New York State Funeral Directors Association

I am a licensed funeral director/embalmer in two states, I own a funeral home and I am a licensed grief counselor.

Oddly enough, I cannot get my father to talk to me about his preferences for funeral arrangements.

I am his oldest daughter, the one responsible for that sort of thing.

One would think I could coax, at minimum, a comment from him about his preferences.

At the very least, whether he prefers burial or cremation would be a nice place to start; but no, to this day, my father remains silent on this subject.

My dad is in his late seventies. I hope, like most children, that my dad lives forever. Realistically, as a prudent adult, I know this will not be the case.

As a funeral director, I know statistically that my years with him are somewhat limited.

As his daughter, knowing our family history and his health issues, I estimate that my siblings and I need to begin a savings plan on his behalf for his funeral arrangements.

I have already begun preparations on my mother’s behalf.

Although she has not prearranged her funeral, she has expressed certain wishes to me, and I have taken the appropriate steps to ensure that these wishes are met.

I have purchased her burial plot, her headstone and its setting, her burial clothes, her casket, and her vault.

These are the major expenses associated with burial, and so my siblings and I will need to come together when her time arrives and simply arrange the timing of her services.

This will save us from having to come up with tons of money and, most importantly, trying to decipher her wishes and choices after she is gone.

As a funeral director, I meet with families daily who have not had these sorts of discussions.

I witness the turmoil and disputes siblings enter into at this desperate time, over the slightest little things.

Vicious arguments that see the most horrendous words fly across my arrangement table over tiny details cut siblings and family members to the core.

I see loved ones rush out of the room as the ferocity becomes too much to bear.

Were the damage of such criticism measured against physical wounds, I would see carnage and death laying across my table rather than tears, absence and anguish.

My desire to know my father’s wishes is to avoid such an awful scene with my brother and sisters.SelfieWithMom

How then, does one broach such an important, yet uncomfortable, conversation that another refuses to address?

Here are a few suggestions that have not worked for me, but might work for you. I have found them on the internet.

Begin by acknowledging it is not an easy topic to talk about. No one wants to think about their own death, and you certainly do not want to dwell on how you will feel when your parents are gone.

Point out that death is a part of life, and we simply do not know when the moment will come.

Explain why this will be helpful to you and your family. Express your desire to follow their wishes when it comes to their remembrance and final disposition.

Recognize the truth about your health or your parent’s health. If your mother or father is in poor health, the reasons to plan are even more urgent.

If you have preplanned yourself, tell them some of the reasons you made that choice. Most likely, the love for your family and desire to make your death easier for them will be at the top of the list.

Make sure your parents know they do not have to tell you every aspect of their plan right now. They can meet privately with their funeral home of choice or complete their arrangements online whenever and wherever they are most comfortable.

On the other hand, you might offer to help them make their plans.

Reassure them of your love and their importance in your life. Tell them you hope you will not need these plans for many years to come, but explain that this will bring you peace of mind, knowing things will be handled the way they would have wished.

It is truly a gift of love.

I have been a funeral director now for ten years. Becoming a funeral director and opening my funeral home also took an additional ten years. In total, I have been involved in the funeral profession for 20 years.

My father has been an integral participant in my success in accomplishing my dreams in my chosen profession.

He has mentored me, he has motivated me, he has directed me, and in times of despair, he has strengthened me.

Try as I might, however, my father, without whom this dream would never have materialized, remains unmotivated to discuss his wishes with me.

Recently, however, I have witnessed some modicum of success.

Last month, my father informed me that he has written his wishes and placed them in a clearly marked envelope, which he has placed in his office drawer.

At the appropriate time, I am to enter his office and retrieve the envelope.

At least now, I know that the decisions have been made and that all I have to do is to see that they are followed.

My father has given me peace of mind. I no longer worry that when his time comes my brother, sisters, and I will not be “duking it out” over my arrangement table, wielding insults toward each other that we may never be able to overcome.

My only worry now? Will I be able to find that darned envelope?

Tracy LeeTracy Lee
Tracy Renee Lee is owner and Managing Funeral Director at Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City, Texas. The author, syndicated columnist and co-founder of Heaven Sent Corp. writes books and weekly bereavement articles related to understanding and coping with grief. An American Funeral Director of the Year runner-up and recipient of the BBB's Integrity Award, Lee writes the blog Mourning Coffee.