Maybe I am getting older, but I seem to be attending more funerals recently. One of the latest was my mother’s.
I can remember arranging my father’s funeral 30 years ago. I found it a disappointing experience. I wanted the event to express our thanks for having such a devoted and loving husband, father and grandfather who was taken from us too soon but felt that we were not being listened to. To this day I still feel regret that the funeral service was too sad and did not reflect him. Therefore, it was with some trepidation I set out about arranging my mother’s funeral.
My father was an extremely keen gardener who took nurtured seeds from window sills in the house into the green house then to full blooms which was his summer garden display. Some of his blooms were magnificent. To him, cutting flowers to put in a vase was their death sentence, so we expressed a wish of no flowers at the funeral. In 1989 this was ignored by many – “It’s the done thing to have flowers at a funeral” came the reply.
Mum lived her final years in much pain. She was riddled with arthritis. She was highly independent and resisted having carers if she could. She did not want to be a burden or liability to anyone. She used her sense of fun to hide the pain she was in, she never wanted to be a killjoy spoiling younger people’s fun and she wanted to join in. Her personal belief was that she believed in some sort of after-life – this was more a hope of being reunited with Dad than a reality. She once said to a cousin who was much more religious, “If we all go to heaven then it must be a pretty crowded place by now.”
Fortunately, 2019 is a lot more liberal when it comes to attitudes to funerals than 1989. We were able to arrange a service more in keeping with what mum would have wanted – no sad faces. So much so, we sang, ‘The Sun has got his hat on and is coming out to play’ as part of the eulogy.
A friend has just called round because a sudden death in his family means he also has a funeral to arrange. He asked how my mother’s went. I told him the above and you could see the relief on his face that he may be able to do what that relative would have wanted.
Funerals should be individual to the person who has died. They are part of the healing and grieving process and we should consider that when dealing with clients in such a position. This can only be achieved if our clients talk to their nearest and dearest so they understand what it is they want their funeral to be like.
The conversation should then be widened into how is the funeral going to be paid for and what will be the consequences financially and otherwise of that individual’s death? This then opens up the conversation into how the wills need to be drawn. From here come the need for wills, and possibly life assurance.
But what if death is preceded by a critical illness, or a long-term disability requiring care? What are the individual’s wishes? How will the individual be supported? Is this the time to put Powers of Attorney in place?
Everyone is different. Everyone has different views and sometimes our close relatives may express views which we may not agree with. But they are their wishes.
We as advisers should be encouraging those conversations. When they have been had, advisers can then help the individuals involved make sure the results are what happens.
What may seem to be unpalatable conversations are essential to later life financial planning. Without them do you really know what your client’s true goals in retirement are. There is more to life than holiday and cruises.
Bob Champion is chairman of the Air Later Life Academy