Category Archives: Uncategorized

Secure Your Valuables!

As if mourning was not enough!

Police in Suitland, Maryland—a Washington DC suburb—have reported that thieves have broken into cars at Washington National Cemetery. These merciless thieves prey on those who arrive at the cemetery to attend burial services for a loved one. While the incident appears to be isolated, it serves as a reminder that security cannot be ignored even at a time of grief. Here are a few tips to insure callous thieves won’t make the worst of a very troubling time:

• Secure the home of the decedent during visitation, funeral services and burial as well as other gatherings that take place away from the home.

• Ask the funeral director to instruct everyone attending a burial to lock their cars at the funeral home and the cemetery.

• Do not leave anything of value at the gravesite. Thieves across the country have stolen everything from flowers (which they resell) and copper flower urns atop graves since copper prices have skyrocketed.

• Purses and other valuables should be guarded during visitations and other gatherings.

SharedSorrows.com offers additional tips on our Time-Of-Need Checklist as well as our Post-Funeral Checklist.

 

It’s Never Too Late to Plan

This week we will look at a couple who have had fun, enjoyed life and yet they have not prepared for the future.  A turn of events in life brings them to the realization that their life style needs adjusting and they must think ahead.  Meet the Andersons, Samantha and Bill.

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Samantha and Bill truly loved life and everything in it.  They worked hard and played hard and just never concerned themselves with tomorrow.  The most popular couple in their upper middle class neighborhood, they were the life of every party and were always at the top of the invitation list. And they also liked to throw parties, inviting guests to evening cookouts and swimming at their tropically themed home in Central Florida.  Their happy go lucky nature was infectious and Bill could make a crowd laugh for hours.

Unfortunately, things at home weren’t nearly so much fun as they seemed to others.  Oh, they loved and were devoted to each other but they had never planned for life and were “living on borrowed time” as far as their finances were concerned.  Bill and Sam both worked and had good jobs; Bill was a construction superintendent and Sam was a successful real estate broker, yet they never saved money or planned for a rainy day.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, they had not completed an estate plan, had no will and they had not saved sufficiently for the future.  Funeral planning was out of the question and no evaluation of funeral costs and funeral expenses had been performed, nor had any funeral plans even been contemplated.   The two of them were a disaster waiting to happen should fate rear its ugly head.

Sam was a shopaholic, always picking up unneeded things while Bill was always planning short, yet expensive vacations that they could ill afford.  And, of course, their entertainment expenses were high.  But while Bill acted unconcerned outwardly, he had deep seated fears inside about what the future for his family might be.  His two children were grown and reasonably self-sufficient and Bill also worried that they had developed the same lifestyle habits that they learned from him when they lived at home.

Despite his nagging concerns, life went on in its usual fashion until tragedy struck in Bill’s family.  His older brother, Jack, a good and wise man was killed in a serious car accident.  Upon notification, Bill and Sam hurriedly got ready and were off on the eight hour drive to the old homestead.

Jack bought his parent’s home from their estate when they died and the extended family gathered there for most holidays.  Special birthdays, Christmas, and usually at least one long weekend in the summer brought these two brothers together with their families for fun and frolic, but Bill was always a little bit jealous of his big brother for having the finances to buy the place.  He always loved returning to the family homestead, however, and he was glad it had stayed in the family yet he knew it would never be the same again with Jack gone.

Arriving late in the afternoon, the house was ablaze with lights and a number of cars were parked out front indicating that friends were giving their condolences.  As they walked to the door, nephew Paul came and greeted them with a hug although there were tears in his eyes. He and his dad were extremely close.

Sister-in-law Jean excused herself from her visitors and came to the door, hugging them both.  She was holding up well and she dearly loved Bill and Sam.

“You know the drill, Bill,” she said. “Put your things in your guest room, wash up if you want and then come down and meet some of our friends. We can talk privately when everyone is gone.”

After freshening up, Bill and Sam came down to visit.  They knew some of the visitors and all reminisced about Jack and what a good man he was.  When the visitors left and the extended family was together, Jean asked them to come in the den. She had something she wanted to show them.

“Jack told me many times that he wanted you at my side in carrying out his wishes, Bill”, she offered.  “Here is his funeral plan and I’d like you to review it with me.  Sam, you’re welcome to participate if you wish.”

