I have married around 30 women in my time. That’s a lot of women for one bloke. And of those I’ve kept up with, most are happy with their husbands (who I also married at the time). You see I spent half of my working life as a registered marriage celebrant so I saw the best and worst in other peoples lives.
And Other Ceremonies.
But it’s not just marriages. I’ve also participated in lots of child naming ceremonies and led lots of funerals. But the thing I’ve noticed recently is funerals have taken the top place as a ceremony in my life. It’s most likely my age, but there seems to be a funeral every month I need to attend. I don’t lead them as often since I retired, but I have lots of friends who, unlike me, all seems to be ageing. So I probably don’t have to write about how to prepare for a wedding, though I may do that sometime for those of you who are thinking about taking the plunge again. But I do need to write about how to prepare for a funeral because it seems to me to be more relevant to us retired blokes. So, what do you need to do to organise one for yourself or others?
A Funeral Director.
If the person dies in a hospital, the hospital often want you to name a funeral director on the spot so they can organise for someone to take the body away. From my experience, that’s a difficult time for a family to make that decision. Usually the hospital is in a hurry for the information and will try and pressure you for a decision. So, maybe the first thing you should do, before you get that place, is contact your local funeral directors and ask them the typical costs of a funeral. If you meet them face to face, or even on the phone you can get an idea of their compatibility or otherwise with you or the family members. So choose a funeral director while you are still alive.
By the way, funeral insurance (which they will probably try to sell you) can be a can of worms. One family I know thought they had funeral insurance for both the husband and wife but, since the policy was in his name and he died first, the company wouldn’t pay up for her funeral. They claimed the policy finished when he died. On the other hand it can be of benefit to you too. Centrelink doesn’t count the value of funeral insurance amongst your assets so there can be a benefits but only if you are asset tested for the pension. So just be careful if you take out funeral insurance.
Burial or Cremation?
You probably need to decide whether you prefer to be buried or cremated. You can usually buy a plot in the local cemetery if you want to get organised. You should contact your local council to get the details for burials or cremations in some places. Some councils allow for three people to be buried in the same plot. If that’s the case, you may have to outlive your partner by a year or more so they can allow the ground to settle before opening it up again. But your local council can tell you about these things.
Organising the ceremony is probably the easiest thing to do. You need to choose some music – the kind you like. If you leave the choice to your kids, its probably not going to be music you would choose after all, most of the good music finished in 1975 didn’t it? And make sure you listen to the lyrics carefully. At some funerals I’ve done, the lyrics of the songs caused me to squirm. I’m sure they hadn’t thought about what the song said before the ceremony.
Your Life Story.
Whilst you still have your wits about you, write a simple story of your life. Include things like where you were born, your parents details, your brothers and sisters, who you married, and your children names. Then, if you can remember some stories from your childhood or later in life that would be good to write down as well. You never know, if you get carried away with your writing you story, someone may publish it after you die and you may make your kids rich on the proceeds!
You should also list things like church activity, sports club memberships and other things you have been a part of. Don’t forget the mens shed should be there too. If you have served in the military, you should note that too with as many details as necessary. You may also want the local RSL club involved so making a note about your service number will help them too. That list usually leads to a list of other people you would like to invite to take part in your funeral. Someone may read a bible reading, or give the eulogy or part of it, or lead a prayer. Having others participate can be a great thing.
A List of Things.
Finally, leave a list of where you keep things. You know where your will is but does anybody else? So, you need a list of of important things like enduring power of attorney, advanced health directive, the passwords to your facebook account, email account, your computer (where you have all those bitcoins stored) and anything else people will need if you are unable to give directions anymore. It’s probably not a good idea to leave such a list on your computer but in the front of your filing cabinet or whatever is probably safer.
Now I know that most of you won’t bother to do these things or even be still reading by now, but maybe you should actually do something about this. After all, I’ve sat with a lot of people struggling with grief over the person who has just died and trying to prepare funerals in the midst of their pain. That can be the most difficult time of their life as they try and put together something that make sense. I know their pain and struggle well so if you can do something it now, it will be of great benefit to them and it may even avoid the family arguments of “dad would want this my way – not your way”. In my experience, funerals and weddings can bring out the worst in families so anything you can do to make the planning easier is a good thing.