Secondly, please bear with me on this post because it may at times seem like it's all over the page simply because there are some things which I have previously stated which will almost be refuted (by myself!).
You've all heard of "pre-planning" your funeral, you've all heard me mention "pre-need" and on August 11th of last year you may have read my post "There's a way without a will" . Briefly, this post was an attempt to let you know the importance of planning your funeral outside of a will. My advice was to put it on paper and give it to a few people who might be left to carry out your wishes.
Part of a response left by Paisley was "how often are survivors plagued by the death wishes of the dead?? i think this would make for an interesting post...." to which I never responded; actually don't remember reading. Thanks to the current funeral I have been handling, my re-reading my post and Paisleys reply, the post you are now reading was born.
As a rule of thumb, most, and I stress "most", funerals that are pre-planned, whether pre-paid or not are usually followed to the letter. The biggest variance that I see is that if a casket was selected when it was done, there is a very great chance that the exact one may not be available say 20 years later but a casket of "likeness" is usually supplied; not usually a problem or real change in the wishes. There are however times when a family simply disregards the deceased persons wishes and proceeds with their own. Quite honestly, I don't know the legalities involved, especially since the deceased no longer has any recourse, but aside from them if there are any, the family or person legally allowed to arrange a funeral can make the ultimate decisions.
The family I met with yesterday was there to finalize the care of their mother who had spent a good many years bouncing from one nursing facility to another. Back in 1977, the deceased woman had made pre-paid funeral arrangements with a funeral home in Florida which provided for her to be embalmed, a wake, a church service with her casket present and then burial in the cemetery where her husband and other family was buried. She had written down all of her wishes, including songs she wanted played and then went ahead and paid for it all; she even went to the extent of having her name and birth date engraved on the monument in the cemetery that was already there for her husband. I have to assume that this is what she fully expected to happen to her body after death since nothing had ever been changed.
One of the first sentences out of her daughters mouth when we met was "We're not going to be burying her, we want her cremated". So now I reply...."okay, we can cremate her but what about her wishes in her pre arrangement?" The response I received was, "she had Alzheimer's, and my sister is on vacation in New Mexico, and the grand kids are scattered all over the country, she would have preferred cremation if she were here...and...oh...how do we go about getting the money back that isn't used?" So as the words she's saying are being digested by me one phrase at a time I realized that her mothers wishes didn't really mean too much to this daughter. Unfortunately, I also realized that this woman sitting across from me had the last say and there was nothing I could do but now follow her wishes.
Money was not the issue here, perhaps logistics were. There were no choices that were left hanging, there was nothing to have to hem and haw over when it came time to select merchandise or decide locations. It was not up to me to ask why she wanted it this way as opposed to her mothers wishes but it was my obligation to point out what her wishes had been; although her daughter obviously already knew and walked in the door armed with the changes she intended on putting into motion.
Will she be plagued with any type of guilt for not following her mothers wishes? I don't seem to think so. Was the daughter plagued with the fact that her mother wanted something that she herself didn't? Obviously not since she chose to do it her way. Am I plagued by the fact that I had to follow the wishes of someone else rather than the deceased woman's? Honestly, no. If it were my responsibility I would have fought tooth and nail to do it her way but since they are the ones who will have to live with any remorse, all I can do is make suggestions and then do what they ask of me.
So, I guess putting it all down on paper is good, even pre paying for it is good, but here's where I refute my previous statements. Is it guaranteed to be done the way you wanted it especially since you paid for it? No, sadly that's not the case. There are no guarantees at all other than we'll do what you want if your family wants us to honor your wishes. Don't misunderstand, I'm making no judgements here, everyone has different reasons for doing what they do and is entitled to do so. Really, when you think of it, who am I doing this for anyway? Who am I hoping this will help? It's the families that still have to live, not the dead.