By Kim Sabella, CFSP, Licensed Funeral Director/Embalmer; Owner of Wolfersberger Funeral Home, O’Fallon, Illinois
I’ll be the first to admit that considering my own death doesn’t exactly give me the warm fuzzies. Even for me, where caskets, funerals, burials, and embalming are common topics at the dinner table (yes…for me these are common topics), while I find ease in the discussion; I still find great distress in considering my OWN demise. The older I get, the more obvious my mortality is becoming.
As a Licensed Funeral Director with over 25 years’ experience working with and guiding people through the various choices and paths when a death has occurred, I have yet to hear someone ever say “Gosh, I wish Dad hadn’t done all this work for me ahead of time.” Overwhelmingly, when faced with the reality of a death, those left behind are very grateful to learn that someone has taken the time to pre-plan their own funeral. Sometimes, the details are relatively simple; others are more complex. But all are appreciated.
I work with my husband. That means we spend a lot of time together—let’s say approximately 23 hours a day. We work at a funeral home. We talk about funerals. We attend them almost daily. We reflect on them often. Sometimes, when evening comes on, as we wrap up the workday, we conclude, “That was a good funeral.” I said that to a friend once, who chided me that certainly I must be kidding. After all, there are no GOOD funerals. Well, I’m here to say if you’ve ever seen a BAD funeral, then you know when you see a GOOD funeral.
So, the next obvious question: What makes a GOOD funeral?
In my opinion, planning is the key to a good funeral. An effective funeral director can help with ideas, can offer tips on how to make it more personal, and can assure the family of sound judgment, while offering accommodations that help make this happen. Most funerals occur within 3-4 days after death; in these few short days we often can provide a meaningful experience, but just think how much more meaningful it could be had we had a little head start.
Funerals are important; our society values the way in which we care for our dead. Our friends want and need a place to come—a place to offer kindness to the survivors, a place to sit and ponder the life that was lived, a place to feel secure to express one’s grief. We plan ahead for many big events in our lives; we plan for our wedding, buying our first home, our children’s education, family vacations and other significant life events. We even plan for unexpected traumatic events by purchasing home, auto, and medical insurance. Understanding the benefits of planning ahead has prompted many to take the next step in consulting a Funeral Director for guidance.
We believe it is important for EVERYONE to have a plan-no matter your age or your health status. For some, pre-paying for one’s funeral offers significant benefits as well. Please consider your preferred funeral director, give her a call and plan to spend a few minutes learning how you can have a GOOD funeral.
When the Sun Goes Down – A Serendipitous Guide to Planning Your Own Funeral by Betty Breuhaus (“A surprisingly delightful book on planning that final celebration of your life”)
The Good Funeral – Death, Grief, & the Community of Care by Thomas G. Long & Thomas Lynch