh Tuttle, current East Lawn President, and former Advanced Planning Specialist what his thoughts were on pre-planning and this is what he had to say: “In my experience working with families to accomplish their pre-arrangements, there was something that would happen that they did not expect, a feeling of relief washed over them once it was all taken care of. I would end all of my appointments, once everything was complete, by telling the person “you did a great thing today and now you can take that brick you’ve been carrying around (which of course was the knowledge they needed to do their arrangements) and set it down because you’ve done it, congratulations.” I watched people physically relax after I told them that! I would say it was amazing but the more people I worked with the more I realized it was common, their mortality is on their mind, they know they need to take care of their arrangements but it is emotional. If they pushed through and completed everything they felt great. The people I felt bad for were the ones who “shopped” because they were having the necessary thoughts and confronting the emotions but not seeing it through to the end denied them the feeling of satisfaction not to mention failed to accomplish the goal, leaving the work undone.” It is often physically noticeable in one’s countenance when they have completed this difficult yet very important task.
I have had the true privilege of serving the Bailey family twice in the last two years. I reached out to La Tina and asked her to share her experience when both her father and mother passed. Here is what she had to say:
“Dealing with a loved one’s passing is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. My daddy informed me when I was an adult and he was aging that he had made arrangements for his and my mom’s burial. That was just like my daddy to plan – I didn’t realize how much his Pre-planning would help me. As that heartbreaking day arrived, I was in the middle of talking with paramedics, mortuary, family, and friends about his death…… but when it was time for me to discuss his service arrangements I was comforted to know that the Pre-planning covered the service and the burial details. The arrangements would be just as my daddy (and mom) wanted….not only was I grateful to him for being so wise I am considering Pre-planning for my husband and I. East Lawn has wonderful caring staff (Thank you Jessica & Crystal) that are there to assist you throughout the entire process. I am still mourning the passing of my Dad (2018) and Mom (2019) however; my memories of their burial services make me smile because of how well everything was managed.” –La Tina Bailey-Gago
Author: Jessica Harston | Funeral Director at East Lawn Mortuary – FD # 1242