Monday, March 7, 2016

Planning Your Own Funeral - Writing Your Obituary - Strangely Surreal

This week I have had a rare opportunity. I have only once ever discussed with someone what they wanted for their funeral. I had a dear friend Ann who died of cancer many years ago and I worked with her closely in our church for many years.

When she was dying, I asked if I could help with anything. I didn't "plan" the entire funeral but helped write down some of her desires and people she would want involved. I did plan some parts and I was blessed with the opportunity to help dress her for her burial. I felt that was a great honor and was grateful she allowed me to help. Being a nurse, she knew I would be "OK" with her body and felt safe in asking me to help with that.

This week has be extremely long and emotional for me. My mother asked that I help her plan the funeral and help her write the obituary. My mother has a strong opinion on how things need to be worded and is VERY descriptive in her writing so when we started writing the obituary, it got to be overwhelming trying to get her to take long descriptions out that wouldn't be appropriate for an obituary.

She has lived such a long and amazing life traveling the world many times over and meeting famous people and being in the movie industry that there is only so much you can write without it being a novel.

She wanted to include all her children in her funeral program but with 8 children and several siblings, she had to try and shorten the program where she could. In all reality, she is the type the loves attention so she probably would like everyone to speak about her but she realizes the limitations of the situation and this is what she wanted. 

Opening song - Families can be together forever
Speaker - Oldest son
Sixth Child reading "Tiny Shepherds" the song that mom wrote
Third son and fourth daughter singing a duet - "Oh That I Were and Angel"
Accompanist for as many of the songs as she feels she can do without being overwhelmed - Oldest Daughter
Speaker - Her Sister
Family Musical Number - "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" Performed by Children and Grandchildren
Seventh child - Reading / Telling the Children's top ten memories of mom
Closing Song - God Be With You Till We Meet Again

Prayer at the grave - Second Son
Pallbearers (she asked that each family have the oldest grandchild do this even though it is usually men, she thought this would be best)

She asked my older sister and I to help dress her for the funeral which I can imagine will be an emotional experience for us but we have both washed and dressed her many times in the past few years with her illnesses and almost dying a few years back.
She also liked that they had an "open mic" at her sisters family meal afterwards so that all the family and cousins could say what they remembered about her and gave everyone a "voice." She asked that we do the same allowing people to share about her.

I told her she didn't need to include me in the program since I have compiled all the video, pictures, scans, repaired her full length photo, trophy, etc I have done my part over the years to honor her memory.

I am hoping that one of my siblings or nephews has some editing software and thinks they could find the videos on the discs I gave everyone and would put together a compilation video or just put the pictures I gave everyone into a slideshow with some music such as the Tab choir opening song "gently raise the sacred strain" song and some other pertinent songs to her life. She sang in the tabernacle choir for almost 10 years so there would be many songs to choose from.

We discussed some items she would like on display and I am really proud of her and how she is handling everything. She has called nearly all her children and siblings to say what she feels needs to be said and has written down what she wants to say to those who we haven't called yet so it really has been a VERY long week for me.

I know my Heavenly Father prompted me to bring my mother down here so I could help clear up her memory long enough for her to be "clear" to make these calls. One of my sisters-in-law took my advise to heart when I suggested that everyone "say what you need to say" and wrote my mother a letter. Some of the things were hard for my mother to read but it wasn't anything that we hadn't already discussed but I am so glad she wrote the letter to my mom so that my mother could take the time to call her and visit with her in person about
some of the details in the letter and they both had a good conversation and my mother was crying as she hung up. It was a "good" call for them both.

I truly don't know how much time my mother has left but whatever it is, I am VERY grateful for the time she has had with a clear mind to do what she feels she needs to do now that death is closing in.

Most people don't get this type of opportunity to have so much closure. It has been a blessing! 

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