My father is in the process of planning every detail of his funeral, and he wants to talk about it every time that I see him. He is in his mid-eighties and in good health. I do not remember my mother ever talking about her funeral. I am not sure that I understand what the big deal is or why I need to know in advance about every detail. Is there a way I can get him to stop? Should I suggest he write it out and leave me a note maybe?
You are younger and probably not thinking about your own funeral. In fact, you may not care about funerals at all. The last thing you want to do is spend time planning a funeral. Understood.
Planning one's own funeral is not that unusual for someone in their eighties. The fact that your mother did not plan is not relevant here. Your parents were a couple when she died, I am guessing. She had him to take care of things for her. Your father may be wishing he had handled your mother's funeral differently, and by planning his own and talking about it, those same mistakes can be prevented.
Another possibility is that your father was the planner in the relationship. There usually is one. If that is true, he will approach his funeral like he approaches everything in life, with a plan. The challenge here is that he cannot execute his plan, you must. The more you pull away, the more frustrated you both will become. He wants to make sure you will execute his plan. If you do not engage with him and listen, with true interest, he is going to keep bringing it up. Remember, he is your father, and he can tell when you are not interested or not paying attention. After all he raised you and he has got your number.
So the next time you visit, bring a new notebook, clear time aside for this discussion, and write down his wishes. If you are unable to muster adequate interest, or are afraid you will botch it up, ask your father if a funeral director may assist in the planning. If he says yes, then schedule the meeting, and sit down with the two of them.
Since this is important to him, grant him this last wish for the funeral he wants. Frankly, it is much easier to know what the burial desires are then hustling about after the death, trying to figure it out. When I was young, I remember thinking it was very odd that my aunt had her funeral dress and jewelry hanging in my parent’s front closet. Fast forward 25 years, and I am rustling through a different aunt’s clothes trying to figure out what to dress her in. I will take the parent who plans any day. Jump in. You will do just fine.
I wish you the best.
Family Caregiving Advice Column
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