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Pre-Purchasing and Planning for Cremation

by Jerri Haaven          

Pre-planning for cremation                                       

Last year, my mom and I visited an estate-planning attorney and we got all of her paper work in order for what to do in the event of serious illness or death. We updated beneficiaries, ensured signatures were on file for claiming her assets, established a living will and discussed whether she wanted to be buried or cremated. With all of those decisions made, I felt pretty comfortable with her end of life planning wishes.

That is, until recently.

Mom had a health scare about a week ago, in which she was sleeping up to 20 hours a day, suffered from extreme weakness and had an upper respiratory infection. Two doctors later, and one emergency room visit where she had every test imaginable, she was discharged feeling somewhat better after a simple regiment of IV fluids. It appears dehydration contributed to her feeling so weak.

But, I couldn’t help but think afterwards, “what if?”  What if we were knocking on death’s door? I soon realized we were not as prepared as I thought.

I knew that mom’s wishes were to be cremated, and that she’d like to be interred at our church memorial grounds. However, no detailed planning had been done. What style of urn would she like? What about keepsake urns? Was there an interest in scattering some of her ashes?

To begin the dialogue, I pulled up the OneWorld Memorials website and suggested we sit down and select a cremation urn of her choice. And, as only my mother could, she said, “Why? I’m not dead!” I thought I was talking to Joan Rivers for a moment.

Nonetheless, as she began to scroll through the pages looking at various cremation urns, I stepped away to provide her some privacy. A short time later, I returned and asked if she saw anything she liked, and she said she thought that they were just too pretty to be used for burial.  Ahhh, I thought to myself. Growing up in the Depression Era, she was more concerned about the costs. I smiled and reminded her a casket would be considerably more, and that by planning ahead she’d be more likely to save money. A good starting point is to ask questions to consider when choosing a cremation urn.

Tonight, I plan to sit side by side with her, and help her with this final wish. We’ll select an urn, and possibly three keepsake cremation urns for my two brothers and myself. Tomorrow, we’ll call the church and inquire about their memorial grounds and, and I’ll locate a crematorium business and determine next steps to ensure everything will be in place so that decisions will not have to be made in the midst of our grief. We can even start planning her memorial. As a Celebrant, I have been trained to write ceremonies, and I can’t think of anyone’s ceremony I’d enjoy writing more, than my mom’s.

A couple of years ago while standing in my mom’s kitchen with my two brothers, mom brought up the fact that she wouldn’t live for ever and that she wanted to plan for it.  She wanted things to be light, and not sad. My brother took the opportunity and quipped, “To Mom’s death!”

So, now the planning really begins.


Jerri Haaven is a freelance writer, and a certified Grief Recovery Specialist and Celebrant. When caring for her dad, who suffered from dementia and COPD, Jerri struggled with the negative side effects of his illness. She developed positive outlets to express herself and recover from her loss. Today as a certified Grief Recovery Specialist and Celebrant, she uses her skills to help people who are in the midst of their own personal story of grief and loss.