Thursday, March 5, 2009

Reflection on Planning My Own Funeral

This is a reflection paper I wrote for my chaplaincy training class. As an assignment we were asked to plan our own funeral and to go through the process of making arrangements at a funeral home for our own service.


I purposely scheduled my visit to a local funeral home as I would any other chore—I made it happen between my shift at the hospice and just before I went grocery shopping. I can't tell if this means I am very comfortable with the reality of my eventual death or if it means I'm simply not taking it seriously enough. I really don't know for sure either way but I tend to think I'm relatively comfortable with the knowledge that I am absolutely going to die one day.

When I met with the director I felt a tad guilty for taking up any of his time considering my visit was partly an assignment for this course and not because my death is really imminent, at least as far as I know. It was rather odd to sit at a table and watch him itemize the various costs involved with a service and viewing on a form the way a car salesman might do had I been shopping for a Honda. If I did want to have a one-day viewing, my dead self would have the option of renting a coffin for $700. Something about being there and looking at the coffin samples clarified for me that I really want to be cremated and that over my dead body will there ever be a formal viewing of my dead body.

As I sat there I tried to muster up some heavy emotion, thinking an experience such as this should have felt more eventful and traumatic than it actually did. I thought of what it must have been like for all of the people who sat in that room before me and all of those that would follow. I thought about what it must have felt like for them to be making arrangements for their own death or that of a loved one. And then I felt some sadness and a very palpable sense of loneliness. Not the kind of loneliness that seeks company as a remedy, but the realization that death is so deeply personal an experience, and each of our deaths is going to be as unique and individualized as each of our lives. And ultimately no one knows our moment to moment experience as well as we do, nor will anyone else be able to fully understand our death experience as well as we will ourselves.