When should you plan your funeral?
It’s never a bad time to connect with loved ones to learn more about the details of their lives, their personal stories, and the experiences that influenced or impacted them. Preplanning an end-of-life celebration is not about death; it’s about life, what matters most, and making people feel like they matter. It’s in the sharing of memorable moments, strung together like the pearls of a necklace, that the story of our lives unfolds.
“There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy and a tragedy.” – Mark Twain
Preplanning: Why We Need To Share Our Stories
1. It’s Important to Tell Our Stories Now
Ideally, we’d like to believe our families members will be with us forever. But, the truth is, we don’t know what the future holds for any of us. Why wait to have these important conversations? It is when we know what matters most to our loved ones–their interests, values, important events, favorite activities, or influential people who touched their lives–that meaningful end-of-life celebrations are possible.
Suggested Read: How Do You Want To Be Celebrated?
2. Start the Conversation Naturally
It could be over a family heirloom or another piece of memorabilia. Maybe it begins while cooking a family recipe together in the kitchen or taking a walk in a favorite park. It could occur at a family gathering or while playing a game. Chances are your loved one will appreciate your effort to learn more about their life and enjoy sharing memories together.
Suggested Read: How Do I Talk To My Family About Pre-planning?
3. Make the Talk About Life
How well do we really know our loved ones? Typically, we know about the experiences we’ve shared together. Much of a person’s life may have occurred before we entered it. What is a favorite memory from their childhood? What do they remember about their wedding day? There are also two perspectives to every experience. I may know how I felt the day I graduated from college, but what thoughts did my mother have that day?
4. Begin the Conversation
Ask your loved one open-ended questions that don’t require a yes or no answer. Use active listening skills: lean in, use eye contact, don’t interrupt, don’t judge, and ask clarifying questions. If a loved one is uncomfortable discussing a topic, respect their wishes. Make the conversation a shared experience. Talk about your own meaningful experiences, and express gratitude to your loved one for sharing their stories with you. Finally, keep the conversations going over time. You may be surprised at how simple, yet meaningful conversations bring you and your loved one closer together.
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”
– Ernest Hemingway
A Short List of Conversation Starters
- What is your first memory?
- What is your greatest achievement both personally and professionally?
- If you could do one thing over again, what would it be?
- Who inspired you the most?
- What is your favorite family tradition?
- What have been your greatest lessons in life?
- How would you like people to remember you?
- What words of wisdom do you have for me?
5. Document the Conversation
After having a purposeful conversation, write down what you’ve learned. If it’s not too distracting, take notes during the dialogue. It’s easy to forget interesting or funny details if too much time has passed. If given permission, make an audio or video recording of the conversation. It would be a wonderful keepsake and legacy to pass down to future generations.
Take Time Out For Meaningful Conversations
In today’s hectic world, we rarely take time out for meaningful conversations. Showing interest in another’s life validates the importance of their existence. It allows people to feel like they matter and made a difference. Moreover, it helps us appreciate our family history and get a sense of where we came from. When the time comes to honor our loved one’s life, we can draw on these conversations to make our tribute relevant and meaningful.