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Growing Closer as the Year Grows Old: Creating Fall Memories as a Family

Fall leaves turning As autumn approaches, families near and far begin planning seasonal festivities. Fall outings and holiday occasions are not only events greatly looked forward to, but they are ideal opportunities to Have the Talk of a Lifetime with your loved ones. This year, as you and yours are busily creating fall memories, take the time to deepen your bond with treasured family members, show them you care, and reassure them that they’ll be remembered with love when they are gone.

Deepening Family Bonds

The Talk of a Lifetime can happen in many ways. Here are some fun ideas that will afford opportunities for families to make happy fall memories together, get to know each other better, and grow closer.
  • Family Round Table: Honor a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or other relative by having a Q&A session in which they are the principle focus of the evening. Have each family member write out questions for the person—things they don’t know about the individual or have wondered about (download our free workbook for question ideas). Place the questions in a bowl and draw them out one at a time, giving the star guest an opportunity to address each one. Have a recording device ready so their answers can be preserved. Prepare some scrumptious fall refreshments beforehand so everyone can eat, listen, and share together.
  • Outdoor Family Activities: Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy the beautiful outdoors as the leaves are changing. Coordinate a family flag football game or a family hike. A little friendly competition playing football or any other sport of your choice will surely create lasting memories. If hiking is more your style, try exploring a forest preserve or nature trail in your area that you haven’t visited before to take in the stunning fall colors. You can share these stories with loved ones after while warming up inside, sipping a cup of hot cider by the fire.
  • Family Portrait: It’s easy to let years slip by in which a family photo has not been taken. Don’t look back with regret that you didn’t take more photos with particular loved ones before they passed on. This year, make your family portrait session a merry occasion. Gather your loved ones for a harvest celebration and schedule time for a family portrait in the midst of it. Have photos taken in a fun fall setting, such as a backyard that is colorful with autumn leaves.
  • Halloween Crafts: As you get ready to decorate for Halloween, make it an occasion. Create your own decorations as a family—hanging ghosts, paper chains in fall colors, a spooky wreath for the front door, etc. Find easy craft ideas online for your little ones and more challenging projects for teens and adult family members.

Make the Most of Your Time Together

Sharing experiences and talking with your loved ones is a great way to learn what matters most to them so you can better celebrate their life when the time comes. For more information about Have the Talk of a Lifetime, contact us today.

Grief Lessened by Discussing Final Wishes

Field with clouds

By Danielle Burmeister

Marketing Communications Specialist at Homesteaders Life Company

A few months ago, I met a woman who had buried two husbands. The first died unexpectedly at a tragically young age, the second after a long, hard and well-fought battle with cancer. Kate bore the unmistakable signs of grief – strength and perseverance coupled with the quiet certainty that life is very, very precious.

As you might imagine, her first husband passed away without making any plans for his funeral arrangements. At his age, there was no reason to think he needed to talk with his wife about how he wanted to be remembered, where he wanted to be laid to rest or even where he kept their important documents and financial information. When he died, Kate was left with a mountain of decisions to make, a funeral to arrange and a life to stitch back together without any guidance from her departed spouse.

Talking about what matters most

Some months later, Kate began to Have the Talk of a Lifetime® with her children about her own final wishes – never wanting to leave them with the pain and uncertainty of burying a loved one without knowing exactly what she would have wanted.

By the time she met and married her second husband, talking about end-of-life plans and final wishes was a natural part of her family relationships. When he was diagnosed with cancer a few years later, they were able to focus their energy on treatment plans and recovery goals, knowing that if the worst should happen, she would know what to do.

When he passed away, Kate knew which church he wanted to use for his funeral, which pastor would officiate, which type of disposition he wanted and where he wanted his ashes scattered. She knew where he was born, his mother’s maiden name and his parents’ and grandparents’ birthplaces. She knew where he kept his life insurance policy and bank information and which funeral home he had used to make his final arrangements. She knew enough to be able to spend the days following his death focusing on family, not funeral arrangements.

Though no one is every truly prepared to cope with the loss of a loved one, Kate felt some relief from knowing exactly what her husband wanted.

Watch Kate’s story

When I sat down to interview Kate, I also spent some time talking with her son, who expressed his own relief that he would know what to do when his mother passed away. “It’s comforting to know those things, to know the values my family has always had and the values I bring to my own family,” Jim explained. “It makes me very relaxed to know what she wants.”