Sam just sat nearby listening while Jean went over things with Bill.  He was absolutely amazed at the detail of the plan.  Jack had prepared in advance a complete funeral plan, starting with the estimate of likely funeral costs and funeral expenses and the source of the funds to pay for his final rites.  The body already was on hold at the cremation services facility and would be cremated after Bill had the opportunity for a viewing.  The funeral would be in two days and Paul had served as the obituary writer since he was a literary agent.

“I’m really lucky, Bill”, Jean said.  “Jack had his estate plan in order with his attorney and probate will be easy.  I am fortunate that I will be able to live comfortably although it won’t be the same without him”.

Bill hugged her as tears began to flow, and Sam also patted her on the back.  Then, after she sighed, she told Bill that Jack had left a special envelope for him. She went to get it.

Returning with an impressive box and an envelope, he knew what it was.  The box contained his father’s coin collection and a gold ring he had received from his father when he was a little boy. Jean said that Jack wanted him to have it as he knew in his heart that Jack wished he had the family house.

Jack sobbed and didn’t know what to say.  After all, Jack didn’t have to show such generosity.  It was a very valuable assortment and the ring was also appraised at great value, but the sentimental value was priceless.  Jack had received it as was customary in families where the father was born in the Old Country, in this case Scotland.

The funeral went well and after a four day visit, Bill and Sam headed home.  While driving, Bill poured out his heart about how they needed to change their lifestyle.

“Sam, we have to learn from Jack and Jean,” he said.  “We’re in our late forties and we have to start saving money and stop living above our means.  I don’t want something to happen to me and leave you with a mess.”

“You’re right, Honey,” Sam replied. “I want to live a long time with you and I don’t want us to end up in our old age in poverty.  Let’s talk to John next door; he’s a great financial planner. Let’s make a plan and stick to it.”

When they got home, they went to work to solve their problem.  John helped them analyze their situation and offered suggestions for how to change their lifestyle and make up for lost time.  It was difficult at first, but once they got into the groove, they were surprised at how easy it was.  And for the first time in months, Bill’s nagging concerns were gone. He felt better than he had in years.

And every night when they turned in for bed, he said his prayers and he thanked God for using the tragedy of his big brother’s death to wake him up.  He promised to stay on course for the rest of his life.

“And Lord”, he asked. “Please take care of my big brother until I see him again.  And tell him I love him.”  Then he smiled as he drifted off to sleep.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.honeyweshouldaboughttheark.com

Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, a 2014 best read selection of American Pet Magazine

 

Happy Birthday, America

On this day two hundred and thirty eight years ago, a band of brave patriots published a document which would have huge impact the world over.  Representatives of the Thirteen Colonies met in Philadelphia to approve The Declaration of Independence, severing their subservient relationship with the British Crown and with its publication a struggle for freedom of David and Goliath proportions began.

Despite all of the patriotic fervor and anger with King George for treating his subjects like serfs, there were still many in this land who did not want to battle the British.  There were multiple reasons for this: fear, loyalty to the homeland, and financial arrangements among others, but the minority who led the cause for freedom eventually secured a sufficient number of colonists to man the Continental Army.  And it didn’t hurt that they eventually had George Washington of Virginia to lead the fledgling nation in battle, a man of vision and honor who realized that it was his destiny from God to lead this original band of brothers.

Things didn’t go well at first with some loyalists providing the British with information on leaders of the rebellion.  This resulted in horrific retribution against these men and their families for their actions.  A good example of this was the group of patriots who followed Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, so named because he would strike swiftly and then retreat into the dense South Carolina swamps where the English were fearful to follow.  These patriots suffered horribly as many of their family members were brutally massacred, some burned alive, and all family possessions and property stolen, sacked or destroyed.

And, of course, we all know that the open battlefield skirmishes were dismal and bloody failures for the Americans at first, bringing Washington and his often threadbare troops within a whisker of total defeat.  Finally the crossing of the Delaware with Washington’s surprise assault on Trenton was a brilliant success and shock waves reverberated all the way to London.   This kept his Army in the war and, following a long and bloody struggle, it was on to Yorktown and the surrender of Lord Cornwallis in October 1781.  American folklore says that the British band struck up the British song, “The World Turned Upside Down” although that can’t be fully authenticated.

