I have assumed the role of a tour guide along roads leading to heavenly endings.
I invite you to join me for the journey as we discover new horizons and bright sunsets.
Colorful End-of-Life Pre-planning
As an impressionable child, I observed and cogitated. The
usual scenario was yucky! Did it have to be this way? It was
dark with those ugly amber and dimly lit so-called funeral parlor
lights flanking the casket, casting more gloom than glow...
dreary with everyone morosely bereft of their usual smiles and
speaking in hushed monotones... austere with the funeral
directors standing solemnly (being sure to assume a stagnant
posture with hands folded) when not robotically animated...
plain and lifeless with everyone garbed in tragic black... and
always the same monotonous scene every time I was there.
It was a memorial weekend chock full of activities that highlighted my dad's background and
characteristics. Family and friends gathered on the campus of his alma mater, Gettysburg
College in Pennsylvania, which was within driving distance of Freysville and his grave site at
a rural cemetery.
Everything we did related to his life in relevant significance... Friday's dinner in a diner
overlooking the train tracks that transported him to and from college... Saturday's committal
service at the cemetery within view of the house where he was born... an ice cream social in
the cozy cottage that had been his fraternity house... the twilight memorial service in a
building designated for music and arts education... the dinner in a restaurant frequented by
Eisenhower... the Gettysburg battlefield tour on Sunday (bespeaking my dad's original role
as a history teacher)... and so much in between... through the tears, all joyfully reflected his
individuality and our appreciation for his life.
Being a high school principal's daughter was not always fun. As
an active community leader, my dad (along with my mom) often
felt obliged to visit dead people. Babysitters must have been
hard to come by because I had to tag along to the funeral
parlor. Invariably, I was planted on a seat within view of people
milling around and commenting about how good the corpse
looked. What were they thinking?
Apparently, the rebel in me was activated by these disgruntled observations during formative
years. By the time my dad died, diversity governed arrangements. The celebration of life that
was planned and implemented for burial of his cremated remains and commemorative
events could not be described as funereal or ordinary. The occasion took place a few
months after his death, so by then I had digested the reality of loss and was able to become
energetically ensconced in preparations.
Afterwards, I realized that contemplation of future life endings could present opportunities for
meaningful event planning. Since bereavement typically immobilizes creativity (and most
everything else!), doesn't it make sense to initiate arrangements for one's own affairs rather
than subjecting family members to woeful decision confrontations under pressure? Usually,
events are conducted promptly after a death when a state of turmoil prevails. Wouldn't this
be a valuable contribution to loved ones' emotional stability at a time when they are apt to feel
weak and vulnerable? Why not enjoy the process of making decisions, suggesting ideas,
and noting preferences while still engaged in life? Maybe preliminary participation would
engender a sense of control and satisfaction that could make the prospect of life's inevitable
ending a little less oppressive.
So I gathered information and compiled material in hopes of inspiring people to address
funerary matters through this perspective. Since the subject of death generally is forsaken, I
wrote and formatted a planning resource in an uncommon manner - interspersed with
recreational distractions and whimsical flair to render the reading of it pleasantly palatable.
Through the book, community presentations, and this website, I am committed to awakening
people from sleepy avoidance and indifference relative to end-of-life issues. I aim to
stimulate awareness of possibilities for personalized approaches and affairs... with
dreariness overpowered by colorful vigor. Funerary opportunities can be enriching. And
death can be a matter of life!