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Living Funerals

Copyright © 2007 by Lisa Tyler

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“This article is about ways to tackle the “death beast” now, once and for all, and put it behind you so that you can really LIVE with the years you’re assigned on earth.”

[See also “What you can do for your parent who is dying.”]

What are you afraid of about death?

Is it fear for yourself or fear for your loved ones you leave behind?  Do you have enough faith to feel confident that when you pass from this life, you’ll be in another life, or in God’s arms? 

You may answer yes, but still have anxiety about that day that is eating away at your life and productiveness now.

We'll talk about the practical things you can do in a moment.  Let's get down to the brass tacks, and what most people are really facing.  Fear of the unknown, or of nothingness.  Fear that all your work and everything that you held dear will simply cease to exist and was for nothing.


Today there are life insurance policies and savings accounts, and all kinds of things you can put into place to provide for your children when you’re gone.  That “beast of fear” can be tamed with some research into what is the best company, the best insurance policy etc.  Or just simply pick one and jump in. 

Remember the end goal of every parent is to raise the children to be able to care for themselves.  You have to back off, get out of the picture more, and make them learn to do the things you’ve always done for them. 

It’s painful for both parent and child if you haven’t been doing this from the beginning, but use tact, love, and explain to the family why you have suddenly gotten tough.  Tell them you want to see them in their full glory before you die, so you can be proud of all they’ve accomplished.

Are you struggling to get the money together for burials, funerals, and all the expenses you’ll face if ANY member of your family pass before you?

Maybe you haven’t even started gathering the money, but at this point, to hope you’ll ever have some extra to save makes you laugh.

This article is about ways to tackle the “death beast” now, once and for all, and put it behind you so that you can really LIVE with the years you’re assigned on earth.

Let’s be honest.  Death is a profitable racket in our society. 

In some countries they simply stack some palm fronds on a raft, lay you on it, sing you a song and set fire to the raft, waving goodbye as your lovely boat floats out into the lagoon.

In one place, they actually used to eat the bodies of their loved ones so they could keep them around forever.  Not a good idea, that practice led to a disease similar to mad cow.

Ok, so you don’t want either of those things to happen to you, at least you don’t want to subject your family to having to do this.  That’s why we hire funeral home directors to handle the actual work of touching the dead and we turn away while they make the body look lifelike again for a viewing.

Unfortunately, there are fees upon fees for all the preparation and storage of the body, burial, grave digging, etc.  Fees for flowers, fees for good clothing to wear to the funeral.  Fees your family will be putting out of their pocket even after you’re gone, going through probate court and struggling to keep whatever you wanted to pass down to them.

ENOUGH!  It doesn’t have to be this way.  We have OPTIONS.  Many of them.

Let’s look at what’s really important here.

1.  You want to leave your family better off than when you started. 

      a.  Teach them now the things they need to know, make them take over paying the bills so they can learn who to contact and who to pay.  Get your children their GEDs, driver’s licenses, and birth certificates.  (Make sure everyone knows what insurance policies you have, and where to find them.  Also what bills must be paid and which have life insurance attached.)

      b.  Write a living trust agreement (see a lawyer if necessary), so that your goods can belong to your children instantly when you pass, yet you can change your mind about some things until then as necessary.  OR  Simply make sure someone else’s name is on your major property deeds, like titles to cars and home deeds.  You can accomplish this for a very small filing fee at the court house, and if you can’t write the legal instrument yourself, it will only cost about $200 to have a lawyer draw up the papers to put your children on your home deed with you.

      c.  Create a Family Information notebook where you list your bills, (with addresses and account numbers), doctors’ names and phone numbers, medicines that each person is taking (dosages and where to buy it, and who prescribed it).  Also put medical history info in there, so everyone will know at a glance, who had what childhood diseases and which vaccinations.

      d.   Make your family a brief family tree on paper, and list any known addresses of relatives.  In this family tree category, you can also record an audio tape explaining your life, where you came from and what you’ve done, what you hoped for and what you believe.

      e.   Perhaps the most important thing you can do for your family is to teach them that crises come and go and usually if you wait before acting, wait before panicking, they will resolve themselves.  Even if you were to lose worldly goods, these things can be replaced.  It is the life and the love that is precious.  Houses and cars are nice, but human beings can be happy and healthy with much less than we have right now.

