funeral prep

Today I went with mom to make her funeral arrangements.

She’s doing well and feeling good, and it seems those are the times she can talk about death and dying openly. When she’s ill, or when the spectre of death seems too close, the last thing she wants to think about are the details of funeral planning and obituary writing. It’s too scary. Only when the idea is abstracted can we face it directly.

I didn’t hesitate to say yes when she asked me to go.  My stepdad didn’t think she should do it, and he wouldn’t go with her to do it.  He defaults to dark humor to slap away any serious conversations about death and dying. I think it’s how he was raised…you didn’t talk about such things. Having studied Buddhism for so long, I know it’s a fool’s errand to pretend that we won’t die. One of my favorite quotes says, “The problem is you think you have time.” It’s attributed to Buddha and it says everything.

We arrived early to the funeral home, and I felt a bit awkwardo because people were also arriving for a funeral/showing. I always want to show the utmost respect for those grieving, and I wasn’t expecting our business to be handled in the same areas as people who were crying for a loved one. I mean, we were in different rooms, but I would have thought we would have been in a different part of the building. Maybe I overthink things.

Because we were early, we waited in a cafe (yes, the funeral home had a cafe and were serving Starbucks coffee. Say what?) One of the reasons mom wanted me to come, besides giving her general support, is because she plans to be cremated and wants to buy me and my brother a keepsake where we can hold her ashes. Something small so she’ll always be with us. The cafe also displayed a number of urns and other ways to remember loved ones. We were walking around, commenting on these items. We saw a brochure listing items that could be used as carriers for cremains, and it had a section for jewelry.


Now, I don’t know if you know me personally, but I love jewerly, particularly turquoise. It is my favorite stone and I wish to be bedazzled in it. And when I opened up the brochure, one of the first items I saw was a silver medallion with a turquoise bead.”I want that!” I said, pointing to the photo of the pendant like a child picking out a christmas present. “I love it!” 

We walked to one of the couches to look at the brochure, and I remembered I was not simply picking out a necklace. “Mom, I have to say this is one of the most bizarre conversations I’ve ever had. It’s kind of weird being so excited about a necklace, then remembering, Oh, Yeah, this is going to carry mom’sashes.” She laughed and said it didn’t bother her. This was the time to talk about such things.

The meeting took two hours and there were a lot of details to go through. I mean, a lot. It made me want to get my arrangements made just so no one has to do it for me because it’s a lot to deal with. They have all her family members’ names for the obituary, and some fun facts about her. I tried to get her to include her cat’s name in the obit, but she thought that wouldn’t look too good considering she’d opted to not name all seven of her half-siblings, which cracked me up.

Her urn is a beautiful biodegrable box with buterflies carved in to it. It’s a work of art. She loves it. We specified the details of her very small service. There were so many details to consider. So many.

When we left, she thanked me for being there with her, helping with decisions and asking questions. I asked her if she felt better.  She said she felt much better now that it was all taken care of. 

And that is what matters.


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