This is probably the most practical self-help book ever written. After all, each and every human being will need this book at some point. It’s not something that anyone wants to dwell upon, but sooner or later you’ve got to face the issue.
It is difficult enough to lose a loved one, and the time immediately following a death is just about the worst time to try to make decisions about a loved one’s remains, not to mention dealing with the expense of it all. The purpose of this book is to get people to make these decisions, make plans, and communicate them to loved ones before they die. It mitigates the stress and indecision of survivors and ensures that your wishes are carried out.
Jones discusses the two main means of disposal, burial and cremation. Within each of these are infinite possibilities. For example, for most people the concept of burial means a casket in a cemetery; however, few are aware that most states do allow for home burial (yes, in your back yard) provided certain conditions are met; and there is no state or federal law requiring a casket for burial. Many people are also unaware that funeral homes cannot require you to purchase expensive bundled packages. They must make individual services and costs available to you à la carte, so to speak. Jones encourages readers to familiarize themselves with the laws and requirements in their states, as well as their rights.
Possibilities with cremation are seemingly endless, from a simple scattering, to being shot into space, to having the ashes made into a piece of jewelry or a walking stick. My personal favorite is the “eco-eternity forest,” in which your cremated ashes are interred under a selected tree in a nature preservation area. Your ashes act as fertilizer for the tree, nourishing it and, over time, becoming a part of it. Not cheap, but not nearly as expensive as a traditional funeral and cemetery burial.
Jones covers all of these options with humor, but thoroughly. She discusses the practicalities, advantages, disadvantages, and costs of each option. She provides links to resources for more information. She also devotes two chapters to communication: notification of friends and family; and obituaries, wills, and record-keeping.
The point she makes throughout the book is that, when you plan ahead and communicate your wishes to your loved ones, you ultimately have control over what happens to you after you die; therefore you can get as creative as you want. Have you ever thought about what your obituary will say about you when you die? Who will be writing it? Why not you?
How do you want to be memorialized? Do you want a traditional church service? Or would you prefer a quiet, private family gathering? Or a raucous party? Who do you want to be there? Who will be in charge of organizing it? If you have to lose a loved one, I can’t think of anything more comforting than having the kind of life celebration that you know he or she truly would have wanted.
Jones provides over forty pages of worksheets to help readers plan the hows and wheres of their final resting places. Once they are complete, she encourages readers to make copies for potential surviving family members and discuss their wishes with them.
Jones takes a lighthearted approach to the issue in order to make it as entertaining and readable as possible under the circumstances, yet she never loses sight of the respect and dignity owed to the dead.
A good companion book to this one is Caring For the Dead: Your Final Act of Love by Lisa Carlson. It delves more deeply into your legal rights, and your survivors’ rights, concerning your final disposition.
Check the WRL catalog for Death for Beginners