Watch the video below to hear more about how Kate has been able to share her stories and wishes with her son, and what that has meant to him.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime

Sharing stories with your loved ones is so important – especially when it comes to your end-of-life wishes and how you want to be remembered. If you haven’t yet, consider sitting down with your family to Have the Talk of a Lifetime. Not sure how to get started? Click here to download a free workbook to guide you through these important discussions.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime with Fond Sports Memories

Athletes Running Speaking with friends and family about cherished sports memories accomplishes a whole lot more than a trip down memory lane. Sharing these fond memories is an excellent way to Have the Talk of a Lifetime, ensuring that your loved ones are remembered in the way that they want. As you learn more about that state track record or that dramatic goal before the buzzer, you’ll grow an even deeper appreciation for those you care about. Have the Talk of a Lifetime with friends and family to help preserve their sports legacies for generations to come.

Sharing Sports Memories

From action shots on the field to candid selfies after the big playoff win, pictures can truly say a thousand words and can be great tools to help start the Talk of a Lifetime. Here are a few ways that you can highlight boxes of new and old photos for greater longevity:
  • Consider creating a collage of great sports memories. Photo albums and scrapbooks act as a customized sport biography for your loved one, or you can even create a poster of great shots.
  • If you prefer digital media, action shots and video clips can preserve the most thrilling moments of your athlete’s history. Upload the clips to social media to share the great times with family and friends.
  • Even less than stellar photos can be enhanced with photo editing software to create crisp, artistic shots that you will be proud to display.

Preserving Personal Memorabilia

As athletes move through their sports careers they acquire countless keepsakes, such as trophies, uniforms, and newspaper clippings. The next time you come across one of these cherished pieces, be sure to ask for the stories behind it. You may be surprised to hear the exciting tales that lie behind a worn catcher’s mitt or a pair of pompons. Not only will you get to hear these nostalgic stories, but your loved one will also get a chance to relive of his or her favorite sports memories. This can be a terrific way to Have the Talk of a Lifetime.

Start with Having the Talk of a Lifetime

Sports memories can bring you closer to the people you love, while learning more about their unique histories. Your local funeral professional is happy to provide you with more information about how to Have the Talk of a Lifetime to commemorate family and friends forever. Please contact us online for more information about getting started.

What Are Your Back-to-School Memories?

Back To School Banner Photo If we think back to our school days, most of us have some vivid memories of what it was like and how we felt. All it takes is the smell of arts and crafts supplies, or a school gymnasium to take us back in time. These are the kinds of things we should remember to share with our children by Having the Talk of a Lifetime. They love to learn about our lives before they existed, especially the little ones. Believe it or not, these are the kinds of things they’ll remember later on.

School Days

Back-to-school time is ideal for talking with your children. Your experiences can help them realize that you identify with how they’re feeling. They might be nervous and excited, but the memories you share with them can help put life in perspective. Tell them how exciting it was to go shopping with your parents for your new lunchbox and school clothes each year. Without cell phones and the Internet, maybe you had to call your friend on the home phone to plan your walk to school. They might get a kick out of the time you embarrassed yourself in front of your entire third-grade class. Or, how about the time your family had to move in the middle of the school year, and you were so nervous, you thought you were going to throw up? Then you met your new best friend that you’re still in touch with to this day. These kinds of stories help them see you as someone else besides their mom or dad. Sharing stories and Having the Talk of Lifetime can lead to a more fulfilling relationship in the future. You also may have some sweet memories of dropping them off at kindergarten for the very first time. Do they know about the tears that welled up and how much you missed them? Maybe you can remind them that you were nervous every year too, and everything will be okay.

Seize the Moment

The present becomes the past, all too soon. This time of year is perfect for deeper conversations with your kids that help them get to know you better. Have the Talk of a Lifetime today.

Not Knowing How to Honor a Loved One = Stress

Reducing Uncertainty

By Mark Allen

Executive Director and CEO, International Order of the Golden Rule

Picture three sisters at a conference table with intense expressions on their faces. Sister #1 says, “What do you think Mom would have wanted at her funeral?” Sister #2 replies, “I don’t know. What do you think?” Sister #3 responds, “I have absolutely no idea what to do!” Longer life spans and low child mortality rates have removed much of our incentive to think about an unpleasant subject like death, let alone consider what we want to happen at our funerals or end-of-life ceremonies. Death is no longer a daily part of life for most of us–or so we tell ourselves. We’re comfortable with delaying any thoughts about death as if that will make us immortal.

Lessen the Burden by Reducing Uncertainty

The death of a spouse, parent or sibling ranks as the most stressful experience a person will ever face. Many people believe that telling their families they want to be cremated or buried with no fanfare will remove a burden from their families. However, uncertainty is even more stressful than a negative outcome according to a recent UCL study. When we fail to tell survivors our authentic wishes for how we want to be remembered, we risk adding stress to those we love. After all, what could be more uncertain—and stressful–than blindly guessing how to pay tribute to another person’s life?

