Some people find it comforting to know that when the time comes their life will be honoured and celebrated in a way that captures and reflects their own unique style and personality; that they can 'say farewell' to their family and friends in a way that feels right for them.
If you would like some say in how your life is celebrated and remembered, it is important to plan ahead and to record and share your choices.
It can also be reassuring for loved ones to know that, as far as is possible and practical, they are carrying out your wishes. They will be relieved to know that some of the very difficult decisions that have to be taken immediately after a death will have already been settled.
If you can, discuss your plans with those closest to you so that they have an opportunity to give their input and to let you know if they feel uncomfortable with any of your choices.
WHITEBALLOON 'LETTER OF FUNERAL WISHES'
The whiteballoon Letter of Funeral Wishes provides a useful structure and space for you to think through and record your wishes.
This can be personalised to include as much or as little as you like, then printed out and filled in by hand. Update it regularly and keep it in a safe place, being sure to let someone know of its existance and where to find it.
Think about how you want to be remembered; the place, style and content of a service or celebration that would best reflect your life and personality, and how to bring together all the people who matter most to you. Remember, those closest to you may want to add their own thoughts and tributes, so build in flexibility to allow for this.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
This list is not comprehensive, but provides a starting point for your plan.
- What do you want to happen to your body when you die? Burial, cremation, or maybe leave it to science? For more information, please see Burial or Cremation
- Think about where you would like to be buried or cremated and what should happen to your ashes?
- Where should the service take place? In a place of worship or would you like a non-religious funeral? Types of Funeral Service may help you to decide.
- What do you want the 'feel' of the service to be: a celebration of your life; a small, sombre service; a formal, traditional occasion?
- Where would you like the gathering after the service to take place? At a family home, a favourite pub, a village hall, or perhaps no gathering at all?
- Decide who will lead the service (a celebrant, religious leader, family member, friend?).
- Sort through photos and set aside any that you want to include in some way. These can be displayed on a board or made into a video.
- Make a list of people you would like to be there (or not be there!), or do you want it to be open to anyone and everyone?
- Think about music and songs that have meaning or have brought you joy in your lifetime. If there is a story behind it, maybe include that.
- Choose poems, readings and prayers.
- Make notes about the occasions, events and people in your life that have really helped to shape you. It is lovely for those you leave behind to know how they touched your life.
- Leave a legacy, in words or deeds - words of wisdom to children or godchildren, inspire loved ones to do something in your memory (raise money, undertake a challenge).
- If you want it to be a real, joyful celebration of your life, encourage this by leaving guidance on how people should dress or behave.
- Who would you like to deliver a eulogy or speak at your funeral? Think carefully about your choice and always give them permission to opt out if it is just too emotional or difficult for them.
- It's always lovely to make people laugh as well as cry at a funeral; think of funny stories or personal touches that make people smile and think of you - If you are a keen gardener, maybe have vegetables instead of flowers on display; a huge chocolate cake or pile of sweets if this was your 'weakness'; everyone dressed in your favourite colour.
- Do you have favourite flowers or plants?
- Transport - how you would like to 'arrive'? In a traditional, dramatic, or quiet and discreet way?
- Do you have a favourite charity to which mourners can make a donation?
- Do you want some sort of memorialisation (a headstone, a tree, a bench in a favourite place?) or if you are cremated would you just like to be scattered in a place you love?
These are all ways to help you live on in the hearts and minds of those you leave behind, which in turn may help them and you towards a better acceptance of a sad and difficult situation.
HOW WHITEBALLOON CAN HELP
Our Planning a Funeral checklist can be printed out as a reminder of things you may want to include.
You can find ideas throughout whiteballoon, including in on our Inspiration Pages and on the Inspiration Wall. More in-depth information can be found in the general books section. There are also organisations that provide digital lockers in which to save a wide range of information and visuals, plus companies who can help you manage your digital legacy.
Any items that you like, or that resonate with you (for example, poems, readings, prayers, flowers, coffins, personal touches, etc), can he 'hearted' and saved to your personalised Ideas Folder or recorded in a Letter of Funeral Wishes. These can be printed out and kept together in a safe place (please note that you will need to register to save content to the Planning Tools).
A CHANCE TO SEE FAMILY AND FRIENDS AND TO SAY GOODBYE
It is certainly not for everyone, but some people are now choosing to hold a 'living funeral' or 'send-off party' before they die.
Many of us will have come away from a funeral thinking how much the person who has died would have loved to have seen all the friends and family present and to have heard how much they were loved and missed.
If you know you do not have much time left, and feel well enough to do so, gathering everyone together gives you an opportunity to say goodbye, reminisce and celebrate your life.