“There is only one kind of shock worse than the totally unexpected: the expected for which one has refused to prepare.” – Mary Renault (writer)
WHEN WORK COMES HOME WITH YOU
Being a funeral director, one would assume that discussion about funerals would not shock my family. That was certainly not true the day I brought home a copy of a new project about pre-planning and my husband had a minor freak out.
You see, I was in the middle of designing a packet featuring the details of a service when I decided to use myself for the hard copy example. Using my own photos and my own choices was ultimately the best way for me to decide what details were important to include and what the layout could look like.
I had never realized that until this project, I had never made any attempt to share with him how I pictured my funeral.
THE TALENTLESS PIANO TEACHER
My thought process regarding this mini project was that people would never trust a piano teacher who does not play the piano themselves. People would never trust a wedding planner if they have never attended a wedding before. So, why would people trust a pre-planning specialist if that person has not pre-planned their own arrangements.
To be good at what you do, you have to believe in your service or product before you can sell the benefits it.
“YOU WANT WHAT…?”
Back to my mini project. On the cover of the packet, I had my favorite photo of myself and my name were splashed across it. Inside were details about the foods and drinks I want served at my gathering, the photos I want in my DVD tribute, my rental casket choice and urn choice, and the color of flowers I prefer.
My husband immediately started asking “Do you really want a gourmet coffee bar set up at your visitation?” and “Really, you want THAT photograph to be shown in your video?”
As thrown back as he was by this packet, I was equally surprised by his reaction to my choices. This was clearly a conversation that the two of us should have had a long time ago.
YOU HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE
It’s ironic that those of us in the funeral industry are usually the last to plan our funerals. We will casually mention small things such as, “If I die, I want Chipotle to cater” or “At my funeral, make sure they play ‘Staying Alive’ as we leave the service” but we are the last ones to actually make our own pre-arrangements and write these wishes down.
The biggest battle for any person (whether they work in the industry or not) is to start talking about details. Just start the discussion with your family or friends. This is the first step and ultimately the most important because it will get the ball rolling for future discussion and decisions.
WHY SO SERIOUS?
At the beginning of the week, my husband and I talk about everything we have going on to ensure we do not double book any evenings.
The day after he saw my funeral plans, he looked at me very seriously and said, “Make sure you write down March 23rd in the calendar.” I opened the calendar and was perplexed, I could not think of what would be happening that day. “You are in the wrong year, you need to write down March 23, 2054, the day you are going to die.”
I had completely forgotten that our software to design printing needed a birth AND death date to create a template. He had memorized the random date that had appeared in the hard copy packet for my plans.
Although thinking about your funeral is a serious topic, have fun with it and put yourself at ease. Our conversation did not end the night my husband saw my funeral requests, he still brings it up in random conversations.
TAKE THE FIRST STEP
There is a saying that goes something like, “You can’t just talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk.” Well, when it comes to discussing future funeral arrangements, remember that talking the talk is good enough for now.
If someone comes to you with questions and nothing more, do not be disheartened. Be excited that they started that conversation and they will continue that conversation. They may not come back to you, but maybe they mention your conversation to a friend or neighbor and that person comes to talk to you.
Try to encourage every person who asks you questions to start the conversation with their loved ones, to make their most important preferences known, and to take that first step.
Most importantly, don’t be that talentless piano teacher, put your own arrangements down on paper.