MY LIFE WITH DEATH
2. LET’S TALK WILLS (MAKE ONE!) & THE FIRST STAGES OF FUNERAL PLANNING
It’s been busy here, but it always is. That’s the thing about my work and, of course, about life in general - death is always just a heartbeat away. Although it’s in the background for most people most of the time, it’s part of my daily routine.
I completely understand people not wanting to dwell on death – I’m 29 and don’t want to think about my own death either. And, perhaps bizarrely, you might think - given my occupation - I haven’t even made a will. But you, dear reader, should. We all should, and, really, the sooner the better. (Note to self – make a will ASAP!) It needn’t take long and making one could prevent your loved ones having a big load of unnecessary hassle.
Wills should also be updated to take
changed circumstances into account, such as divorce, bereavement, and
remarriage. I know of a man who died very suddenly and unexpectedly, in his
early 50s. He’d been living with his girlfriend of two or three years, in his
house, and although they’d been planning to marry they hadn’t yet gotten around
to it. It turned out the man’s will was years out of date; the ‘old him’ had
left his house to his siblings. So, the girlfriend lost her home not long after
losing the man of her dreams. Devastating, as you can imagine.
Even if the making of a will has been put off, the funeral obviously can’t be. Some of you will have been involved in sorting out a funeral, some of you won’t have. But you’ll have heard there’s a lot to arrange at an upsetting time. The first step is to meet your funeral director to talk about the life of the person who has died and the sort of funeral that’s required (obviously this is easier if the deceased has left instructions). The father of one lady I know asked, on his deathbed, for the uplifting song ‘Zip-a-dee-doo-dah’, from a 1940s Disney movie, to be played at his funeral. It duly was, bringing smiles to many tearstained faces.
I don’t ignore any request and aim to be as accommodating as possible. As I always say, each funeral is unique, just as each person is unique. The first meeting with me usually takes a couple of hours and includes the completion of some paperwork. I’ll also explain legal procedures and discuss post mortems and embalming, if they need to take place.
Many other topics also need to be talked
about, including, what type of coffin? Should it be a
traditional wooden one or something more environmentally friendly like willow,
bamboo or cardboard? We’ll also need to talk about whether the ceremony – if
there is to be one - should include religion. As for venues, a ceremony could even take place in the deceased person’s garden or
another favourite place, although most of us choose a church or crematorium.
Most people get cremated nowadays, but not everyone. I myself would rather be buried. But did you know it’s better for the planet if you are buried (without being embalmed, which uses some chemicals) in biodegradable coffins in ‘green’ burial grounds? What could be nicer in death than being buried in a wood, say, with a tree planted on top? There’s a very nice 'green' place at Terrington, not far from York, in the Howardian Hills, but that’s not the only one. Fulford and Rufforth Cemeteries also have green burial grounds.
There are also other important questions to ponder. What about flowers and newspaper notices? What kind of transport – a traditional hearse, limousines? A horse-drawn hearse? A motorcycle hearse? Then there’s the music, who should carry the coffin, and what happens to the ashes after a cremation. And who, if anyone, will read a tribute?
It’s a lot to take in but I hope I’ve given more of an insight into my work and shown how My Life With Death can really help you in your hour of need.
Until next time,