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Planning Funerals with Seniors

In my ministry with seniors, I have discovered that while some may be hesitant to talk about their own deaths, it is an important pastoral focus that can lead to very meaningful discussions.

To facilitate that conversation I created a funeral planning form (“My Funeral Preferences,” see p. 37) which I’ve found to be a helpful tool. Asking an elderly person about favorite Bible passages and songs can lead to rich sharing. Some great questions are:

  • How does this passage or song speak to you today?
  • Does the passage or song remind you of any special event in your life?

In discussing their funeral service, I have found the following questions helpful:

  • How do you want to be remembered?
  • What do you want emphasized at your funeral?

In planning funeral services with surviving family members, I try to curtail excessive sharing by family members and friends. Instead, I encourage sharing in more private settings with only family and very close friends. Personally, I found it enriching to hear stories about my first wife from numerous family members as we sat together in a large circle. One of my sons started the session by asking: “What do you remember about our mother as she was growing up?” Laughter and tears were both prominent during an hour of sharing.

In my pastoral work, I made a habit of writing down anecdotes shared by elderly parishioners. Weaving these into the message was appreciated by loved ones. Especially poignant are things openly shared during the dying process. Of course, confidentiality is crucial.

This form is also available online at tinyurl.com/yxrtxkcp as a free download that you can adjust to meet your needs.