The United States really didn’t have a settled government structure until 1789 since much give and take was needed between the large and small states and the Northern and Southern factions in order to gain agreement.  The in-between Articles of Confederation allowed for the nation to stay together although there were difficulties.  It wasn’t an easy thing to set up a government that was both free and democratic while maintaining protections for the minority as well.  The checks and balances were designed to insure that America truly would be a land where an elected body, not a king or a despot, would control the ship of state subject to the voting choices of the citizenry.

Following those founding days, the United States grew into the greatest nation on earth and has been looked to by freedom seeking people everywhere as a beacon of hope and inspiration.  But, as Alexis de Tocqueville said so elegantly in his masterpiece, Democracy in America, something seems to have gone wrong in recent years.  The willpower, determination, and dedication to hard work is lost today in so many of us, often caused by soft living and the belief in promises made by self-serving politicians who are more interested in retaining their power than in securing the future of the country.  As that great French writer surmised, when a population in a democratic environment gets to the point where those who have not realize they can vote themselves a pay raise at the cost of those who have, trouble begins.  This seems to be where we are headed unless we as a society come alive with a new rendition of the Spirit of 1776.

We Americans must look at the wonder of what our Founders did for us, designing a system which, with God’s help, has been a model for all to see.  And the haves worked hard with the sweat of their brow to gain those things they have and they are also generous with their riches with those who are needy when the government leaves them free to produce and grow.  That is what those without need to strive for, not from a handout, but a hand up which will propel them also to success and wealth.  That is the Spirit of 1776 which combines the Holy Spirit and the American Spirit with a level of energy and perseverance which cannot be denied.  It worked before and it will work again as well.

So I hope that all Americans on this Independence Day will take the time to look at the courage and brilliant but difficult work of our Founders and redouble our own efforts to do our part to push onward and upward for liberty.  Individualism, freedom and capitalism, when combined in a fair and honest way is the only way we will regain our footing and with God’s help we can do so.  Government is never the source of production, it is merely a user of some of the fruits of productive labor and if it focuses on those requirements which were called for in the Constitution, most importantly national security, while expunging so much of the waste and abuse, the richness and bountiful goods and services which this country can produce will once again lead us to renewed prominence.

Thank God for this land that we love and let us use this glorious day, a day when we remember our great heritage and purpose, to reenergize ourselves as Americans, including liberals, moderates and conservatives to bind ourselves together for the most valiant cause of them all: freedom under God.

Happy Birthday, America.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book site: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, a true story of life with a wide array of animals in God’s glorious rural America

 

Special Blog Item: Funeral Scam

Beware of a funeral scam!

The Federal Trade Commission is reporting a new scam that is being used regarding funeral announcements.  Criminals are posting phony announcements as representations of funeral organizations announcing a death via email.  Recipients receiving such postings have a tendency to open them if it’s about someone they know.  By doing so, they allow the sender entry to the computer to install viruses and malware which allow hacking and theft of personal information from the infected email account.  It is particularly effective against older Americans who are more accustomed to looking for and receiving notices concerning friends and family who are elderly.

Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing that is totally hacker proof, but there are several steps that can be taken which will seriously limit the likelihood and, in conjunction with a good identity theft program, can ease your mind.

First, it is generally advisable to check out any email that could be questionable by other methods.  In the event that it lists a funeral home, find the phone listing for and call the funeral home to find out if it is valid.  If it involves a service like Shared Sorrows, contact the service directly, but not by direct response to the email in question.  The general rule of thumb is if you aren’t sure about the incoming address or sender, don’t open it.

Second, purchasing and maintaining a good identity theft program is a good idea.  There are many of them; in some cases your bank might have one.  These reputable businesses, with your approval, monitor your financial accounts, your email and even your address for indications of fraud and notify you immediately and assist you in shutting access down.  I personally use a program of this nature and have had several occasions where a scam attempt to steal my identity was quickly thwarted.  It’s much easier to maintain a good credit rating than it is to recover it, even in a case where you were not at fault.

