Stan's World - A Final Gift
November 15, 2020
As many long-time clients will attest, I tend to share lessons I learn in life through this column. Some lessons may apply to more readers than others, but I always hope there is some value to at least a few of you. In this instance, I think I learned something that has the potential to benefit everyone. While that may be a bold statement, hear me out.
A few weeks ago, my mom passed away. At 98+ years, she lived a very full life, and we were grateful, in this COVID environment, to have been able to visit with her before she died. Yes, it’s sad when a parent dies, but having so many years of memories helps to fill the void.
Knowing that the end was near, I pulled out a folder containing information on burial plans that my parents had made more than 25 years ago. Lots of paper; lots of forms; and lots of phone numbers. I picked one and dialed.
When I got connected to the appropriate contact, I was given a number that could be called 24 hours a day. The representative instructed me to provide that number to the skilled nursing floor where my mother was staying and that there was nothing more for me to do. Suffice it to say, I was somewhat skeptical, but I did as I was instructed. By the way, the cemetery is in Florida; my mother was in New Jersey.
My mother died at approximately 6 am on a Saturday morning. A little after 7 am, I received the first call from the funeral home in Florida, and they just kept coming. A funeral home in New Jersey would pick up my mother from the nursing facility and arrange for transit to Florida. The funeral home in Florida knew which casket to select. They would arrange for the rabbi to officiate the funeral. They would arrange for a video broadcast so the family could watch. They would make sure I received ample death certificates. They would call Social Security so benefits would cease. Throughout Saturday and Sunday, every question I had was promptly answered, though they typically told me before I even asked. In the end, all I had to do was answer a few of their questions.
The day someone dies is not the optimal time to plan a funeral for obvious reasons. Family members are often emotional and grieving. But in that moment, I realized the wonderful gift that my parents had given to their family, and especially to their two sons: the gift of a pre-planned funeral. (If you were looking for something more exciting, forgive me for letting you down.)
Believe it or not, this is huge, and it’s advice that you should seriously consider because it lifts an incredible burden that would otherwise have been placed on my family. Can you imagine the stress, and potential intra-family conflict, from trying to figure out the state, city, and cemetery where a loved one should be buried while emotions are running wild? (Or, whether or not the loved one should be buried, as opposed to cremation? Talk about creating a scene among the family!) What about casket selection? Flowers? For anyone who has been through this, I can’t imagine the stress you were under.
But that was all done for my family. All I had to do was relay to my brother what was going on because the tough decisions had already been made. No one would be mad by any of the decisions that were made, because we didn’t have to make any of them. In fact, all decisions were made by the person who was to be buried.
Morbid as this discussion may sound, think about doing something about this, long before the need to do something ever arises. Even if it takes a while to formalize your decisions, commit your wishes to paper and tell your family where to find the document. And as sensitive a topic as this is, if you have an elderly parent(s), attempt to start a conversation.
Shortly after my mom’s funeral, I sent an email to the funeral director in Florida. If they do marketing, all they have to do is put my email on their website, and business should boom. At a time in my life where my thinking may have been a bit fuzzy, my parents came through for me. In fact, if I can ever get back to Boca Raton post-COVID, I plan on thanking them in person.