Have the Talk of a Lifetime
I’m a big fan of celebrity funerals. At what other times do funerals get an international spotlight? Not only do celebrity funerals add some glamour to a subject most people dread, but they also inspire people to talk about how they want to be remembered.
When Joan Rivers died in 2014, family and friends described her funeral as the perfect tribute—glitzy, over-the-top and one-of-a-kind. More importantly, it was a cathartic experience that started their transition to life without their friend and loved one. Mourners left the church grieving, but with a sense of exuberance they hadn’t experienced up to that point. Gathering with family and friends to say goodbye to people we love can have tremendous healing power.
Transformative funerals are not just for celebrities, they’re for us too.
Transformative funerals are not just for celebrities, they’re for us too. This begs this question: how do we as “ordinary” people plan such powerful and significant experiences? The first step is simple: tell others how we want to be remembered and what is truly meaningful in our lives.
A collection of free tools is available to help us accomplish that goal. These tools are part of a program called Have the Talk of a Lifetime that was created to encourage families to discuss tribute options with one another well before they’re needed. Knowing what is meaningful to loved ones of all ages is the key to planning healing memorials.
Of the many resources in the program, the following are five of OGR’s favorites:
Whether you’re 20 or 80, thinking about how you want to be remembered may seem like a daunting and dreary task, but following a few suggestions in the Have the Talk of a Lifetime Workbook (download here) makes it easy. In fact, sitting down with loved ones to talk about each other’s lives can be rich and satisfying. Learning about memorable events, people, places, values and lessons you have learned can help bring you closer to people you care about most. People are often amazed at how effectively simple open-ended questions like “What historical event do you think defined your generation?” or “Did you have pets growing up?” can lead to amazing discoveries.
After following steps in the workbook, Betty commented, “We discovered that even though it was my father’s wish to be cremated, many of our relatives were sad that we had not had a wake so they could pay their final respects. It had not occurred to my father that the funeral services are as much about those that are left behind as it was about him. It made many of us re-think how we want to be memorialized.” Faye was able to describe in detail how she wants to be remembered: “Bury me in a purple casket with wildflowers at my funeral. Eulogize me as I carry flowers close to my heart.” Imagine how much more meaningful a memorial service of any kind will be if it accurately reflects the person being honored. (Read more stories.)
Memorialization comes in all shapes and sizes, but the core purpose is always the same: to enable loved ones to acknowledge their loss and to begin a journey of healing by paying tribute to a person who held a significant place in their lives. A series of personal essays captures a variety of perspectives on grief and memorialization and the lessons we can take away.
Still not convinced having the talk can lead to good things? Visit frequently asked questions to find out why having the talk is important, how to start the talk, how to respond when a loved one (or you!) claims they don’t want anyone to “make a fuss” when they die, and why memorialization is so important for mental and physical well-being after a loved one’s death.
When you’re ready to put a plan on paper that captures how you or your loved ones would like to be remembered, visit www.talkofalifetime.org to search for knowledgeable funeral professionals who can help you transition your wishes into actionable arrangements. You’re never obligated to pay for anything at that time and you’ll know that the right people have the information they need to put these important plans into action.
You’re going to start seeing the Have the Talk of a Lifetime program pop up all over the Internet. The organizers recently launched a national digital campaign to reach more families with information about the importance of memorializing loved ones. Watch for messages on Pandora, YouTube, Facebook and other social media channels.
Unlike Joan Rivers, most of us will not have a star-studded guest list at our funerals, but with a little planning, every one of us can experience a final farewell that is just as meaningful.
By Mark Allen
OGR Executive Director & CEO
International Order of the Golden Rule
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