The numbers are fairly convincing on this: 100 percent of us will die. Here are some tips to help make this event as neatly planned as possible for you and your family:
- Plan for age and illness, death and bereavement. Talk openly with your family about your concerns and preferences. Get information about funerals, cremation and expenses.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Your pastor, rabbi, priest, imam or shaman can help you shape the important questions. Often it is the asking, more than the answers, that helps us the most.
- Rely on faith to allay your fears. Whether you are devout or lapsed in your religion, your faith with its doubts and wonderments and uncertainties or your spirituality will help you through the darkest and most difficult hours.
- Make the acquaintance of a licensed funeral director, someone who is accountable by name and reputation. Ask around. Get referrals. Deal with someone who has more than a commission or sales quota at stake in the transaction. Find a professional you could call in the middle of the night if someone you love died and you needed help.
- Let your family take part in the decisions that they will have to live with. You can pre-plan the funeral, but you cannot pre-grieve the grief.
- Don't confuse a casket for a funeral. The most expensive casket will not get you into heaven or keep you out.
- Be wary of "memorial counselors," "death care professionals" and telemarketers who call you in the middle of dinner trying to sell you something.
- Keep the difficult vigils with the dying, the dead and the bereaved. The gift of presence, the ministry of listening, the human kindness of being there, the power of witness these are essential exercises in humanity.
- If you've lost someone, make time to mourn. Go the distance. Weep, laugh, pray, love, give thanks and praise, comfort, mend, honor and remember.