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Just Cremate Me

How we prepare our loved ones for our death and express how we want to be remembered is just as important as the medical decisions we make.

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One morning, my dad called me at work, which was a first.  I was immediately concerned that bad news was coming, however it turned out my parents had made a resolution to “get their affairs in order.” They were starting the process of prearranging their funerals and updating all of their end-of-life documents. My dad’s plan was to have everything in order before I visited in a couple of months. My dad was calling to confirm that the funeral home he had chosen was a CANA member.

When I visited my parents, we went to the bank and spent time reviewing documents – living wills and worksheets from the funeral home. Not surprisingly, my mom had planned a lovely funeral for herself at which her many friends from church and her social clubs, former students and others could gather together. My mom is a social creature known for her party planning and her death would reflect her life. My dad’s worksheet simply stated, “Just cremate me.”

He explained that he didn’t want us to be sad or mourn him. He didn’t want a big deal made about his passing. He would be in heaven and we would see him again when it was our time. How many times have you had the same thought or a similar conversation with your friends or loved ones? My mom and I looked at each other and then looked away. I said what she couldn’t at that moment. “I love you, Dad, and I will mourn you and I will cry when you die. I need to be surrounded by family and your friends and former students. I need to hear about the practical jokes you pulled in the classroom and the stories of your leadership in the church and community. I want to respect your wishes, but I will mark your passing. I love you too much not to.”

Our conversation continued about their “affairs”, and has become much more than pre-planning a funeral. The visit ended without finalizing the details, but in subsequent phone calls and other visits, my father has suggested particular hymns, or scripture or jokes worth sharing "one last time". It is comforting to us to have these conversations now because despite his modesty and deprecation, he is expressing what he views as his impact on his family and the world. He is expressing the values he intended to pass along and hearing from me that he was successful.

I am not sure that my father's funeral will be as fun as my mother's, but I am certain that both will faithfully reflect their lives and assist me and the others who loved them grieve in a healthy fashion. 

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

How will our loved ones remember us when we are dead? How will the impact we have made in the world be expressed?

Tell us about your work experience:

I serve as the Executive Director of the Cremation Association of North America (CANA).


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Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Barbara, thanks for the post! It'd be great to add an image with this. Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

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