So enjoy the computer but use it wisely.  Keep your guard up and realize there are many devious characters out there creating ways to steal your information.  If you have a quality identity theft monitor, once you contact them it should be taken care of.  If not and you suspect that an attempt has been made against you, notify your financial institution, other major credit accounts, and the local authorities.  The sooner you report it the quicker and less damaging the resolution will be.

God bless you and God have mercy on the souls of those who do such evil things. If they put their brilliant minds to work for legitimate functions they would be millionaires instead of criminals.  How sad.

James Dick

Hawthorne, Florida

Website: Northfloridawriter.com

Author page: outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

 

Final Disposition of Remains: Part II – Traditional Burial

After discussing the benefits of cremation services last week, we now turn to look at the most widely accepted method of disposition of remains, traditional burial. For those who prefer this timeless action, nothing describes it better than first-hand experience. Following are some of the things I personally experienced as a boy that have always made a traditional funeral and burial most appealing.

My first personal experience with a funeral and burial came upon the death of my father. I knew what a funeral was, of course, but I had never been required to attend one before. Things were chaotic in those first days after his death with my mother torn between trying to handle the grief and depression upwelling in both her children and within herself while also having to attend to last minute funeral planning issues, filing for her funeral insurance claim, insuring that funeral costs were met and accomplishing all other funeral needs. Thankfully, a close neighbor friend stepped in for Mom and took care of all of the activities of the household.

Being only nine, Mom kept me away from much of the action, including the viewing of my father’s body and the visitation at the funeral home. She felt it would be too traumatic for me and, looking back on things, I think she was right although I was upset at the time. I spent most of the two days prior to the funeral trying to reach an understanding of why I was facing the death of my father who I loved so much. Why me and not someone else?

The actual funeral, while somber, was very touching and moving. My dad didn’t want a church funeral; he wanted the sole memorial to be held at the gravesite and I remember being bundled up on a cold December in the pale afternoon sunlight and stiff breeze to sit on the first row under the canopy where the body would be soon be placed.

Suddenly, the hearse carrying his body pulled up, and a group of his close friends, now acting as pallbearers slowly and very deliberately removed the gleaming dark wood with silver rail casket from the vehicle and carried it with dignity to its place on the stand over the freshly opened grave. I will always remember that moment. Here was the body of my now deceased father at center stage, with a large entourage now entering or surrounding the canopy area as our family minister in his finest church robe stood in front of the coffin almost at attention with the Holy Bible in his hands. The momentary peace and solitude and the quiet reverence of the audience, all looking directly at the casket was so dignified and honorable that I didn’t even think of crying at the moment. My heart welled with pride instead knowing that so many people thought so highly of my dad..

I don’t remember a lot of the rest of the funeral except the moment when I joined my two siblings to individually place a single flower on the casket before our departure. I remember vividly looking at that container and thinking that my father would be placed below ground in this solid and dignified casket which showed our love and respect for him.

The several snapshot moments, while short, have been everlasting in my heart and mind since that day. It is one of the reasons why I understand the importance to so many of the traditional funeral. And later, when I had the opportunity to experience the viewing at the funeral home of another dear relative prior to burial, I realized why so many demand an actual viewing of the body for one last time. It is truly marvelous what cosmetics and chemicals can do to make this possible. Clearly when you see the body of someone you care very much about, looking close to normal but without the smiling eyes and joyous facial expressions remembered, the closure needed to get on with your life cannot be escaped.

So I guess it all boils down to this. If your primary concern is the dignity and honor of the ceremony, with the pomp and circumstance of the casket’s carriage and presence and what it adds to the memory, then you will probably opt for the traditional funeral and burial. If, however, cost is a major concern and the funds to be expended require tight constraints, then you can certainly see where cremation services might be more appropriate. But, in the final analysis, whether it is a traditional funeral or the use of cremation services, the choice is yours or that of your remaining loved ones. Make it wisely and plan ahead and you can rest knowing that your family will not be faced with the uncertainty of trying to guess what you wanted. That is one of the best memories you can leave behind showing your care and love for them.

God bless you all and remember, next week we will have a Christmas surprise for you and particularly your children. I hope you will enjoy it. See you then.

James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, now available at my book website
www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark
website: www.northfloridawriter.com

 

God Cried With Us

Why would the sun
Wait in the wings,
Instead of appearing
For one as loved as you
This day as you
Were laid to rest?

