Take time to con­sider the type of fu­neral you want to have

Record Observer - - Senior Satellite - By RYAN HELFENBEIN

Think back to a time when you per­haps were meet­ing with a fu­neral pro­fes­sional to help or­ga­nize a ser­vice for a fam­ily mem­ber or friend who re­cently passed. Most of that time was spent con­cen­trat­ing on ways to help honor that per­son’s life, and help the fam­ily through the process.

How­ever, while plan­ning out the spe­cific de­tails and ser­vices, it is only nat­u­ral to think about what we might want our own fu­neral cer­e­mony to be like. Now, for a per­son not around the fu­neral in­dus­try, this is a rare oc­ca­sion to think these thoughts. But what about the in­di­vid­u­als who are di­rectly in­volved with or­ga­niz­ing these cer­e­monies for mul­ti­ple fam­i­lies day in and day out? Yes, I’m re­fer­ring to my­self and my col­leagues called Fu­neral Di­rec­tors.

Surely peo­ple who live and breathe the or­ga­ni­za­tion of cer­e­monies and watch the re­ac­tions of vis­i­tors to the mul­ti­tudes of ways to honor a live lived must have some firm ideas about how they’d like to be re­mem­bered? Bet­ter yet, how sim­i­lar would it be to what they do for others day in and day out?

A re­cent study was con­ducted of 22 fu­neral pro­fes­sion­als ask­ing them “What would your fu­neral be like?” The re­sults were rather eye open­ing, and per­haps dif­fer­ent then what many would imag­ine.

Out of the 22 in­di­vid­u­als sur­veyed, more than three quar­ters (17 re­spon­dents) want a non-tra­di­tional cer­e­mony upon their pass­ing. Some even went as far as say­ing they do not want any re­li­gious as­pects in­volved in their cer­e­mony, but rather a time of cel­e­bra­tion and rem­i­nisc­ing of their life lived. In­ter­est­ing, right!?

These are in­di­vid­u­als that per­form ser­vices for our com­mu­ni­ties, day in and day out, and who go in and out of churches and fu­neral homes all around the coun­try. What is even more in­ter­est­ing is that most want a vis­i­ta­tion, how­ever with a unique, one of a kind twist, to in­clude a time of laugh­ter, fun, and “with a spark.”

Dave Kennedy puts it best: “First, I in­tend to make it fun. Fun and hu­mor have al­ways been a big part of my life and love of life. I in­tend to have vis­i­ta­tions for fam­ily and friends at my fu­neral home to come see me one last time [if they de­sire], while of­fer­ing re­fresh­ments and mu­sic of my choos­ing. En­ter­tain­ment for the youths in at­ten­dance will be of­fered in an­other room in the fa­cil­ity. Af­ter the ser­vice, I’d like to take every­one to go to a ball­game while I rest in the park­ing lot in the hearse with the ra­dio turned on to the game. But most of all, I want the theme to be live love and re­mem­ber me with a smile.”

Dave could not have said it any bet­ter, “live love and re­mem­ber me with a smile” is some­thing all of us should in­cor­po­rate for this dif­fi­cult time. As a mat­ter of fact, in most of these re­sponses, this need for a cel­e­bra­tion was ap­par­ent. For ex­am­ple, un­der­tak­ers replied with “… go to an Ir­ish pub,” “… the ser­vice will be­gin with “Let’s Go Crazy by Prince,” “make it fun,” “… it’s a go­ing away party,” and “… an event that’s not sad.” One gen­tle­men even went as far as show­ing a pic­ture to ex­plain how he wants his fu­neral, see graphic.

The les­son we can all take from these in­ter­views is that fu­neral ser­vice to­day doesn’t have to be cookie cut­ter. We have learned that 71 per­cent of con­sumers to­day do not want a typ­i­cal fu­neral, but only 5 per­cent are get­ting ex­actly what they had in mind. If each of these fu­neral pro­fes­sion­als can get that one of a kind, unique trib­ute to a life lived, then we should be able to as well. Take some time to con­sider what sort of unique cel­e­bra­tion cap­tures your per­son­al­ity, and make a time to visit with your lo­cal un­der­taker well in ad­vance to see that the de­tails you have in mind are out­lined for the fu­ture.

RYAN HELFENBEIN

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