If you were told you only had a few weeks to live, would your family and friends know what kind of funeral you want?
Do you feel comfortable talking to them about what your final wishes are? In short, are you ready? Liz Pryor, founder of the Anne Robson Trust, tells us about planning for death so you can live your life to the full.
I have thought rather a lot about what I’d want when the time comes for me, having spent the last ten years working towards setting up the Anne Robson Trust – a charity that works to improve end of life provision in hospitals. I have created a “My Wishes” checklist, which I’ve shared with my husband and daughters, so they know exactly what I’d like to happen to me – if I get run over by a bus, or become very ill very quickly.
I am encouraging my close and extended family to do the same, if only because it’s so much easier for those left behind, if they have some idea of what the person who has become incapacitated, or died, would have wanted.
I have no hesitation about what kind of funeral I want. Cremation, without a doubt. I’d like my family to decide where they would like to scatter my ashes. Or they may prefer to plant a tree in a garden somewhere, it’s really up to them. It will be them who have the memories, and that’s what’s important to me.
I’d like a very low key funeral, probably only very close family, nothing too sombre, and then a memorial to celebrate my life, with a proper party afterwards. I always think it’s hard to celebrate a life, with a coffin in the middle of the room, so I’d get that bit out of the way first.
Both my husband and I wrote a will when our first daughter was born in 1997. We’ve updated them a couple of times since, just to make sure everything is in order.
I used to feel quite scared of dying but having worked closely with volunteers who support hospital patients in the last few days of life, and having run lots of training days for them, I have a good understanding of what a ‘good death’ will be like. The more we make plans and discuss what we want, the more likely we are to have the peaceful last days that we would all want.
That’s the main reason we started running The “D” Word Workshops – three hour sessions that are suitable for everyone (not just health professionals) to learn about what physically happens in the last days of life. They give an understanding about what all the different paperwork means, and why it’s important to have it in place (i.e. Lasting Power of Attorney, Advance Directive etc), and to discuss why we all find it so hard to use the “D” words (death, dying, died). Would you believe we have now compiled a list of 43 euphemisms for death? That’s how much people in this country don’t want to face the inevitable.
I think talking about your end of life plans is the only way to make sure everyone knows what you want – whatever that may be. It makes it so much easier for those left behind, when you die.
If I was told I had a week to live my loved ones would definitely know how I feel about them. I tell them all the time I love them to pieces. The most important thing I’d like them to know is that it’s important to face your fears. They tend to reduce dramatically if you face them head on. Oh and I’d remind them that you only get one life, make the most of it. Plan your death, and then live your life!