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Stephanie Kerr Boone, age 66,
How to plan a funeral:
Death is a topic people prefer not to think about. We rarely discuss it with our loved ones, and even more rarely will we plan for it in advance. If you find yourself in the difficult circumstance of planning a funeral for a loved one, friend, or close family member, or even if you are considering preplanning for yourself, here is a quick step by step guide to assist you through this process.
Step 1: Decide on the Type of Ceremony
Not all funerals are the same. Some families choose to have funeral where the deceased is placed in an open casket not only for viewing but also so that others may come pay their respects. Other families may choose to have a simple memorial service without the body. Factors that need to be considered when making this decision include religious and cultural traditions, costs, and personal wishes of the deceased. The circumstances surrounding the person’s death may play a role in this decision. Overall, it is important to begin by deciding how you would like to celebrate the life of your loved one.
STEP 2: Manner of Burial
There are several types of burial. The first of these is a traditional burial in a cemetery. This includes the deceased being placed in a casket, then a vault, and then interred (or buried) in the ground. If cremation is chosen, the cremated remains (or ashes) are placed in an urn and interred in the cemetery or a crypt. A second type of burial is where the cremated remains are taken to a special place of family, friends, or the deceased, and scattered. This should be done with care and respect not only for the deceased, but also for the natural surroundings. A third method is where the cremated remains are placed in an urn and kept at the home of a family member or loved one.
The choice of burial depends on your personal preferences or those of the deceased. It is best to take into account religious and cultural traditions as well as costs.
Step 3: Find a Location
Your next decision should be where to have the funeral or memorial service. You may choose the current hometown of the deceased, especially if there are many friends and family in the area. You may decide to have the service in a place the person has a connection to, such as the town in which he/she was raised, the place where a spouse is buried, or another location with a special meaning. Keep in mind the most common places for funeral services are in churches or religious buildings where you or the person worshiped.
Step 4: Planning the Program
This is the time to carefully consider what you want on the funeral program. If you are planning for a loved one, check to see if he or she had the opportunity to write down their choice of songs to be sung, poetry to be read, or who would read the eulogy. You may have to make these choices yourself or with other family members. These can be difficult and emotional decisions. The funeral home staff has experience and can help you with these choices. You may also consider consulting with other close family members the best way to honor the deceased.
If you are planning for yourself, write down your favorite hymns or songs; list what life stories or poems you would like read; decide who will give a family prayer; list your favorite flowers; choose someone to be in charge of the final arrangements. Let your family know what your wishes are so they will be able to focus more on comforting each other than deciding how best to honor you. It will make it easier on them.
Step 5: Inform Family & Friends
In the past, the most common way to inform family, friends, and neighbors that a loved had passed away by an obituary placed in the local newspaper. However, in today’s world, people find their information online, either through a newspaper’s website or social media. Many funeral homes have websites that publish the names, dates and times of services for those they are assisting. You may also choose to send a formal card letting family and friends know of the passing of your loved one. The funeral home can help you with the card and making sure all the appropriate details are listed.
Step 5: Final Preparations
This final step includes all those personal details that make a memorial service a beautiful way to honor the deceased. You will have to choose which type of floral arrangements to present, the selections of music playing prior to or after the service, transportation, and whether or not the service will end with the internment of the deceased.
There are other special touches you can consider to honor your loved one. Here is a list of ideas from what we have seen:
- A table with memorabilia from the person’s life. This may include awards, photo albums, hobbies, plaques, flowers, ribbons, table cloth in a favorite color, special books, stuffed animals, balloons, services rendered to the community, and more.
- A video tribute, usually set to music, with pictures of the person as a child, youth, adult, with family, etc.
- As family members, neighbors and guests come to the viewing, have blank sheets of paper and writing utensils so they may write a favorite memory of the deceased or words of comfort to the family. These pages can be placed in a notebook and given to the immediate family.
- One family chose to have a “candy table” for guests of favorite types of candy of the deceased to share with the guests. This was especially comforting for the many small children who came to say good-bye.
This is an emotionally difficult time for family and loved ones. Understanding the steps that you need to take to get the service ready can help with the healing process not only for you, but for your family as well.