Thinking Outside the Box

Aug 7th, 2008 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Mortuaries may not like this one. However, unless your family has already gone to the expense of a pre paid funeral plan, my suggestion is to think it over.

Funerals can be quite expensive these days. And, the attitude of the one facing that moment may change. The traditional approach has been to “be prepared.” There is nothing wrong with that.

Increasingly the preparations have included numerous options, which before went unconsidered.

It was my good fortune, to end up serving (I am a retired United Methodist minister) in a retirement community. The rules required that no one could be a full time resident in that community if they had not reached the age of 55. That, of course, set some interesting parameters.

Many, if not most, of the residents came from other parts of the country to retire in this community. It is in a suburb of Phoenix. The weather and amenities were and are very inviting.

And, of course, along the way one is met with decisions and issues related to mortality. The presence of the church community is quite strong. There are numerous options. Many of them provide Columbariums, which allows for the cremation of the deceased and the respectful placing of ashes in a permanent niche on the property of the Church grounds. In addition, there are also “Scattering Gardens.”

What happened was that many of the people who transplanted their midwestern roots, recognized that the traditions and customs from their past no longer held as much importance. So they began investigating. In the tenure I served, eight of ten persons chose cremation and interment in a columbarium. The congregation’s median age at the time was mid seventies. By now, it is above eighty.

Some choose to return to their earlier homes, if they still have connections and family. Some relocate because of health issues to locations which provide for their needs. But those who remain have created for themselves a new comfort level with an idea that years before they might not have considered.

What are the advantages?

*Flexibility. This approach allows for flexibility in convenient timing for everyone involved. In these days of excessive costs for travel, there is wisdom in that. In the milieu of families who are scattered, often around the globe, it allows for consideration of their needs. It avoids the need to purchase a plot, to be faced with dealing with all the physical issues upon death. It provides dignity to the deceased.

*Sentimentality: Some argue that closure is the important issue in a funeral service. None can differ comfortably with that. Such is provided. A memorial service, appropriately planned and executed, can offer that. Some say “they need a place” to go to when the deceased is “buried.”
That is provided for in the columbarium with a plaque designating the name, necessary dates, and perpetual upkeep of the facility.

*Individuality: The important consideration in all of this is respecting the individual. Whatever preference one has, needs to be respected. One of my earliest funerals in western Nebraska included a service in which the deceased had requested “Home on the Range,” as his favorite music. Imposing the will or guilt of others upon the service can assure it will not be a satisfying moment.

So, encourage thinking outside the box, literally and figuratively.



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