It must be that God
Decided to cry with us
Gentle warm tears
Fell from the white sky
And sprinkled us
As we made our way
Under the tent
Over your grave.

The season’s first
Green blades peeked
Above the earth
In the midst of brown.
The soldier stood between
Two somber gray gravestones
In the distance
Each note of Taps lingered
Before floating away.

The last few wisps
Of cold snow melted.

You are no longer searching for,
Or running from,
Love as we humans do,
But rather, radiating
In that golden glow that
I imagine may be like
That soft early evening
Sunlight of summer
That warms us evenly,
And you feel like you
Could stand in it forever.

We can’t see you, dear friend
Because we are separated
By a window fogged
Like the softened ice
On the pond today.

If we could, I am assured
We would see you blissfully
Strolling a gold-paved road.

In memory of John Porier. By S.T. Haggerty. March 12, 2013.
Copyright 2013 by S.T. Haggerty

 

The Reality of Christianity: I Am Second

Writing a blog for a funeral planning site can be challenging. While it is important to discuss all aspects of funeral needs including selecting funeral clergy, determining whether burial or cremation services are best, even whether or not an obituary writer or eulogy writer is needed, none of these things do anything for the inner self or soul, both of the decedent to be who is planning in advance, or for his or her family, left behind to carry out the request of their loved one as well as carry on without that special person.

Two weeks ago we talked about the need to recognize the importance of God in our lives. He is the one who can best help our loved ones deal with the uncertainty, grief and depression that will likely surface in a time of sadness and loss. His love and caring, gained through our opening of our hearts to Him, will not only help us while we are still here but will certainly positively impact the future of those we love.

Fortunately, while I thought about how to really “bring home the message” that was broached in my earlier discussion, I came upon a wonderful Christian web site that is clearly a tool for making God’s wishes clear. It is called I am Second, web address iamsecond.com, and it is designed to inspire people to put God first in their lives, to live for Him and, in so doing, follow His guidance on dealing with both routine and major problems that we will face in our lives. None can be more critical than the feeling of aloneness and fear that we all sometimes face, and these fears can often translate into grief and depression. And no subject can be gloomier than planning for your demise or participating in a service for a departed loved one.

Founded by Norm Miller, the Chairman of Dallas-based Interstate Batteries, I am Second was initially developed to lift the Dallas-Fort Worth area to a higher recognition of God’s purpose for us and now has grown to other areas of the country, including Central Florida. Being a good organizer, Miller has set up a leadership team to guide its growth and development, including a working relationship with e3 Partners, a communications production organization that has developed written and video material and tools for use by those who are seeking answers to questions from God. These materials use true stories from real people who found Jesus, decided to put Him first in their lives and, as a result, dramatically changed themselves and have been saved by Christ’s grace and redemption.

What types of people are participants? Well, they include athletes, actors, business leaders and political types as well as regular people like us and our next door neighbors. Also included are people mired in bad habits and a disastrous life style including drug addicts, alcoholics, even prostitutes, you name it and someone meeting the description is probably here. You see, God loves all of us and he wants us to seek Him out, pray and work to change our ways through our love for Him, and put Him first in our thoughts and actions. If we make Him first and relegate ourselves to second, the wonders He can work in, for and with us are incalculable. And while one might think that this is asking too much, remember that the Lord sent His Son, Jesus Christ to earth as a mere mortal to suffer a horrific death as a man, not as God, with all the pain and suffering that a man would feel, so that by dying for us we might find eternity with Him. All we have to do is put him first in all that we do. He’ll take care of the rest.

The stories told in the videos represent almost every imaginable struggle. They include such issues as abortion, abuse, anger, cancer, affluence, divorce and many more. They show how any of these things, including some which seem on the surface as positive factors, can become just the opposite when not handled the way God wants. And each of the stories shows the pitfalls of that lifestyle and its detrimental impact. Eliminating pitfalls and sorrow which can be avoided through Him will play a leading role in precluding much grief and depression which would otherwise come with ultimate regret. You see, God wants us to live happily and we can truly only do this if we have Him in our heart and put Him first. Otherwise, our riches, our passion and even our weaknesses will ultimately consume us.

