Recently while surfing the net I read an article by Martha White, a writer for NBCNews.com, in which she discusses how baby boomers are looking for ingenuous ways to present their personality through their final arrangements. Even in death, they want to show who they were and what they enjoyed after they are gone.
Being a boomer myself, it made me sit back and think about my own life experiences as well. I’ve been blessed to have a full life with lots of great memories. Even though I expect to have many good years left ahead, it made me ask myself the question: How do I want to be remembered and what would best represent me? After all, when I’m called from this world to be with my Savior, the most important things I will leave behind are the memories of my life for my loved ones. Material things are just earthly “stuff”, meaningless in God’s big picture of things, but the memories of how we lived our lives is our real legacy,
Some boomers want to create special effects to help leave that lasting mark. As an example, take the sports enthusiast. For the football fan, an urn with the colors and logo of their favorite team might be the ticket while the NASCAR fan could have an elaborate car model urn with the number of a favorite driver. In the case of a traditional burial, perhaps a special engraving on the casket or favorite colors for the casket liner could be used. Depending on local requirements, a special etching on the tombstone might be another possibility, thereby leaving a lasting impression to be seen by anyone visiting the grave site. Using imagination, anything is possible.
Whatever the choice, those left behind are the ones who will experience the ceremony. The addition of special touches planned by the decedent while still alive will certainly add a personal touch. Its memory will grow even more significant with time, when special and unique images stay vivid long after others have faded away.
In my life’s circumstance, with the love of horses that I acquired from my wife, I want things to be very simple and efficient but also unique. I have decided to be cremated with my ashes placed in a special urn. It will be emblazoned with a dark stallion on one side and the American flag with Infantry crossed rifles beneath it on the other. It will proudly recognize both my love of horses and my love of country and the Army which I proudly served as an active duty officer.
While this will eliminate the hurry to conduct a funeral, it will allow those in my family to gather and remember my life after the initial impact is over. The event should be a celebration, not a sad and grief-stricken moment. I would like it to take place in the comfort of my home and I hope there is laughter and good cheer. I see the end of this life as the beginning of a joyous eternal one.
On that day, my ashes will be spread across the pasture where our horses spend most of their time. Once completed, a special bronze plaque will be affixed to the barn near the entry flagpole which is lighted and proudly displays Old Glory 24/7. Now here’s the kicker, the plaque will contain the following statement: “James Dick’s ashes are in the pasture. May the horses run with him in death as they did while alive. RIP.” The words might change, but you get the idea and I think it will make people smile and laugh. Laughter is a great remedy for sorrow.
Why did I offer this personal example? I use it to clearly point out that each of us boomers is an individual with unique life experiences worthy of being shared. We want to be able to vividly express them, and creativity at the end of life is a wonderful way to do so.
What does this mean to the funeral services industry going forward? It means that professionals in the field must be forward looking and able to think out of the box. No longer will their customers just accept the standard offerings of services and continue to pay top dollar for them. This new trend is still in its infancy, but it will certainly grow. We boomers usually get what we want and are rather demanding about it.
The boomer market is a financial force to be reckoned with as well. This category of Americans, born between 1946 and 1964, began reaching retirement age in 2011 and the numbers will significantly ramp up quickly. It makes up over one quarter of the population and as its age progresses, the need for final memorial products and services meeting their demands will also increase. With nearly two and one half million Americans dying each year and related spending approaching twenty billion dollars, it is easy to see their importance.
Meeting the demands of this trend is where an organization like SharedSorrows.com can really be of assistance. This fine online professional group is not a funeral home trying to sell you a pre-packaged program based upon what provides the best profit margin and within their limited operational parameters. Quite the contrary, Shared Sorrows assists you with tools to develop and implement your own plan and provide you with cost effective and efficient ways and vendors to do so. In this way, you can make the plan you want and have it ready to go when it is needed. You can keep your money earning and compounding while knowing that when your days are done, those left behind will know exactly what to do.
God bless all of you and enjoy the rest of your life, boomers. God expects us to enjoy this precious gift He has given us. Live it to the fullest.
Written by: James Dick, Hawthorne, Florida