Walking The Walk, Talking The Talk…
Article by: Jeff Harbeson, Funeral Finance, LLC
In the funeral industry, we serve families by walking alongside them after the loss of their loved one. I have often experienced and heard, “it’s different serving our own family when we lose a loved one”…basically a funeral professional having to be on the “other side of the table”. Even more poignant, and we know this is coming…what about our own personal mortality? Have you made pre-arrangements? Not necessarily picking out your casket, vault and writing a contract for payment. But actually conversing about the celebration of your life with your closest of family…what you want to be said about you, who should be saying something, where the ceremony(s) should take place, music, video, food, final resting place etc? As a retired military member and funeral professional, my wife, sons and I have had many discussions about my death, of course mostly joking around.
During my life, I have “cheated death”. There have been several instances that I should not have survived. Most recently, I had a totally unexpected and serious medical event that in many cases, the end result is death. During the entire episode, even in the back of a wailing ambulance, all sorts of beeping equipment, inserted and attached tubes along with a grand arrival notice into the hospital…not once did I think that “this is the end”. However, as most of us do after some of our life’s defining moments, I began to ponder “what if”.
What if my last breath was taken? Yes, my wife knows where all the life insurance documents are located, my final disposition wishes, some discussions about the “party”, music, military honors, etc. have taken place. But, have I chronicled my life and provided enough information in such a manner so that not only during my funeral my life could be shared, but for the generations that follow me…what will they know? How will they remember me…my life story the way that I want it told?
Several years ago I embarked on a mission that for every birthday of my wife and sons along with each wedding anniversary, I would write a letter. A letter expressing my love, observations, encouragement and blessing of their relationship to me. However, after this recent event, I reflected upon even more of my thoughts beyond my immediate family and posted on my Facebook page:
From many places, prophetic messages are delivered. Sort of like yesterday…while visiting a well stocked walk-in humidor: “You do not determine the time or date of your death, it’s already written in the book. Live your live, do what makes you happy and do it with those you love”. So once AGAIN…it wasn’t my time. But when that clock ticks it’s last second, there will be no doubt that I didn’t leave anything on the table. All that I’m going to leave behind are “do you remember how he used to”…”I remember that he always”…”if he were here right now, I bet he would”…”every time I think of him, I crack up because”…and mostly “When I look at him, I see him”…along with a few old unsmoked cigars in the box. My story so far has been quite remarkable, and it’s not finished…there is still one of the great love story’s with a happy ending, a whole bunch of “I love you and I’m proud of you” and “I can’t believe he did that”. For those that have and continue to matter, I’m grateful and you will still get my best…thanks for being part of my story.
As I begin to “re-enter” the working hemisphere with all of the hustle, meetings, travel along with family activities and social events…basically life, how am I going to make sure that my thoughts about my life and my history going to be conveyed to those that matter? As a Christian, a human being and a funeral professional, I know the final event is going to be here at some point. Sooner or later, I’m not going to dodge the death bullet…am I going to talk about doing the right thing by planning and composing…or leave it up to someone else to compose my life story in a one inch column under the duress of grief? I’d like your thoughts about what you are doing about your story. Are you walking the walk and talking the talk…or leaving your life for someone else to tell?