I am Second also spends time dealing with many of the questions that we have regarding faith. Some of the same people who tell their stories about how God has changed them also offer their views on a variety of these questions. This is an excellent approach since it offers real life, not theoretical, examples of what God has to say about these questions. Some of the questions are:
Does God care about me?
How do I know everything that happens in life is God’s doing?
Why is Jesus the only way to Heaven?
Why does God allow bad things to happen?
How do I become second?
And these are just some of the subjects with which we can be helped. Looking over this short listing, I think we can clearly see how the power and the glory of God and His son, Jesus Christ, can lift us up with brightness, joy and light, just the opposite of gloom and doom, grief and depression. And when we are faced with our own pending demise, or with the loss of someone close to us, we will see it as a road to glory above with Him and a time for celebration.

I would highly recommend that all of us who want to develop a deeper relationship with Our Heavenly Father should consider taking a close look at iamsecond.com. It’s open to everyone, it can be a strong inspiration to those seeking to really get close to God and it can help you understand that He is first and we are designed to glorify Him in our lives by being “Second”.

Have a wonderful week ahead and I’ll look forward to meeting with you again next week if the good Lord is willing. Bless you all and God bless America.

James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
www.northfloridawriter.com

James Dick Book on Amazon

 

Grandma’s House – A Life Story

My grandmother will turn 95 next month. We don’t know how much longer we have to enjoy her company. Her health, especially mentally, is deteriorating at a sobering pace. When you visit her at the nursing home, you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get. That’s depressing because that’s not how I remember grandma. Like most strong and determined women from her generation, the nursing home has never been home. She has always wanted to go to her house, that was home.

Grandpa and grandma moved into their house in 1976 when they retired from the farm. It is a small house and structurally nothing special. And it’s not new and it wasn’t new in 1976. It was, however, grandma’s house and we loved it! The living room was the ‘original house’ before the additions were built. But the ‘original house’ wasn’t built for a family, it was built as a school house. A one-room schoolhouse, in the country, on the plains of eastern Colorado. A school house grandma attended as a child.

Grandma lived in a school house, her school house. I find that interesting. My kids can’t imagine moving into their school when they retire, let alone imagine ‘retiring’.

There’s more to the story of this particular school house then the love and warmth that our family knew. It was home to a tragedy, The Towner Bus Tragedy. In late March of 1931 a surprise blizzard stranded some 23 kids and a bus driver on their way home from school. Five of the kids froze to death as did the bus driver, Carl Miller, when he tried to walk for help in the blizzard. Grandma wasn’t at school or on the bus that day and I don’t know why. I’d like to know. Grandma has talked about that day, but I’ve failed to capture the details. It’s part of her life story.

Now is the time to ask your parents, your grandparents, and if you’re lucky, your greatgrandparents their life stories. Write the stories down or capture them on video. Most of us carry a video camera with us everyday, our smart phones. I pray for the chance to document my grandma’s life story before it’s too late. Here are just a few of the many questions I’d like to ask her.
• Tell me about the day of the Towner bus tragedy?
• When and where did you meet grandpa?
• What was my dad like as a child?
• What was your experience during the Great depression, the dust bowl, World War II?
• What are you favorites memories as a child?
• How do you want to be remembered?
• What is one funny story from your youth that still makes you smile?
• Who were the most influential people in your life?
• I want to know more about your dad, my great-grandfather, who immigrated to the United States from Germany through the port in Corpus Christi, TX.
• Can I have your homemade noodle recipe? (She made the best chicken and
noodles and she served it over mashed potatoes. A family favorite! Can you say starch?)

-Brian Beaman

 

You Need Someone You Can Trust

Over the last few months we have been talking about grief as well as what we need to do to make our final celebration of life as easy as possible for our remaining loved ones. I know everyone agrees, whether we’ve done it or not, that having a plan in place is important to make this possible. No one wants to leave as a memory a chaotic, stressful situation which makes added grief and depression a potentially serious problem.

In making our preparations, it is certainly important that we consider funeral planning services, funeral costs and estate planning as part of our deliberations. In doing so we also need to be sure that advice provided to our loved ones after our death is objective but also with a personal touch. Tenderness and compassion is needed in addition to professional competence. Carrying out plans, or dealing with the many different issues that come with death, requires clear thinking and a cool head. Unfortunately, when we are likely suffering from grief and depression from our loss, emotions often take over and objectivity goes out the window. So what can we do to preclude this from happening to those who love us?

