My wife and I have started the difficult and humbling process of planning our funerals. Neither my mother or father did any advance planning. My father's philosophy was, "I'll take care of that when I get there." He never seemed to figure out that when you finally get "there," you're dead and unable to figure anything out. I made a promise to myself in the middle of trying to sort out all of my parent's affairs I would not do this to my boys.
Jeannie and I would prepare our funerals, pull together all of the documents our sons would need when something happens to us, and put it all in a notebook for our boys when they needed it. It would all be in one place -- copies of the wills, funeral plans, financial accounts with passwords. All our boys would have to do is grab the notebook and they would have everything they need.
It seemed like a good thing to do. Then, we actually started trying to do it. As with everything in America, there are just too many choices to make when you die. First, there are questions before you go. Do you have a living will? What are your wishes if you become comatose? When you're ruled brain dead? When is it OK for your family to disconnect life support? Can they withhold food and water? I'm not saying these easy questions to be asking, but they are the questions your family will have to answer if something happens to you.
Then, once your dead, a whole bunch of other questions have to be answered. Do you want to be buried or cremated? If you're going to be buried, where do you want to be buried? Is there a family plot? Do you need to buy a burial plot? If so, where? Where you grew up? Where you live now? Where your children will live when you get old?
If you're going to be buried, what kind of casket do you want? Do you want the casket to be openned or closed? Do you want visitation the day before or the day of the funeral? Do you want music at the service? What song? Who will sing it? For that matter, who will preach at your service?
Interesting thought, isn't it? Who preaches the preacher's funeral?
And that’s if you want a traditional burial. What if you want to be cremated? First, there’s the biblical question. Is cremation forbidden in the Bible? No, it’s not. In fact, there is almost nothing said about burying the dead (other than you need to do it) in all of the Bible. Do you want your ashes scattered? If so, where? Better check out to be sure it’s OK to scatter your ashes where you want. Scattering ashes has become big business. You can’t rent limos, airplanes, or boats to take your ashes to your desired spot. Because a it’s become such a big business, regulations have been written about where and when you can spread your loved one’s ashes.
Once you get through the obstacle course of all of these decisions, you’ll find yourself thinking about your own funeral. I mean really — really — thinking about it. What would it be like to be at your own funeral? Who will be there? Your spouse? Your children? Your grandchildren? What friends will be there?
And for those who are there, what will they say?
The old preachers’s have a saying, “You preach your own funeral.” We know what they mean. Our actions, our words, our acts of love, however big or small, will become the content of the sermons, eulogies and testimonies told at our funerals.
Now, that will give a new perspective when you talk to someone. Do you want this person to come to your funeral? And if you do, what do you want them to say?
Whatever it is, start living that way now. Live in such a way so the people you want to come to your funeral actually come and when they do come, they say what you want them to say.
I was blessed beyond measure to be the child of my parents. My mom and dad were people of genuine and strong faith. I learned to love Scripture from listening to my dad prepare to teach His Sunday School class. My mother playing the great hymns of the faith on the piano was the sound track of my life. Content wasn’t the problem for their funerals. Editing to the time I had for the services was my challenge.
That’s the problem I want my family to have. I want to them to have too many stories from a man who lived large and loved hard. I want them to laugh, and cry, but most of all, I want them to worship with gratitude, joy and purpose. I want them to be encouraged to live a life that matters. I want them to be thankful I was part of their lives.
Whether we realize it or not, we’re planning our funerals. Everyday, we’re making decisions about who will be there and what they will say when they come. More than we realize, we’ll have the funeral we lived for.
Whoever speaks at your funeral, will mine your own life to find something to say.