“Nothing is certain but death and taxes,” wrote Daniel Defoe in 1726. People love to whine about taxes, but clam up whenever anybody talks about death … and that needs to change. Simply put, talking about life’s grand finale needs to be on everybody’s agenda.
I went to a funeral once for my husband’s family friend, Tilly. Her funeral was nothing like I’ve seen before. She had arranged for the day to be a true celebration of life, with a brass band playing New Orleans jazz tunes as the casket came down the church aisle. The entire day was the way Tilly wanted it; sad, yes, but fun, too – and special, just like Tilly. That’s the key… just the way she wanted it. If the family hadn’t talked before she died, you can guarantee nobody would have thought to hire a brass band. What about your loved ones? Do you have any idea how they envision their grand finale? If your husband keeled over with a heart attack right now, would you know what he’d want? More so, would you be able to make decisions in the middle of your despair?
Why pre-planning is important
When you’re enveloped in your deepest grief, it’s almost impossible to make good decisions, nor may you choose what your loved one would want. Planning ahead can keep you in control, give you peace of mind, and ensure you orchestrate a true celebration of life. Pre-planning can also prevent families from making costly and hasty decisions.
Starting the conversation
But talking about death is hard. It’s not like you just plop down on the couch and say, “So, how do you want your funeral to be?” Almost everybody avoids talking about death because it is incredibly painful to lose somebody we love and we just plain don’t want to think about it. Even harder, in most Asian cultures, talking about death is believed to cause bad luck or even bring death, but that needs to change. Death is a fact of life and not talking about it isn’t going to make it go away or cause it.
Start out by asking simple questions such as “What’s your favourite clothing?” and “What are your greatest life achievements?” These questions go beyond everyday chit-chat and help you know them a bit better. Eventually, you can begin to delve deeper and start the end-of-life conversation. Then, together, figure out these things:
- What’s the preferred religious ritual?
- Is there specific music to be played?
- What should your loved one wear?
- Should you repatriate mortal remains or cremated remains?
- Is there a preferred special theme?
- Should the funeral be here in Singapore or back home?
- If cremated, should the ashes be buried or scattered?
- Has a burial plot been purchased? If not, help find one.
Look, nobody – and I mean nobody – wants to talk about the inevitable. It’s painful, but it really is a conversation we all need to have. A hard conversation now means peace of mind for eternity, knowing you did exactly what your loved one wanted and deserved.
For a free conversation starter kit to help you take the first step, visit flyinghome.com/contact-us.
For more helpful tips, head to our living in Singapore section.
Unique ideas to remember a loved one
The final journey home
This article first appeared in the December 2018 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!