Where’s the car I was promised that folds into a briefcase? That may be an odd question given the amazing technology that’s been introduced during my lifetime. Computer and Internet magic have far surpassed anything I could have imagined. Still, I’m a little disappointed that some genius hasn’t figured out how to produce the fold-up automobile featured in the 1960s television cartoon The Jetsons.
We can miss the mark if we choose to honor a person’s hobbies, vocation or casual interests instead of who they actually were.
I wonder how many well-intentioned family members have fallen short of expectations when making funeral arrangements for loved ones without knowing their specific preferences. A good funeral professional can perform miracles–stream funeral services across the globe, replicate the deceased’s living room, hold ceremonies in exotic settings, coordinate processions of motorcycles and make almost anything else imaginable take shape. But without knowing what was important to the deceased and having a vision for how they wanted to be remembered, expressions of a person’s life can miss the mark. Instead of honoring someone’s essence as a person, we might honor their hobbies, vocation or casual interests. Maybe Grandma crocheted simply to pass the time and not to build her legacy.
Many people claim funerals are for the living. Granted, an essential reason for conducting funerals is to allow those left behind to publicly acknowledge their loss and grief, but honoring the deceased in a way that’s appropriate and meaningful must not be ignored. Arranging a traditional religious funeral for an agnostic is like throwing a Hello Kitty birthday party for a 60-year old man.
What can we do now to help families best memorialize their loved one?
The details can push the guest of honor aside and show little regard for providing a fitting tribute.
Having been involved in the development of FAMIC’s Have the Talk of a Lifetime consumer outreach campaign, I started wondering what I can do now to help my loved ones memorialize me in a way that accurately portrays my life. I also wanted to remove as much burden as possible from my family when they grieve over my death at a tragically young age (hey, I can dream, can’t I?).
The Have the Talk of a Lifetime Consumer Workbook on FAMIC’s website (www.famic.org–Username: FAMIC; Password: CAMPAIGN) helped me organize my thoughts and communicate them to my family. The exercise prompted me to recall memories of people I love, milestones and inspirations that shaped my life. From these memories, I determined the symbols that best represent my life (i.e., lots of flowers, a procession of vintage automobiles and my awesome “funeral music” playlist). I also want crying–lots of crying, but only for a few minutes. Then I want everyone to flood into the parking lot where dogs from a local animal shelter will snap everyone into cheerful moods.
2. Be prepared for questions.
We have a professional responsibility to become familiar with Have the Talk of a Lifetime. Following the conclusion of a fundraising effort expected to conclude within a few months, FAMIC will step up its outreach efforts to the public with new and more frequently-placed digital ads and social media content. It’s possible that consumers in your community will soon discover the program. Some may contact your funeral home to ask questions about Have the Talk of a Lifetime resources and seek advice for how they can make their final arrangements.
3. Position yourself as the personal funeral arrangements consultant.
Are you ready? “I’ve never heard of that program” and “I don’t know what tools are available” are not responses that will make you or your funeral home look good. On the other hand, recommending a workbook that will help them communicate how they want to be remembered will position you as their personal funeral arrangements consultant. I encourage you to visit www.famic.org and take a look at the resources available to families. They’ll be remembered in meaningful ways and you’ll be a hero! Now if only someone would invent a funeral coach that folds into a briefcase.
Are you using Have the Talk of a Lifetime at your funeral home? This week on Facebook, we recognized an OGR member who is.
By Mark Allen
OGR Executive Director & CEO