Friday, July 23, 2010

Funerals and Memorials

This has been a horrible week on two fronts and both concern the death of a parent and kids not following the wishes for their funeral or memorial.

Note: The definition of a funeral is with a body present and a memorial is without the body as having an urn of ashes present, or a picture of person, or just a get together for happy memories. For all of the older people I work with a funeral means sad songs, lots of crying and a "preacher" standing there saying things when he knows nothing about the family. For these people, a memorial or celebration of life is upbeat and fun, and yes, there may be tears also.

In one case, the body was buried when the person wanted to be cremated because that person could not stand tight places. Family and friends all knew this, but someone with certain religious beliefs made the decision. This has caused a serious rift in the family that may never heal. I for one am heart sick about it. The cost of the funeral will hurt the family economically, but the person did not get their wish even in death.

The other case involved a service in a church totally against that person’s belief. That person did not want sad songs. That person wanted an outdoor memorial in a park with grass and trees and a potluck meal. Friends knew what local Big Band the person wanted to play upbeat songs of an earlier time. Some religions are similar enough that perhaps beliefs can be put aside because one family member belongs and the building is free. For some people, it might not be a problem at all. In this case, the person did not think the church would allow it to happen since that was not the person’s faith. Parks are free if money were an issue.

What went wrong? Please read and take away some vital lessons. Kids and parents often do not talk about death and their wishes. In both situations, the kids say, “I didn’t know,” or “I wasn’t told.” The deceased party may have mentioned it, but kids, no matter how old did not listen because that parent was not ever going to die.

In both cases, I begged and pleaded with the deceased to put their wishes in writing so the kids would know. Apparently neither of them did. I knew both of them for many years and no one from the family asked me if I knew anything.

Another thing to be respectful of is the organizations donations should be sent to in their memory. Many living people assume (incorrectly) that wherever the donations go to means that is what was wrong with the deceased person. This means that people will think the person had Alzheimer’s Disease if donations go there. While it may be a fact that they did, they would not want anyone to think so. Tonight, I sit here terribly sad at what has happened. Some say it does not matter and perhaps it doesn’t. Perhaps, for me it is the fact that the two deaths are so close together.

Please, ask your parent what their wishes are when they die. Parents, please make your wishes known in writing for your children. Most family members want to respect and follow your wishes if they can. Help them do that. If you do not know what the wishes are, ask friends and other family members.

On a happier note: Happy Birthday to Kari, my 16-year-old granddaughter.

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