An article written by Gail Rubin, an end-of-life pre-planning advocate and educator, highlights this October 30th holiday established in 1999 by Stephanie West Allen. Having witnessed the difficulties her own relatives faced upon the death of individuals who had not declared funerary preferences, she conceived this annual occasion to emphasize the wisdom of addressing – while alive – the practicalities and life celebration aspects of death management.
As Allen noted, “The people who are left behind are so grateful to have this already done.” It is a gift to family members. When they know they are following through on their loved one’s wishes, the proceedings can be so much more meaningful for them.
Reference is made to the “Terror Management Theory” within the realm of social psychology. This postulate suggests that all human behavior is governed by one’s realization that death is inevitable in spite of a desire to live, thereby generating a uniquely human conflict that produces terror. Does this explain why people generally exhibit a disinclination to examine matters of death and plan in advance for it?
Can the glaring societal avoidance syndrome be remedied by courageously confronting and exploring what Gail Rubin notes as “mortality salience,” a term that defines awareness of one’s own eventual demise? She identifies the value of Create A Great Funeral Day in that it “prompts us to be mindful and self-aware, to plan reflectively in advance, rather than in reaction after someone dies.”
In the absence of pre-planning, funeral affairs may be perfunctory and as flat as a bottle of soda without any fizz. Allen refers to the “rent-a-minister” approach whereby the speaker may describe elements of the decedent’s life in spite of never having known him, or deliver standard theological oratory that’s contrary to that person’s (and the guests’) tenets.
Because of its special designation in the context of pre-planning, October 30thaffords an opportunity to pause and contemplate funerary choices along with aspects of one’s life considered worth remembering. It is a day for pondering and a day for action. It is a day to become proactive, take the bull by the horn, and declare in some form your own personal preferences. It is a way to avoid what Allen has dubbed “a facelift funeral,” the unfortunate consequence of going through the motions without answering the emotional needs of mourners. Such a “cookie cutter” approach neglects incorporating personalized elements that render positive experiences for the living and a sense of continued connection with the beloved individuals who have died.
So this year when you rise and shine on October 30th, consider rising to the occasion and initiating a new venture. Be amazed by the plethora of options – many of which are unique and intriguing – for choosing courses of actions and recording them on paper or via a computer file. Find out how exploration and decision making for life’s last milestone can be surprisingly enjoyable. Think of all you’ve contributing to the welfare of your family and add this to the list. During the remainder of your lifetime, revisit your preference record of choices each year when this holiday rolls around, make changes according to your current outlook, realize that you have composed a wonderful gift for your family, and revel in the fact that you are prepared!
Avoid a “Facelift Funeral” with Create a Great Funeral Day
by Gail Rubin
A GOOD GOODBYE ARTICLE