My family suffered a sudden loss last week when my Aunt passed unexpectedly while visiting her son in Colorado. This difficult time alerted me to what’s likely a common gap in end of life planning.
Much has been written on the subject of proper estate planning. Wills, trusts, POAs and the like all have their place depending on the individual situation.
What I want to touch on today is even more basic, but often overlooked. It doesn’t require a lot of documentation, though some might help. It’s simply thinking through your wishes for services and other arrangements related to your passing and adequately communicating them with loved ones.
Where might services to take place? What level of formality do you prefer? Would you like a small, solemn gathering or a large celebration of life? There are no right or wrong answers, but discussing what you envision well before a need exists can provide a tremendous amount of comfort once you are gone.
In many ways these services are in place for the living. They allow loved ones left behind an opportunity for closure and for others who care to pay their respects and offer the love and support needed. Removing an additional burden by knowing they are planning services that not only allow for that healing process to begin, but also meet the wishes of the departed can provide a great deal of relief.
Much like any estate or end of life planning, these conversations can be difficult and envisioning how we want to be remembered when our time comes can be an unpleasant experience. I can only suggest that the benefits of going through this before a need arises can far outweigh that unpleasantness. True planners may want to go through the steps of formalizing and prepaying for some of these plans. Others may just want to communicate their wishes. Regardless of how far you take it, it is invaluable information for your loved ones to have.
My cousins were fortunate enough to have had basic conversations around these topics with their mother. It made an incredibly difficult time a little easier knowing they were carrying out what Mom wanted. It even spurred a conversation with my father and I to make sure I knew what was important to him.
My hope is that these stories will encourage you to have these same conversations. It will come up in meetings going forward as we continually look for opportunities to improve the overall goals and well being of those we’re fortunate enough to serve.