Talking with Loved Ones about Their Future Wishes

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Is it time for you and your parents, or for you and your children to have “the talk?” You know, the one where you talk about plans for how things should be if one of you passes away this year. It’s just not one-sided anymore, expecting the older members of a family to pass away before younger ones do.

In just these first weeks of 2022 alone, we learned of 99-year-old actress Betty White passing away, but so did 65-year-old entertainer Bob Saget. We lost 94-year-old actor Sidney Poitier and 29-year-old actress Kim Mi-Soo as well. Big Daddy Weave bassist Jay Weaver died at age 42 and director Peter Bogdanovich died at age 82.

No longer is there “that age” at which people are expected to die of natural causes. Yes, COVID has impacted the passing of loved ones, but so have undiagnosed heart conditions been discovered after the fact. So, the “right age” to start thinking about future end-of-life plans is now.

For a long time, there was a fear or stigma that, if you started making plans, you thought you were dying or you might die sooner. Those of us who have spent a lifetime in the funeral business know the facts. The simple truth is the only thing accomplished by your planning ahead is that you leave less chaos and trauma behind for whomever is left to make decisions in your behalf.

Whatever you might have wanted, had in mind and were sure you would have time to get spelled out, dies with you, if there is no plan in place. A second fear is that you have to pay for everything up front in full. In today’s economy that’s just not the case. We are aware of how expensive things are, though, and there is benefit to cost-savings by planning early.

Before you reach out to us, there are decisions you will want to make before you leave home for your appointment. Burial or Cremation? Which do you prefer? In some families, burial is done on a generational family basis wherein some senior member of the family has purchased a large number of plots for multiple generations. This was a practice that was very popular 30 years ago, and actually if you’d done that 30 years ago, you could have saved a small fortune today.

But the way families tend to scatter, present-day, it often makes more sense for different generations to be buried in the cities and states where they lived the longest as their primary home base.

The “next generation” similarly has transitioned to a husband and wife deciding which of many family plots available to them they would like to use. Say that their mother and father each have plots set aside “for the whole family” and you are, upon marriage, inserted into the question of “his” or “hers”?

I’ve heard a wife say, “Well, if you want to be buried on the family ranch, that’s fine with me, but I’m going to be buried in the columbarium my family built for us.” “But what about our children; what will they think?” She responded, “They can visit us in two places just as easily as one.”

Clearly, they hadn’t discussed this topic before they came to us and it turned into a vigorous “conversation” where they finally came up with “Plan C,” which meant they bought adjoining plots at the Aggie Field of Honor and started their own traditions. This is just one example of the many decisions that go into preplanning.

At the other end of the spectrum, what happens if your senior citizen doesn’t want to discuss end-of-life plans with you, their own adult child? This happens more frequently than you’d think. Many times, seniors are convinced that once they select a final resting place, they’re going to arrive there faster than they would if they hadn’t thought about it.

The older we get, the more we realize that our days on Earth are finite. And frankly we’d rather think about anything but our “last” days. However, you can’t beat the feeling of relief that comes from having actually taken charge of your final decisions so that others don’t have to.

If your senior refuses to talk about where they want to be buried, a neutral way to enter the discussion of final resting places is to work on family genealogy together with several senior family members. Part of every family tree includes place of burial, cemetery name, city, and state.

Taking a look through an old photo album with your children, and your loved seniors nearby is a great way to get them to reminisce about their childhood days, the addresses of houses they grew up in, where their grandparents are buried, etc. During your genealogy information gathering sessions you might hear your seniors “true wishes” come through in discussions. If they don’t bring up their preferences, you and your spouse can bring your own decisions up to share, which may prompt them to share their own opinions.

They might mention “I want to be buried not cremated.” Or they will say, “I want to be cremated and my ashes scattered on the family pond.” This is a great way to simply begin the discussion of the family history, which is a good time to reminisce and to have your children hear about the family members they never met or will get to meet in some cases. Or they may ask you questions about your decisions and during that discussion, they may say, “We were hoping you would want to be buried with us.”

That’s a preference that you might not hear otherwise, at least for many years. It’s of benefit to all of you as it is an opportunity to preserve family history by video or audio recording these family history sessions. Fifty and seventy-five years from now, future generations will thank you.

For your own information, there’s always our no-obligation pre-talk seminar or discussion. We are here to help you work your way through the pathways and decisions that you’ll need to make in the first stages of your planning for the final days of your life.

Cody D. Jones ‘02

Owner & Community Member