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Have you had “THE TALK” with your loved ones?

Posted April 02, 2015 by Michele L. McCarroll, Ph.D.

No — I don't mean the SEX talk!

Yes- I do mean the "what happens when I die" talk. Now, I don't want to get into the question of religion or spiritual beliefs about what happens after we die; however, I am more concerned about the arrangements that need to be completed once your soul has left your body.

Recently, I updated my own Living Will, Healthcare Power of Attorney, and Last Will and Testament. What most people forget to do are the memorial preferences and wishes documents which details how you wish to be memorialized after you pass. I am not shy about being pro-active as to planning for what happens when I die mostly because I have observed families struggle so much when things are not defined and spelled out when a loved one passes on. These details go beyond the finances and seem insignificant in life but end up being monumental choices after you pass. For example:

  • What clothes do you want to be buried in should you have an open/closed-casket funeral?
  • Do you want flowers?
  • Do you want something in lieu of flowers?
  • What type of casket do you want?
  • Do you want a specific cemetery?
  • What do you want your obituary to say about you?
  • Do you want to be an organ donor?

A short time ago, I had a family death which brought these thoughts to the forefront of my mind. My family was understandably saddened by my uncle's passing and during the midst of our sorrow we had to make a lot of decisions we weren't ready to make. Ultimately, my family did an amazing job with a beautiful ceremony which included background music by my uncle's favorite artist — Elvis Presley! The song the entire congregation got to sing along with Elvis with tears rolling down our faces was - "I did it my way." My uncle was a great man and a great example of how to live a great life — full of love for all!

Thus, on our drive home from my uncle's funeral, I flat out asked my mom, "How do you want your service to be when you pass?" I was glad she was not offended and enjoyed talking about the topic. She went on to explain to me that she completed all the required documents of Living Will, Healthcare Power of Attorney, and Last Will and Testament. Then, she went on to describe her wishes in detail:

  • Organ donation
  • Cremation
  • Small memorial service
  • Jimmy Buffett music playing in the background of the memorial service and all the visitors are to come dressed as though they were going to the beach
  • Cremated remains as a tree

She then asked me about my wishes. I thought about how "special" my body is and want to make sure it is handled the way I wish for it to be handled. Then, I shared my wishes with her:

  • My body is to be donated to the Ohio University Heritage College of Medicine's Willed Body Program
    • Here, they cremate you for free after your body has been used for teaching/science
  • No memorial service - people can have a spiritual moment I would appreciate such as: travel to Paris (always a good idea), take a bike ride, play with puppy dogs, watch The Ohio State University in a sporting event, or even act goofy around a bunch of children to make them laugh!
  • Cremated remains in an urn with my spouse (once passed) at a mausoleum

Overall, I was happy we had the talk and hopefully the talk will reduce the amount of stress we will already go through with the passing of one another. There are many ideas on the internet and the choices are unlimited. All that matters is that you put it in writing and let people know your wishes. You will be giving yourself and your loved ones a "true gift" representing your life after death.


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