DYING MATTERS - ITA BUTTROSE SAYS IT'S TIME TO HAVE THE 'TALK'

Ita recommends having the talk about your wishes for the funeralIta Buttrose recommends taking the time to talk about your wishes for the funeral service.

My mother died unexpectedly after a short illness when she was 80. It was the first time I had to think about planning a funeral and I remember feeling concerned about doing the right thing by mum. She hadn’t left any instructions about her end of life wishes. It wasn’t a conversation we had in our house – it was almost a taboo subject. When the time came, this uncertainty was hard on all the family. There were lots of things to think about and decisions to be made with my brothers and quickly too. In a way, funerals are similar to weddings when it comes to the amount of planning and decisions involved but everything has to happen in very short time frame. There’s the formal ceremony, the venue, the speeches, the music, the flowers – the list goes on, and then there is the choice of a burial or cremation and of course the wake. It was overwhelming.

When dad died, 10 days short of his 90th birthday, he was battling vascular dementia and although we had the benefit of organising my mother’s send-off dad had never discussed his funeral wishes with us. It never felt the right time to have that kind of discussion but as we now know there is never a right or wrong time.

It can be emotionally challenging to think about end-of-life decisions yet by initiating this conversation now, everyone involved will be in a more comfortable position later. I found planning a funeral at the time of loss to be a challenging experience as emotions run high. Sometimes arguments and brash decisions can happen as everyone has a point of view on the best thing to do. Many families learn this the hard way. So the sooner you have this conversation the better, then the focus can be on the lasting memories rather than the loss.

Everyone who knows me, is aware that my family and friends mean everything to me and that I believe important family moments have to be done correctly, especially funerals. They are a time for family and friends to come together as one to celebrate and remember a life lived.

When the time comes, I want my farewell to be as stress-free and organised as possible, although I do hope my funeral is years from now. I don’t want it to be a burden to my family. There won’t be any stress over the details because my family will know my wishes for the day. I want them to have peace of mind that the occasion will be filled with all the things that I care about and also all the things they care about. And they won’t have to worry about payment because that will have been taken care of beforehand too.

I consider death the last great adventure and I want my family and friends to wish me well on my journey. My hope is that my advance planning will turn what could be a daunting task into a rewarding one for the people I have loved and cared for throughout my life and allow me to tell them how much they have meant to me.

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