By Gail Rubin
In America, death is often regarded as the classic Monty Python routine about the Spanish Inquisition. “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapons are fear, surprise, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.”
Despite the fact that humans have a 100% mortality rate, we don’t expect to die. If you don’t expect to die, you’re unlikely to pre-plan a funeral. And that leads to problems like family discord, higher costs, and unnecessary stress added to grief.
We are mortal. Our bodies eventually stop working. Many religions teach that the soul, the spirit that resides within our bodies as long as we breathe, lives forever. So why do we have this fear of funeral planning?
I think there are three factors:
People don’t plan to die. Modern medicine today has become so highly advanced; it offers the promise of extending life, seemingly forever. Yet, our life spans all have a limit. Death is now perceived as a surprise, an emergency, or a failure of the medical profession, rather than a natural part of life.
People have lost that sense of what to do when there’s a death in the community. Our pluralistic society is a good thing in many ways, but when it comes to death, funerals and mourning, we’ve lost many traditions regarding one of the most important parts of our lives.
“I’ll get around to it someday.” There’s nothing like attending someone else’s funeral to make you realize your turn is going to come “someday.” But then you get busy with life, and “someday” always slips away. Before you know it, someday comes and the family is left wondering what that person would have wanted for his or her funeral.
We put off doing funeral planning because we’re afraid. None of us know the date, or how it will happen; the unpredictability of our final deadline enables the postponement of undertaking this vital task.
Talking about one’s death doesn’t bring it closer to fruition. And your loved ones will be in a better position to deal with your departure.
As a gesture of love, make some plans and share them with your family. Nobody wants the Spanish Inquisition.
Gail Rubin is the author of the award-winning book, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die. Visit her blog, The Family Plot, here.