But, I had it anyways. And I want you to have it too.
It’s a conversation about death. Have I made you uncomfortable? Don’t be. I understand it’s not an easy topic to discuss – really, does anyone want to confront their own mortality? – but if we don’t talk about it now, trust me when I say that when you’re dead, it will be too late.
(Plus, do you really trust someone else to plan a party in your honour?)
I wasn’t always so open about talking about dying, and death. But years ago, I had a health scare. It’s not something I openly chat about, but I don’t attempt to hide it, either. One day I may even write about it on my blog, but the post would be very long (ugh, too long) and right now, I’m just not up to it. However, I will say that the experience changed my perception of a once “taboo” subject: my funeral, and the funerals of my loved ones.
(Mom! I know what you’re thinking and I’m not jinxing myself by writing this.)
Here’s the thing: death is an occasion. Not a happy one; and certainly not one that we’re looking forward to. But nonetheless, just like our date of birth, it is a very significant mark on our timeline. And we put a lot of time and effort into occasions – thinking, planning and openly discussing our desires. But when was the last time you talked to your loved ones about your end of life wishes? Do they know what you want?And, just as importantly, do you know what they want?
Recently, I had a chance to sit down with my friends Candace and Solmaz. We were invited by Arbor Memorial to have an open conversation about death with Linda Stuart, a Life-Cycle Celebrant, and Shannon Burberry, an Arbor Funeral Home Manager. Together, they successfully broke down the barriers of talking about death and stripped away the taboos about planning for end of life.
One, I did not expect Shannon Burberry to be totally cool, charismatic and someone I loved just “hanging” with. Any preconceived notions I had about Funeral Directors were instantly obliterated! When it comes time to bring my end of life wishes to life, I want someone like Shannon to be organizing my churro bar.
Second, before meeting Linda, I had no idea Life-Cycle Celebrants – or “death doulas” – were even a thing. But her calm, knowledgeable demeanour and ability to get us all to open up and venture into new territory (without pushing our limits) made me realize what a blessing it is to have people like her to turn to.
So, what did I learn from our open conversation about death?
1. The subject of death is an uncomfortable one. In some cultures, and for some generations, it’s actually considered taboo. But there’s only one person who can convey your end of life wishes, and that’s you. You know how they say to avoid grocery shopping when you’re hungry, so you won’t make impulse purchases? You don’t want to wait until the 11th hour to plan your funeral, either. Make decisions now, when you and your loved ones can have a frank, impartial conversation. You may be surprised to learn that you’re not on the same page at all! Or comforted in knowing that your wishes have been received and accepted.
2. Your death is not all about you. This was the biggest “light bulb” moment for me. I may ask to be cremated, but what should my children do with the ashes? Should it me up to me… or up to them? And what if they’d rather have a place to come and visit me while I “rest?” Maybe they’d prefer for me to be buried underground. So you see, it’s not good enough for me to simply write my wishes in a sealed envelope with “open when I’m gone” written on the front.
3. Help is available. You don’t have to figure it all out yourself – and you can start the process, now. Arbor Memorial has a four-step pre-planning solution for end of life arrangements. Whether you’ve already started plans or you’ve never given it any thought, a representative at Arbor Memorial will take the time up front to learn about you, to consider and discuss your situation and wishes.
(You can also utilize their free four-piece Estate Planning Kit to assist in gathering the paperwork, ahead of time.)
From there, they can help you and your loved ones gain a better understanding of the many traditional and contemporary options available to reflect your taste, culture, and budget.Recently, I chatted with my mom about her end of life wishes. Surprisingly, she was more open to beginning the conversation than I anticipated. However, within just five minutes, I realized that we are completed unprepared from an organizational and emotional standpoint. So, we’ll continue the conversation, even though it’s not one we’re dying to have.
But, that’s the whole point.
This post is sponsored by Arbor Memorial. The opinions on this blog, as always, are my own.