A little over 6 years ago, I lost my father to cancer. Of course this was painful, but as cancer goes, you get a chance to prepare and are given time to say good-bye. My Dad was so thoughtful and really wanted to make things as “painless” as possible. He even arranged to have the Mortuary come to the house so he could select and pay for his burial arrangements. My dad was even able to make this funny, although he didn’t do it purposely.
I remember sitting next to him and the very meek sales representative from the Mortuary. When it came to up selling, this was not the most assertive or enthused salesman, and unfortunately, he didn’t have a prayer with my Dad. You see, my Dad had read an article that lambasted the Burial Industry, and my Dad was convinced that the industry was nothing more than a bunch of people who are money hungry and trying to get the last of your money before you leave this world.
The Salesman outlined the charges for the very simple cremation plan that my Dad selected, including the $50 fee for the cardboard box that they place the body in before placing it into the incinerator. My Dad said, “I don’t need the box, just put me in the oven!” I couldn’t help but laugh, and explained I was sure that the health department set up guidelines that make the cardboard box necessary. The poor Salesman looked apoplectic. Needless, to say the visit was short and “painless”.
When Dad finally passed, he had made his requests known and had told me what he wanted me to do, and where to find important paperwork, making a very difficult time, much easier.
However, recently, we had another death in the family. Death is never pleasant under the best of circumstances, but under the worst of circumstances, it looks like a bad circus act. There are plenty of clowns, but no acts that make you laugh, but you may gasp in utter horror or disgust. In retrospect, though, much of the unpleasantness could have been prevented by better communication. It wasn’t that any of the siblings didn’t ask, but the reply was always artful avoidance.
In this case, we had no idea if final arrangements had been made, and even our loved one’s partner didn’t know if a plan had been purchased. They had lived together for 20 years. We didn’t know if there were life insurance policies nor did we know what we should do with all the belongings the loved one left behind.
Trying to deal with these topics that are usually uncomfortable, are made more so by the fact that grieving is a very difficult process, and may make people temporarily incapacitated, emotionally and mentally. Also, people tend to look out for “Numero Uno”, often forgetting the reason why we are all coming together at this time, which is to honor and provide help to the deceased’s closest friends and family.
I have seen people act just plain crazy when someone dies, and some of the worst acts of humanity seem to be done alongside the death of someone who shared a part of their life.
I don’t need to see another example of this to have my wishes spelled out. I don’t want family or friends to be tearing each other apart because they want this or that of mine, and I certainly don’t want to leave behind a mess that someone else has to clean up. I don’t want to help anyone be a jerk.