Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly not something I think about regularly, but I know I’m not immortal! Put simply – and as is the case for everyone else on this planet – death is a fact of life.
Does that mean that a funeral needs to be sombre? Of course not! Celebrities like Joan Rivers, who wanted her funeral to be “showbiz… I want it to be Hollywood all the way” and Marina Abramović, who has already planned an elaborate funeral with live music and a colourful dress code, are testament that funerals are becoming celebrations of life. A celebration of life involves exactly what it says – inviting people to pay tribute to the life you lived, instead of mourning your loss. Of course, there will still be mourning involved, but some say a celebration actually helps with the grieving process.
In addition to celebrations of life, it seems more of us are becoming willing to talk about death. You might not realise it, but with over one billion people using Facebook and social media taking up a huge amount of our lives, there are even guides that discuss dealing with your digital legacy. You might want to think about creating a list of all your logins to leave your digital life in the hands of someone you trust, to the more sage advice of ensuring that all your finances are in order and debts settled by the time you leave.
With practical considerations taken into account, what about the spiritual? A lot of people turn to various religions that can help them deal with it in their own unique way, from the idea of reincarnation to acceptance into heaven. While I quite enjoy the idea of reincarnation, of living again, there is so little we know about death and not much chance of ever becoming more enlightened on the subject. There is a particularly apt quote from Plato, “To be afraid of death is only another form of thinking that one is wise when one is not; it is to think that one knows what one does not know. No one knows with regard to death whether it is not really the greatest blessing that can happen to man; but people dread it as though they were certain it is the greatest evil”.
So when should you start preparing? Well, you can actually do this several years in advance – and if you want to have full control over your funeral arrangements, there’s no doubt this is best thing to do. Of course, there’s a financial benefit too. Thinking ahead, the cost of a funeral continues to increase above inflation – with the average expense around $10,000. Putting aside money for a funeral now is certainly a wise investment.
And finally, apologies for another Plato quote but he was so eloquent, “Death is not the worst that can happen to men”, an interesting idea that could appear to be true. We have no idea what happens to us after we die – if anything at all. Either way, I think it’s important that we face up to these issues, talk about it, and take control of what happens to us in our later-life.