One answer is the selection of an informal adviser to provide counsel and advice to those who must carry out our wishes. I’m not talking about someone necessarily with final decision-making authority, although some wish to do this via power of attorney. No, I’m referring here to someone you know well and completely trust, someone who can separate personal ties from the business end of your affairs, who can stand by to serve as a sounding board for your spouse or other responsible family representative when the time of need arises. This is someone in addition to the professionals such as lawyers, funeral directors, grief and depression counselors; it is someone more personal and relatable yet also competent to help. It is someone who is closer and more knowledgeable of you and your family than a business acquaintance.

My first realization of the importance of having a personal friend to confide in under these circumstances came as a child when my father died suddenly. My mom wasn’t thinking clearly and needed some help in dealing with all of the things that must be done. The neighbor next door, husband of Mom’s best friend, stepped in and really saved the day. A savvy and professional businessman, he steered her in the right direction and things went as smoothly as humanly possible. Our family couldn’t have done it without him.

Later as an Army officer, I was frequently called to serve as a Survivor Assistance Officer for families of service members who died while on active duty. My duties were to accompany the widow or other closest family member of the deceased through the process of insuring that all military requirements were handled professionally and properly. While my primary concern was providing support in receiving all Army benefits and entitlements, I couldn’t help but recognize that many additional issues these poor people faced were often without any competent advisor to help them. This is when I made a mental note to myself that when my time came to depart this earth, I was going to be sure this fate did not befall my loved ones.

So what kind of person should you consider to provide your family with an additional set of eyes to look at things objectively? Here are a few of the factors that I used in identifying the person to ask to do this service for me. Each of us may have different factors, but the point here is to identify those things that will make this person the best to fulfill your needs. Here’s my short list; you might add many more as well:
1. They should be someone you know and trust, a person with an impeccable reputation for honor and integrity.
2. They must be discreet and able to maintain explicit confidentiality.
3. They should be intelligent with some practical experience in business sufficient to have reasonable comprehension of the complexity of financial and legal matters.
4. They should be someone who is willing to be candid and forthright with the remaining loved ones, even in those issues where their views might not be initially popular. The thrust of their advice and support must be what is best for the family.
5. They should be a person of faith, not necessarily of the exact mold of yours, but at least recognizing the reality of a living God who is always available for us. Prayer by this person, as well as prayer by the family, plays a big role in getting life back to normal after a stressful and grieving experience.
6. They must be someone who is willing to devote sufficient time to provide the help needed and also be willing to follow up afterwards for a considerable period of time, usually about a year. Here it would be assumed that the person in question would likely have real concern for the family welfare and would likely stand by for a long time. This affords the family the security of knowing that they have someone who has real interest in their welfare not just for the short term.
7. They should be someone who does this out of the love in their heart and not for personal gain. Notice here that I am not talking about someone who does not perform their assistance for money; they are, rather, an extra pair of eyes to make sure that all the official providers of service are living up to expectations.

Friends, this is a tall order for anyone and be aware that when you are considering asking for someone’s commitment it will take a special person to agree. Anyone filling this advisory and part-time role has to be a person with true love in their heart as Jesus expects. Don’t be surprised if someone might be reluctant to agree to this commitment, but realize that whoever accepts will be rewarded in a much different way for a true act of kindness.
Each of us on occasion might also be called upon by a friend to act in this manner for them. The willingness to serve in such a way is a true sign of a kind and generous person who sacrifices himself for the benefit of others. At the same time, it is a true honor to be considered for this responsibility since it indicates that someone really values and trusts your judgment and goodness. Its rewards are in the feeling of accomplishment and the personal satisfaction of knowing that a commitment to something really special has been made.

I would also like to suggest that you look over the SharedSorrows.com website to see the many helpful components available to help you. The site offers outstanding online funeral planning information and the service is as close as an email or phone call to provide other services you might need.

I hope this information has been helpful and at least makes us think about its benefit. And may God bless each and every one of us.

James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
www.northfloridawriter.com