planning a funeral? Ask these questions

Within an hour of finding out my husband passed away, the process of planning his funeral began. (Remember planning a funeral wasn’t on my agenda this year, or EVER! I kept saying, “This is unbelievable!) The mortician, who is a good friend of mine, called and asked if he could come over and visit with me. He gave me very good advice at a time my head couldn’t wrap around what was going on. We went over all the Questions to Ask others and myself: who what where (wear) when why and how. 

WHO– Obviously we knew who the funeral was for, but he asked me WHO would I like to be a part of the viewings and funeral. Who would I like to stand in the line at the viewing with me? Who would you like to have there when you close the casket/say your goodbyes or say the prayer? Who would you like to give the grave dedication to? Who would you like to invite to the lunch after the grave dedication? Who are the pallbearers? Who will go in what cars to get from the funeral to the cemetery? I needed to decide on the funeral program so they could create the paper program. Luckily for me, this was easy. That evening I sat alone for a few minutes and who I wanted to do each piece of the funeral somehow just came to me as I wrote it down. Miracles happen! I really wanted to talk at the funeral as well as all of my 6 young children, but I was afraid. I had no idea how I or they would handle this, so I put us first on the program hoping I could hold it together better. Woo else would speak? Read? Pray? Sing? 

WHAT mortuary would you like to have him buried at? I didn’t want to think about that and we had never talked about it before. I guess the one closest to my home. WHAT day would you like the viewings and funeral? 

WHERE would you like the viewing and the funeral? I asked my church leaders if I could have them at our chapel. We had to coordinate it with other things that were going on that week and which building to have it in. 

WEAR– What would you like your husband to wear in the casket? My husband’s body had been in the desert for a few days at over 100 degrees before it was found, so my mortician told me I absolutely wouldn’t want to see my husband. It would be a closed casket I was sad, but I didn’t want to have my last sight of him a bad one, so I took this off my plate. He asked me to gather what I wanted him to wear and he would stop by tomorrow to get it. (That was one of the most awful moments of my life.) I am sure many of you will have the chance to see your loved one who has passed and maybe dress them in what you want them to be wearing for the funeral. Others choose to have them cremated. 

WHEN can you choose the location of his burial plot? I guess Monday morning? He was asking me things I didn’t want to even think about! Another WHEN– He asked me to decide on the date of the viewings and funeral. We looked at the calendar to get a day or two decided when the body would be ready and coordinate with when the building would be available. He said most people plan the funeral around 5 days after the death. I know this can be drastically different depending on so many things. We had our grandma’s funeral 6 months after she passed because it was in Wisconsin and they couldn’t dig the ground when it was frozen! WHEN can you write the obituary? By midnight so it could get in the paper. Wow- how do you consolidate everything about your loved one’s life in a short paragraph? This was pretty hard for me, my thoughts were very scattered. I asked his brother and my oldest kids to help me at about 11 pm. We laughed remembering the good times and it felt so good. I’m sure the obituary would be very different if I were to write it today. It helps me to remember when I read obituaries that normally they only have a day or so to gather the information and write it. Maybe I should write my own now?! 

WHY plan all of this? What else would be worth your time at this moment? I wanted to memorialize Jay in the best way possible because we loved him. The funeral is the day everyone can openly and passionately grieve the loss together. People get to show you how much your loved one meant to them- it’s really special. The funeral was a big piece of my mourning and healing process.

HOW many people will be attending? What size rooms do you need? And HOW are you supposed to get through something like this? 

The last question was CAN you meet me at the mortuary tomorrow morning at 7:30 am to pick out the casket? Oh, wow.

Gosh, I really didn’t want to do all of this, but I knew it was the right thing to do and was supported by so many. I am most grateful for the family and friends that supported me in different ways this excruciatingly painful, yet special, week of my life. Day after day I made decisions to the best of my ability and then just DID IT. Most of it wasn’t pretty, but I was proud of myself for getting through this hard time the way I did. I hope you feel the same way- *remember to give yourself some leeway going through all of this!  

nobody wants to plan a funeral