By Jessica Grann, Assistant Vice President & Director of Corporate Communications for National Guardian Life Insurance Company (NGL)
As you walk into my house you will notice the framed pictures of my family, friends and the many trips we’ve taken. The pictures I’ve lovingly and thoughtfully selected to keep on display show the memories I’ve created with my loved ones. You’ll see my daughters smiling and acting goofy, our wedding day and our four-legged family members. These memories show more than our past and our happy times, they represent the story of our lives.
My home is truly a reflection of me and our family values. Every item in our house has been purposefully selected. But it goes deeper than the items located in our house, my husband and I specifically built our home to fit the needs of our family. During the building process, we spent hours picking out the house design, flooring, doors and the colors both inside and out. We discussed the location and prioritized what meant most to us. For many people, the home building process can be stressful and the details overwhelming, but I was invigorated at the aspect of creating a meaningful representation of my family.
It might not seem like they go together, but I see similarities between the home building and decorating process and planning an end of life celebration. Just as a builder guides you through the steps involved, a funeral director guides and personalizes the end of life celebration. Both roles are there to make the process as easy and stress-free as possible during a challenging situation.
Incorporating Talk of a Lifetime materials makes it easier to start the discussion. Recently, I sat down with my parents and used the Talk of a Lifetime Conversation Cards to learn more about each of them. For example, my father shared that his favorite memory of his grandmother was when they would bake a pineapple upside down cake because she would let him eat any leftover cherries. It was a fun memory that he’d never shared with me before. When we finished our conversation, I showed my parents how the Have the Talk of a Lifetime Workbook helped to capture their cherished moments. Our discussion gradually turned toward their end of life celebration, what they wanted it to look like and how to best reflect their personalities and values.
My father is a lover of music. He wanted several songs played during his celebration of life. My mother is immensely proud of her family and asked that her family photos be displayed at her celebration. What surprised me was when they both shared how they wanted one song, in particular, played during their celebrations – Fire Bell Polka. It’s the one polka song that is played at every large family gathering. Everyone gets up and starts singing and dancing.
I’m not sure I would have thought to play that specific song or include the mementos they wanted but now everything is documented to help us remember what my parents want when the time eventually comes. I can feel comfortable and confident that I’m respecting their wishes because we talked about the details that matter most to them.
When I first started building my house I didn’t have every detail planned. The framework was there but I needed someone to guide me. Talk of a Lifetime provides an opportunity to capture memories and creates the framework for a special, personalized end of life celebration. You don’t need to have all the plans in place, but it identifies wants and expectations for how your loved ones want to be remembered.