From Alex Gellman—
Pre-planning is a difficult thing to do. Few of us like to dwell on the inevitable, and we delay even thinking about it, let alone doing it, for as long as we possibly can. But it is important to reflect on how much pre-planning your final arrangements may bring ease and reduce the stresses of this sorrowful time for your family and loved ones.
It’s also important not to rely on leaving your instructions in your will. Very often, the will is not located or consulted until after the final arrangements are made.
This may mean that your wishes are not taken into account. As well, your family and friends miss out on experiencing what you may have intended for the proceedings. Sometimes this may be the sharing of special memories or music, photographs, or videos that mean a lot to you. You may also wish people with whom you have shared memories or close bonds to have a role in the service—if family members do not know this—they may be left out.
If you only leave instructions in your will, when it is finally located, your loved ones may be further saddened that it is too late to carry out your wishes.
It saves added confusion and distress if you are able to plan for your arrangements in advance. “I tell people this often. I work with North America’s largest funeral organization, Dignity Memorial. Yet, when I lost my brother, I realized just how overwhelming the added anguish of making arrangements could be on top of the sorrow and pain of losing a beloved family member.”
“Losing my brother Javier was devastating. And although I work in this industry, I found that the stress and emotional chaos I went through pushed me over the top. David (Rabbi David Gellman) conducted the funeral for us—and this was a relief. As a rabbi, David officiates ceremonies for many of life’s important days and passages from weddings to baby naming to memorial services and everything in-between.
“But to get to this point and to the peaceful last ceremony for my brother involved steps, questions, and concerns that I and family members had to agree on and deal with. And so my feeling that pre-planning is one of the most important actions you can take for your family and loved ones is greater than ever.
“I strongly suggested to my brother to make sure arrangements were in place, but this didn’t happen in the end. However, he did say that he wanted to make his final resting place with my father at Resurrection Cemetery.
“I chose to work with one of our Dignity Memorial homes—the Thompson Funeral Home in Aurora. With David, they ensured that everything went extremely smoothly for us. The Thompson’s directors were invaluable— fantastically accommodating, empathetic, and respectful at the same time.
“However, before they were involved and funeral planning could take place, I had to resolve what form and where the funeral would occur. Some family members weren’t aware of my brother’s wishes. I knew that Javier wanted a super simple cremation and to be buried in the ground as soon as possible. He had said he didn’t wish flowers. But some family members wanted to hold a wake with an open casket and visitation.
“Finding the will that named me as executor and his final wishes was not the end of the problem—and this is why I always advise families to always PLEASE make arrangements before. Otherwise, the family is guessing what you want and they may end up wondering for the rest of their days if they met your needs as you would have wished and if they did the right thing for you.
“My advice—and I say this even more strongly after going through this sad and painful experience of losing my brother—is to make sure you specify the details and make all your arrangements known in advance. Be sure to let everyone know where this information can be found —so that family members know how to proceed and it takes the worry away at this sad time for them.
“If there is anything a little different—such as my brother’s wish to be buried with my father—follow through with this in advance to make sure the process is as simple as possible. Finally, also ensure you have prepared a will—although this is not the place to record your wishes for final arrangements. Then be certain that everyone knows where to find your final arrangements plan and your will. Whether filed with your lawyer, at home, or in a safety deposit box, pass this information on to those who will need it. I hope everyone will take heed of these recommendations for the sake of your family and loved ones.”
“The burial for my brother—Javier Alfred Villada—was at the Resurrection Cemetery on April 16, 2019. The officiant was Rabbi David Gellman.
“The ceremony and service healed and brought peace to my emotional chaos and pain.” Alex