Originally published in the Knoxville News Sentinel
Since I have been writing about my journey with my parents, I thought I would continue on the path of things we all need to do for ourselves, as well as our loved ones. There are three points that I would like to make in this article: advanced health care planning, your legacy and planning your funeral.
The first is advanced health care planning. This includes deciding the kind of health care you want at the end of your life. It means knowing what your treatment options are and recording your wishes in documents such as durable health care powers of attorney. It requires thinking about your health now and preparing for changes that might occur in the future.
Just as important as planning is being sure to communicate your desires to your family members. The person who holds your healthcare power of attorney should clearly understand your wishes, but your close family members should as well. My parents have expressed different end-of-life decisions. There aren’t right and wrong answers, but I sure am glad I have had that conversation with each of my parents. I have also made sure my husband and step daughters know my choice about end-of-life care.
The second point focuses on your legacy. Your will controls how things will pass to others at your death.
That is important. But your legacy is more about you and your history.
Your legacy is the way you pass on to a younger generation an awareness of what mattered most to you in your life, perhaps family, church, or nature and football. It is an understanding of why, not just what.
Telling stories of your life experiences and what you know of your parents and grandparents’ life experiences is just as valuable inheritance as tangible items. I sure wish I had asked more questions of my grandparents when they were living and my father, earlier. Mom still has good recall and I look forward to taking my own advice and asking more questions of her.
The third point is to consider planning your own funeral. This is one of the best gifts you can leave to those who have loved you in this life.
Go ahead and do it now while you are healthy. At a time when your loved ones are grieving the loss of your physical presence, a funeral guide of your own making would be a real gift. That way they know they are including your wishes. It may include music, scripture readings, farewell wishes, descriptions of your life, a celebration party, etc. You can also have a folder together with information for an obituary including the photo you would use.
These steps are meant not just for our aging parents, but for all of us.
Addressing issues like these really will be a gift to yourself as well as your family and friends.
Now, guess I better have that “plan your funeral party” soon. I am thinking a group of friends, wine, someone on the piano, someone with a Bible, someone with prayer book and we should be good to go!
Sharon Pryse, chairman and founder of The Trust Company, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.