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Alternatives to the Traditional Funeral

Guest blogger: Julie Grannan

My mom passed away on August 2, 1997.  Only 54 years old, she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a short six months prior.  Being “younger” I don’t believe that she and my dad had really discussed their funeral/burial preferences.  But when terminal illness comes knocking on your door, this often times awkward conversation has to be had.

I was 18 years old at the time, and I remember being quite surprised and unsettled in my emotions when I heard that my mom wished to be cremated.  However, over time and definitely as I fully entered into adulthood, I grew to understand, accept and appreciate her decision.  A couple of years ago, I went to visit her tombstone where her ashes are buried.  I hadn’t been there for many years as I lived away from where I grew up for 13 years.  I was rather taken off guard because on the same tombstone my father’s name is next to hers.  My dad (fortunately) is still alive, and so the dates for him read “November 12, 1940 –  ______”.  However, I didn’t remember that he had already had his name inscribed next to hers.  The brutal reminder that one day I will also lose him was literally etched in stone.  It hit me especially hard that afternoon.

With my dad almost being 72, the conversation of what he wants for his own funeral and burial will be one that has to be had as well.  Bringing this up with your parents can be awkward and emotional.  And for me now at age 37, my perspective on life and opinions on what’s “normal” have changed a lot since I was 18.  My horizons have been broadened by time, travel and other cultures.  I have begun to think more about my own mortality as well.  How do I want my loved ones to celebrate my life?  What do I want done with my body when my time is over?

I found a great article written by Susan Seliger on The New York Times’ The New Old Age blog.  She discusses the topic of this blog post…alternatives to the traditional funeral.  There are some great options for those of us who want to exit this world in possibly a more adventurous, less expensive, or even in more of a “green” fashion. Whether you are thinking of funeral arrangements for a loved one or yourself, I highly recommend you read her blog post!

If you need help with caregiving for a loved one, visit the FirstLight Home Care website at for the caregivers nearest you.

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