My wife and I have started the difficult and humbling process of planning our funerals. Neither my mother nor my father did any advance planning. My father’s philosophy was, “I’ll take care of that when I get there.” He never seemed to figure out that when you finally get “there,” you’re dead and unable to figure out anything. I made a promise to myself in the middle of trying to sort out all of my parent’s affairs that I would not do the same to my boys. Jeannie and I would prepare our funerals, pull together all of the documents our sons would need when something happens to us, and put it all in a notebook for our boys when they needed it. It would all be in one place — copies of the wills, funeral plans, financial accounts with passwords. All they would have to do is grab the notebook and they would have everything they need.
It seemed like a good thing to do. Then, we actually started trying to do it. As with everything in America, there are just too many choices to make when you die. First, there are questions before you go. Do you have a living will? What are your wishes if you become comatose? If you’re declared brain dead? When is it okay for your family to disconnect life support? Can they withhold food and water? I’m not saying these are easy questions to be asking, but they are the questions your family will have to answer if something happens to you.
Then, once you’re dead, a whole bunch of other questions have to be answered. Do you want to be buried or cremated? If you’re going to be buried, where do you want to be buried? Is there a family plot? Do you need to buy a burial plot? If so, where? Where you grew up? Where you live now? Where will your children live when you get old?
If you’re going to be buried, what kind of casket do you want? Do you want the casket to be open or closed? Do you want visitation the day before or the day of the funeral? Do you want music at the service? What song? Who will sing it? For that matter, who will preach at your service?
Interesting thought, isn’t it? Who preaches at the preacher’s funeral?
What if you want to be cremated? First, there’s the biblical question: is cremation forbidden in the Bible? No, it’s not. In fact, there is almost nothing said about burying the dead (other than the fact that you need to do it) in all of the Bible. Do you want your ashes scattered? If so, where? You better check to be sure it’s okay to scatter your ashes where you want. Scattering ashes has become a big business. Did you know you can’t rent limos, airplanes, or boats to take your ashes to your desired spot? It’s become such a big business that regulations have been written about where and when you can spread your loved one’s ashes.
Once you get through the obstacle course of all these decisions, you’ll find yourself thinking about your own funeral. I mean really — really — thinking about it. What would it be like to be at your own funeral? Who will be there? Your spouse? Your children? Your grandchildren? What friends will be there?
And for those who are there, what will they say?
Preachers have a saying, “You preach your own funeral.” We know what that means. Our actions, our words, our acts of love – however big or small – will become the content of the sermons, eulogies, and testimonies told at our funerals.
Now that will give you a new perspective when you talk to someone. Do you want this person to come to your funeral? And if you do, what do you want them to say?
Whatever it is, start living that way now. Live in such a way that the people you want to come to your funeral actually come. And, when they do come, they say what you want them to say.
I was blessed beyond measure to be the child of my parents. My mom and dad were people of genuine and strong faith. I learned to love Scripture from listening to my dad prepare to teach his Sunday School class. My mother playing the great hymns of the faith on the piano was the soundtrack of my life. The content wasn’t the problem for their funerals. Editing it for the time I had in the services was my challenge.
That’s the problem I want my family to have. I want them to have too many stories from a man who lived large and loved hard. I want them to laugh, and cry, but most of all, I want them to worship with gratitude, joy, and purpose. I want them to be encouraged to live a life that matters. I want them to be thankful I was part of their lives.
Whether we realize it or not, we’re planning our funerals. Every day, we’re making decisions about who will be there and what they will say when they come. More than we realize, we’ll have the funeral we lived for.
Whoever speaks at your funeral will mine your life to find something to say.
Give them good stuff to work with.