Well, Maybe Not THIS Specific

Oatmealfuneral

Cartoon by Matthew Inman, TheOatmeal.com, found on The Oatmeal’s Facebook Page

So, no volcanoes for you?  Your wishes may be a little simpler, may not need diagrams and asterisks–just something about the dress you want to be buried in, who you want to eulogize you, or which hymns you want sung at your memorial.

Or maybe not.   Are we going to be sourcing octopus ceviche or a Greek dance troupe for your celebration of life?  Submarines?  Ice cream trucks?

Your end of life wishes are unique, something only you can decide, and may range from crazy and joyful and fun, to somber vespers.  But no matter how simple or complex, the only way they’ll know is if you write it down, communicate it, and prepare funds for it!

Need help?  I do that–call me.  Let’s talk through your desires, document them, and make a plan to share them with your loved ones.

Knowing what you want is good.  Plans that clearly detail them are better!  No matter how simple, no matter how crazy.  Even if it involves magma.

Preplanning–It doesn’t have to be SO Involved!

Doing end-of-life preparation can be daunting.  There seem to be so many forms, too many different options, and endless decisions to be making.  No wonder why so many folks put it off and never get around to it!

Just like a handwritten will can be legal (with some caveats), funeral and deathcare planning doesn’t need to be big and hairy and scary.  Even giving your loved ones just a short nudge in the direction they should go when it comes to the funeral process is a gift.   Letting them know simply that you’d prefer to be cremated, but leaving the ideas about what to do with your ashes up to them, or sharing that you’d value saving money on the arrangements over traditional choices–these can be enough to go on for your family to make the right choices for them and you.

When you work with me, we’ll go deeper than that, and I hope it’ll be fun (and not painful) in the process, but do take this to heart:  Anything helps.  Anything you can do helps.

See how simply and elegantly Betty from Mad Men, dying of breast cancer, handled passing on her own wishes, and sidestepped a conversation she knew her husband couldn’t handle too:

mad-men-betty-handing-sally-letter

Betty: These are instructions. Open it the minute you know I’m gone.

Sally: No!

Betty: Listen to me, things happen very quickly when people die. Henry’s not going to be able to handle things.

mad-men-letter

Dear Sally,

I know that you’re frightened and there are many decisions I can’t prepare you for, but you must immediately tell the hospital and the funeral director that I am to be interred, in tact, in the family plot in West Laurel.

Uncle William has the details from Grandpa Gene’s burial. I’ve also enclosed a portrait from the 1968 Republican Winter Gala. The blue chiffon I wore is my very favorite. I hung it in a gold garment bag in the hall closet beside the mink. Please bring them the lipstick from my handbag and remind them how I like to wear my hair. Will you show them the picture?

mad-men-letter-photo

Sally, I always worried about you because you marched to beat of your own drum, but now I know that’s good. I know your life will be an adventure.

I Love You,

Mom

Of course, Betty has the benefit of knowing she’s dying, and can line all this up and share it (I’m not sure she, or anyone dying, would call that a benefit, truly–but for planning sake, it certainly can compel you to action!).   You too are dying, as am I, though, even if we won’t admit it to ourselves.  Isn’t it time to think about documenting your wishes and getting your plans (simple or otherwise) in order?

HT: I first became aware of this touching exchange on Everplans’ blog.  If you’re inclined to DIY your end of life plans, Everplans is a great place to document your wishes!  Check them out…

So What About Facebook?

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, or really anyone in the deathcare space, by blog or Twitter, you know that your digital legacy is currently a big discussion–what should, and what will happen to all the digital footprints you’ll leave behind when you die?

Facebook recently announced the option for you to assign successor managers of your Facebook account, so you can designate who should manage your former profile (now a memorial page) once you’d died.  This is actually an improvement, as previously it was outside your agreement with Facebook for anyone else to actually manage your page–they would convert it to a memorial, but it would be frozen with no access for ongoing management.

Similar designations are also available at Google, where you can indicate who should be contacted for status and successor management once your account is flagged as inactive.

But why would you care?  If your Facebook life is all about skinny enchilada recipes and pictures of your cat, does it need to be carried forward after you’re gone?

Increasingly, for this generation of young adults, the answer is yes.

As the author of this newspaper article explains,

Death in the digital age has opened up a whole new world where outpourings of grief are more common online than at the graveside, and where the desire to continue to ‘connect’ with the deceased is facilitated by social networking sites such as Facebook,

The author goes on to cite the example of a young woman, dead for close to a decade:

(Consider) the Facebook page for Cork woman Tina Greaney who died in 2007, aged 26, of a cocaine overdose. Family and friends regularly post messages to their beloved — to wish her goodnight or good morning, sometimes sending their love, and, poignantly, sending annual happy birthday or Happy Christmas wishes.

Those of us who have grown up with more traditional coping mechanisms for mourning and grieving (cemetery visits and the like) may not easily understand or respect the younger generation’s need to continue what essentially becomes a one-sided relationship online.  But, as this youth quoted in the article explains, it is all just about keeping the connection, and in the way that it probably was largely done before:

You can think thoughts in your head, and think ‘Oh, I’m hoping he can hear me’, but when you write something in Facebook, it’s a more tangible way to communicate… I can, sitting in my room, just click over that page, look at his face, remember. It’s so easy and accessible, there’s still that piece of him that’s somehow, in a strange way, immortal.

Whether or not you see value in keeping your Facebook (Twitter/Instagram/Google+/Snapchat) up and active after you die (or if you even care one way or the other at all!) it’s definitely worth a conversation with your family, to see what they think.  So much of what I try to nudge you forward on around death (planning, documenting, researching, funding) is really not about you, but about taking the time to make the arrangements now that will take pain and pressure off your loved ones later–and your digital legacy is just one more piece of that puzzle.

A little time invested now will make it so much easier for those who miss you later on!

Death Cafe–are you curious? Want to know more? Join us!

Tonight, Wednesday 5/5, is the next Austin Death Cafe.  This event is held the first Wednesday of every month at 6:30pm at Cafe Express (3418 N. Lamar).

Have you even heard of Death Cafe?  You can read more about the history and mission behind this social movement at the Death Cafe website, but in a nutshell–it’s a safe place to speak about all things death, in an open and death-positive way.

Death Cafe specifically has no agenda, no speakers, no party lines–it truly is all determined by who shows up and what they want to say.  No tickets or RSVPs are necessary, just show up at the appointed time with an open mind and respectful voice.  The attendees split into manageable discussion groupings, and the conversation sessions begin.   Subject-starter cards are available if the group falters in discussion; this answer-the-question option also gives a safe entry into the conversation for some participants who may not otherwise join in.   The only guiding that is done is for time (two 50 minute blocks of conversation, with breaks, are enforced), and for order (a talking marker is used to ensure each speaker is respected)

I’ve been to many Death Cafe sessions, and I can safely say every single meeting is unique.  It’s never the same people, never the same discussions, never even the same aspects of death being discussed.  One thing that is always the same, though–it’s an amazing evening of exchanging ideas and understanding more about ourselves in relation to death, all while opening our community to more death-positive energy!

Oh, and cookies.  THERE WILL BE COOKIES.  (I’m making them!)

You can find out more about Death Cafe Austin on their Facebook page.