Have you ever had THAT chat with your partner or your family? You know the one where you lovingly joke about what you want to happen if you died, what kind of funeral you’d want, and where you’d like to be buried or have your ashes scattered?
You know when you’re having this chat, that it’s not really a joke, and that quietly you’re tucking the information away in case you need it. Even though you promise yourself that it will be years and years away, so it doesn’t seem too real and too scary.
I know the music my husband wants played at his funeral. I hope I don’t lose the CD because the only thing I remember is that it’s Track 5. I will do something more permanent with that piece of information now though. Especially as CD players may be obsolete before I need it (or at least I hope so.)
My Mum died when she was 56. Years too young, and far too soon. Although she died unexpectedly, she’d been unwell for ages. Not dying unwell, but unwell. So when it happened, in our grief, my sister, Dad and I seized the opportunity to make sure that everything that happened afterwards was as perfectly “Mum” as we could make it.
Mum walked her own path in life and we celebrated that. We had artwork from her favourite artist on the funeral notice. Not being one for large gushy bouquets, we had a floral piece of lichen, berries and driftwood made for her coffin. Her favourite song played. We wrote the funeral completely. We carried her out. And we made sure that the nibbles for the wake were catered from a swish, catering company, as Mum always liked things done nicely. But what we were most proud of, was having a tree planted in the local Botanical gardens, overlooking a stunning view. It was a native tree with a plaque. My Dad and I went up one sunny Saturday morning with a cardboard box of Mum’s ashes, a shovel and lovingly buried her under her tree. She would have enjoyed that we did that, especially as my Dad was beside himself with worry that we’d get busted.
But sometimes even the best intentions can go wrong.
They got the name on the plaque wrong. My Dad is the nicest-man-in-the-world, so didn’t want to trouble anyone with a small detail like that. We did. And then the council people went and dug up the tree and shifted it. We had no idea where to. Just gone – pouf! Once again, Dad didn’t want to make a fuss. My fuss made up for the lack of his. “We need somewhere to go to visit Mum, to remember her, to have a chat, to take our kids”, I ranted. My sister said she’d sort it, and after some phone calls, she found Mum’s tree. They had shifted it to a damp, dark place with no view and in the part of the Botanical gardens that you don’t feel safe, nor like visiting.
My clever sister has decided that this plan isn’t working, and we need a new one. She’s come up with a plan so we’ll have somewhere to go and visit Mum, to remember her, to have a chat, to take our kids. Mum’s parents and two of her sisters are buried in a gorgeous little cemetery in the countryside at the base of a range of mountains. She’s always loved this spot. So we are going to have a small, bronzed plaque, commemorating Mum with a nice Mum-like quote, placed on her family’s head stone. It’s very Mum. She will be so happy there.
We’re relieved that although we didn’t know exactly what our Mum wanted when she died, we kind of got it right.
Don’t put off having that chat. Ask directly, ask subtlety, ask jokingly. Just remember to ask. While you have a chance.
Are you planned when it comes to these sorts of arrangements for family? What have you told your own family?