If you can teach your family how to keep a cheerful outlook on life and know that the power to create or recreate their lives is always in their hands, they will do just fine when you’re gone.

2.  The deceased person’s body has to go somewhere, what to do with it?

The Bible doesn’t tell us how Christians should bury their dead, how to prepare the body or how to dispose of it.  We’ve heard “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” and that pretty much means that all matter stays on the earth.  You were created from the materials here on earth and your nutrients, elements, - the physical part of you will decay and return to a state in which you nourish the earth.

The soul or spirit leaves the body at death and you can be sure of this when you visit the next funeral.  Touch the face or hand of the deceased and you’ll instantly see that the body left behind for the very expensive funeral is just a shell, and the person who used to live there, has moved on.

You have several options of where to place your dead.  Here are some ideas and some price ranges.  Your price will depend on the area you live in.

     a.  Full funeral with casket, cement vault and burial plot.  Cost $5 - $10 thousand dollars.

     b.  Burial without funeral, simple box.  Cost $2 – $4 thousand?

     c.  Cremation with funeral and burial plot  Cost $2 - $4 thousand?

     d.  Cremation with funeral and urn (you keep)  Cost $1 – $2 thousand?

     e.  Cremation, you keep the urn, without funeral  Cost $1 thousand?

     f.   Donating your body to science/organ donation, with memorial service  Cost $0 to $500?

     g.  Donating your body to science/organ donation, no service  Cost $0  Some cost may be incurred to have a funeral service pick up the body and transport it.  This would be minimal.

You could probably arrange to die in another country and be disposed of without ceremony, but I don’t recommend this, as your family needs legal proof of your death and the cause for insurance policies.

3.  Obviously, the less money needed to spend out, the better, but how do you reconcile the modern family to an UNORDINARY funeral?

Talk with your family in advance and tell them you want to do all you can to ensure their survival and success, including limiting the burden placed on the family upon a death.  Make sure they are comfortable with how you wish your interment to be, and that they know your instructions exactly. 

Here are some ideas of new traditions your family can start that would be meaningful and take some of the sting out of your death.

    a.  Having a “living funeral” where you get all your family and loved ones together before a person dies (such as in the case of a long illness) and have a party.  Enjoy each other’s company, let everyone tell the departing member their memories and feelings about him/her.  Make it a joyous “bash”, the best party you ever threw.  No matter how splendid, it will probably cost less than a funeral.

    b.  Hold one of these parties every year, and honor every member of your family regularly.  Do the same for each person AS IF they were departing or going on a long journey.  Let them all know you care for them, let the children hear about their good points, their gifts and talents, and how much they are loved.

    c.  Make donations to the deceased’s favorite charity, or everyone get together and volunteer at a homeless shelter or some charitable organization for a day or a week, in memory of the departed.

    d.  Instead of buying a headstone or expensive marker, make the headstone yourselves.  You can make one out of cement or cement mixed with other materials.  You can imprint the words and dates either by carving it out on wood, and laying the wood down into the cement mould, or by leaving an area open to put in a plaque that you can have made at a graphics shop or other store.  There are literally a million ways you can do this. 

If you do not use a grave plot, you can make this marker and put it in your garden, plant lovely flowers around it and perhaps scatter the ashes there to nourish the flowers. 

(If you don’t want your family to scurry around ordering flowers for your funeral, please let them know in advance.  Tell them to save their money and apply it to living, because where you’re going, you’ll be met with flowers that have incomparable beauty to what is offered for sale at your local florist.) 

    e.  You can make a flag with the deceased person’s name, and fly it like a banner.  In one Star Trek novel I read, they used this idea, saying “As long as the name is remembered, they will live on.”

    f.  Many people name children after the beloved deceased, and in that way the name also carries on.

You see, there really is no “RIGHT” way or “WRONG” way to have a funeral.  We have traditions in every country and they differ GREATLY.  As long as you’re comfortable and you’ve done what you can to ensure that your family will be able to carry on, the fear of death no longer has the power to stop you from living!

If you need help or some more ideas, please contact me.  [email protected] 


Form developed and distributed by Lisa Tyler, ©2006