"We plan so much for the beginning of life, but we tend not to plan for the end of life, for funerals. Having been at the front end of helping family and friends with funeral planning, I wanted us to have things in order for ourselves—but even more so for our family."
The majority of Americans believe funerals and memorial services are an important part of healing after the death of a loved one, according to a 2015 study by the Funeral and Memorial Information Council. That same study showed that 69% of adults over age 40 indicated they would prefer to arrange their own services—but only 17% had done so.
Jenell is among those who have made end-of-life arrangements. The engineer from Austin, Texas, worked with Carisa Malesic, a planning advisor at Cook-Walden Funeral Homes and Weed Corley Fish Funeral Homes and Cremation Services, to arrange and pay for her funeral.
Below she shares in her own words why she and her husband planned in advance.
My parents died young: my father in his 50s and my mother in her 60s. I was in my early 20s when my father died. My mother was devastated and initially emotionally unavailable to make all of the funeral arrangements. I went into business mode and, with her approval, got it all done. It was then that I realized the importance of being prepared.
I guess I did a good job with things because I became the family go-to. Whenever someone passed, I was the one they would call on for help. Do you have a casket spray? Do you have clothes to give to the funeral home? Need help with the obituary? Thank-you notes? I was like a living checklist.
At some point, you start becoming self-reflective. I think that’s part of the aging process, especially if you have health challenges of any kind. You start realizing that something could happen to you any day.
About six years ago, I wrote my own obituary. And then I wrote my own funeral program and a letter of instruction.
"I didn’t want my husband to have to deal with my funeral arrangements. I wanted to have something in place for him."
Initially, my husband was hesitant about planning, but after his father died and some of our close friends passed, he started to come around. The conversation evolved over several years. I just kept bringing up the idea that we should plan ahead until he was ready to take action.
I think that planning and paying for your funeral in advance is the greatest gift you can give your family and loved ones. You don’t know what state your loved ones will be in when they lose you.
"You never know how death will occur or how it will affect the people in your life, but you can keep them from some of the financial and emotional burden."
I like to be prepared for things. I knew that with my parents passing so early, I needed to do certain things so that whatever I left behind would take care of my final expenses. I bought life insurance before I hit my 30th birthday, but as time passed and with the cost of living going up, I realized that insurance might not cover my funeral expenses. That’s another part of why I wanted a prepaid plan in place.
After one of my dear friends lost her husband, my husband finally saw the importance of planning ahead. My friend’s husband purchased a pre-need plan early in his life. It took care of everything for his funeral; she didn’t have to pay for anything. After hearing my friend talk about how it made her life easier, my husband finally said, ‘OK, we have to do this.’
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