Monday, January 28, 2013

How to say goodbye and help those left behind


It's been a really long time since I have posted.  I could blame it on so many things, but really I just got lazy.  We have taken trips and made improvements to the house.  We have made friends and probably a few enemies in all of this time.  But, I think the biggest change is that my mom died on January 9th.  It will be three weeks this Wednesday and I still reach for the phone and try to call her.  It's almost as if she is still just that phone call away.  Then you realize that cornbread, pineapple upside down cake and chapstick can have a profound sadness surrounding them.  I know someday they won't make me cry, but for's so sad its almost numbing.  Here's a photo I found when going through pictures of her - this is how I remember seeing her when I was growing up.  That hair - yikes - all three of us kids have that same hair.  I say thank GOD for flat irons :)

Also, having had to do so much of the process by myself, I have learned a lot that I hope will help others.  I mean it.  There are so many little things we can all do now, that can help our loved ones when the time comes, whether expected or not.  And these don't take much time and are so helpful to others later.

Things to do now:

First, and I say this most ardently, make a call list.  Everyone you would ever want to have called.  When that moment came, I stood there with my eye twitching going through an old phone book of hers with no idea who half the people were.  We missed calling some people, I know because they called me after the funeral when they heard.  I felt so bad....To be honest I was so stressed out, I don't remember who all got called.  Make a call list.  Put it in an envelope in a cabinet with your papers and let someone know its there.  It's a gift that makes the process so much easier for those left behind.  I would even suggest, if there are quite a few, breaking it into sections, so it can be handed to several people to make calls, so that one person isn't stuck trying to do it all themselves.

Secondly, pictures.  This was a nightmare because I had a 1 day deadline to gather approximately 45 pictures for the keepsake video and get them emailed, so they could get it online.  Take the time to save your favorite pictures of yourself and photos of you with those you love to a usb stick or cd.  You can update every once in awhile to keep it current.  Put that stick or cd in the envelope with the call list and file it away.  Just let someone know its there and mark it with big letters so its easy to find.  Note:  They wanted 25 pictures for the keepsake handout at the funeral, but didn't ask and chose their own 25.  As it turned out their choice included 3 of one aunt, 2 of one brother and 4 kids were left out.  MAKE SURE that when you save the 45 - label 25 of them specifically as Keepsake Brochure or Keepsake Handout.  I had a war with the funeral home trying to get them reprinted the day of - and that was a stress I didn't need.  If you have family like mine, you know you can't accidentally eliminate kids or someone gets their feelings hurt.

Third, obituary.  They write it and send to you to proof.  If you just make up a dummy one - it makes it so that no ones name gets misspelled or left out.  But they do write it, so this is one stress that I got to share.

Fourth, music.  They play about 3 songs at a service.  If you have a preference, just write them down.  They had all of the music, so I only had to give them the names.  That was actually painless.

Things to do later:

Fifth, and apparently very important, the flower spray for the casket.  I wasn't asked until the florist didn't have time to order the right flowers.  So tell the funeral home you want them to arrange it but have the florist call you to discuss your choice of flowers.  Our's worked out because she knew I was upset and she found flowers somewhere, and it was lovely, but it was another stress that could have been avoided if I had known to handle early on.

What to wear.  Okay, I found something beautiful for mom, but it helps if you can leave an idea of what you want.  I got lucky.  But everyone has their own ideas and you could come out looking differently than you imagine. You also have to send the jewelry.  I sent three rings, so they could choose, and they put them all three on.  She would have loved the bling, so I left it, just be prepared that if you send it, they will use it!

We took bells and angels that she collected and put them on a table by the door and asked everyone to take one home for a little token to remember mom by.  Everyone was ringing the bells as they walked out.  It made me smile.

We had to go back after the graveside service to handle paperwork and then they gave me all of these flowers to take home.  I ended up with 7 arrangements and 2 plants.  My house smelled cloyingly sweet and made me sad.  I would love to have had everyone take one with them.  Ask them beforehand when they will allow you to take them.  Better to share.

So to sum up,

1.  Make a call list
2.  Save your pictures
3.  Write out names and spelling for obituary.
4.  Music - write down your prefrences
5.  Order flower spray for casket through funeral home first day
6.  Outfit, if you care
7.  Ask them about flowers to take home, beforehand

There were other things; family that couldn't see family at the same time because of disagreements, so scheduling a viewing earlier helped.  Finding pallbearers ahead of time would have helped but no one wanted to and in the end everyone had to.  Seeing people you didn't recognize and not sure how to approach, trying to be friendly and efficient and strong.  Thank you cards afterwards.  My eye hasn't stopped twitching.  Its a process, don't panic, surprisingly in the end, it all gets done.

But, please, please, please for the sake of those left behind, get an envelope minimally, put in the call list and the photos and put it where they can find it.  I'm working on mine right now.  The Chief wants a margarita machine at his and they said you can do it if you want to, so see, anything is possible.

Lastly, go tell the ones that are still here how much you love them.  Even the ones that piss you off or drive you crazy.  Because eventually you lose the option to make the choice.

I'm tired and I'm done and now I can just be sad.

God bless us all.  We need it!