‘Forget funerals – work on your legacy so you’re happy when the time comes’
Have you thought about who’s going to pay for your funeral and how?
I was amazed to read that the typical cost of laying a loved one to rest is £4,000. And you can spend plenty more than that if you upgrade to an oak casket and posh limos and flowers.
The Co-op announced this week that it’s tackling the problem of unaffordable funerals by offering basic send-offs for £1,500.
What I like about this plan is that it is so simple. There are no mourners, no gleaming hearses and no enormous floral tributes. Your body is cremated without fuss or frills and your ashes passed on to your next of kin.
Then family and friends can celebrate your life by gathering to scatter your ashes and raise a glass or two in your memory.
When I eventually check out, I’d rather my kids spent the money on themselves – say, for a lovely holiday somewhere we loved as a family, reliving all the memories made when I was alive.
Pondering all this made me think of one of my favourite books – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by American self-help guru Stephen Covey.
One of his mantras is “Begin with the end in mind”.
To explain this, he invites us to picture our own funeral and imagine all the important people in our lives – relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbours – coming forward to say a few words.
What would we want them to say? It wouldn’t be “aren’t the flowers lovely” or “what a great service, that must have cost a bob or two,” would it?
Because the fact is, we are all working towards our own funerals every day.
It’s happening in the way we talk to other people, the way we treat them, the values we have and whether we live up to them.
When you look at planning your funeral from that perspective, it takes on a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?
And if you imagine what your friends, family and colleagues would say about you, it makes you think either, “Yep, I’m happy with the person that I am” or “I need to make a few changes if I want people to say the things I’d like to hear.”
Look at the funeral of Henry Vincent this week. His family forking out £100k on a mile-long cortege and more flowers than a royal wedding won’t change the fact he was a nasty piece of work who died preying on old people.
My mother-in-law Margaret is 79 and every time I visit, she tells me where her will is, what possessions she’d like me to have and every detail of her funeral.
I guess when you’re nearing 80 it’s understandable, and we should be thankful she is so organised.
But in all the years I’ve known her, she has been one of the most caring and generous people to touch my life.
And I know for a fact that at her funeral mourners will be queuing up to talk about her remarkable ability to be a giver, to be open-hearted and, above all, to bestow love and kindness.
These are the words I’d like spoken at my funeral, and so I aspire to live my life by them.
It’s not easy. I’m not perfect, but I try to right my wrongs.
Because when it comes to the crunch, it’s my reputation that I will take to my grave. It’s hard won, but it doesn’t cost a penny.
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