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead can greatly reduce the uncertainty families feel when a loved one dies. Consider making plans now to give your loved ones a roadmap that will make their journey smoother. Start by telling them your wishes. Describe your preferences in a document and let key people know where they can find it. Express your desire to be buried beneath a tree in a country cemetery. Disclose that you’d like to hold a gathering at an art gallery or have a traditional funeral in a church filled with religious symbols that hold special meaning for you. Name the songs you want played, the people you want to be involved, or poems or scripture that reflect the essence of your life.

Let a Professional Do the Heavy Lifting

The easiest way to plan ahead is to enlist the help of a professional funeral director. Funeral directors have come a long way since the days when everyone’s funeral looked pretty much the same. Today’s funeral director will help you determine how to translate what’s most meaningful to you into a one-of-a-kind tribute that helps survivors begin the process of healthy grieving. Search online for a Talk of a Lifetime expert in your area. He or she can be a tremendous resource.

How to Start an Awkward Conversation

Starting a discussion about your wishes may be awkward at first. Fortunately, several helpful tools are available through the Have the Talk of a Lifetime campaign that make these discussions easier. The Have the Talk of a Lifetime workbook is an excellent resource for capturing important aspects of your life that will lead to meaningful a funeral or end-of-life ceremony. In November, several new (and free) resources will be introduced under the theme, Time for Family, Time for Talk. Be sure to check them out. Imagine if the three sisters mentioned earlier had talked to their mother about her funeral preferences. They’d have had peace of mind knowing their mother’s tribute truly reflected her life and values. After all, the point of funerals and end-of-life ceremonies is to allow us to focus on our grief, not on our uncertainty.

Tips and Tricks: How to Create a Family Tree

One of the great benefits of having the Talk of a Lifetime is the preservation of family stories and histories. With the rise in popularity of television programs like “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Finding Your Roots,” there is a renewed interest in creating family trees and learning more about our ancestors. Have the Talk of a Lifetime® is the perfect place to start when exploring your family lineage.

Creating a family tree is a wonderful way to commemorate the past, while providing valuable information for future generations. This fun activity can also help initiate the Talk of a Lifetime that is essential to have with your loved ones. It is important to sit down with your family and talk about what matters most to you, and what you remember about your ancestors.

Family Tree Tips

There are a variety of ways to make a family tree. Here are a few starting points to consider before you begin this exciting process.

  • Record Your Family Story: Get the family together and make a list of names and correlating relationships. As you write down and list names, it is always fun to bring up memories and stories. Is there an interesting story behind a marriage or a nickname? Name everyone, and talk about how the family started. Share these important stories with those you love while you make your family lists. This is also a great time to begin the Talk of a Lifetime with loved ones gathered.

  • Turn to the U.S. Census: The U.S. Census can be a terrific resource for information about grandparents and parents. Occupations, birthdays, addresses, and much more can be verified in the U.S. census and marked down in your family tree.
  • Get in Touch with Relatives: Gather your loved ones, and ask them about cherished memories. Some of your family members may even have great pictures to share, old documents, letters, and genealogy information.
  • Take One Story at a Time: Start with a relative as far back as you can remember. It is best to take on one story at a time. It is tricky to focus on a whole tree at once, so focusing on individuals can be more personally satisfying and easier to manage.

The Talk of the Lifetime is The Talk to Remember

Your family tree is a unique story with many memories that should be remembered, recorded and shared. Download our free workbook to learn more about beginning the Talk of a Lifetime. Your loved ones deserve the best, and it’s comforting to know that you mattered in their lives, so make time for this meaningful activity, and Have the Talk of a Lifetime.

Making Summer Count: Creating Summer Memories with Your Family

Summer memories Summer’s here, and kids will be out of school for several weeks. It’s easy to let these leisure months pass in a blur, but why not spend them creating summer memories that will last a lifetime with your family instead? It doesn’t have to take a lot of money to make a memorable summer—just start by having “the Talk of a Lifetime” and share some of your most memorable summer vacations with each other. You will soon learn what matters most to one another.

Ideas for a Memorable Summer

As you gear up to create the best summer your family has ever had, don’t fall into the slump of, “So, what do you want to do?” Those words will have your kids’ noses buried in their iPads and video games faster than you can blink. Instead, take charge of your summer and make active and fun plans you and your children can get excited about. You can share some of your favorite summer memories by having the Talk of a Lifetime. By learning more about your loved ones, you’ll undoubtedly come up with some new and fun ways to recreate your most meaningful and memorable summer activities with your kids. Below is a checklist of ideas to get you started:
  • Photo Ops: Go old school and purchase a disposable camera for each member of your family and then head out to a picturesque spot, like a local botanical garden, park, or beach. Let your family members explore and snap photos of the interesting and beautiful things they find. Your kids will experience the adventure of discovery and the exciting anticipation of waiting for their pictures to be developed. After you pick up the photos, sit down as a family and give each person an opportunity to show off their shutterbug efforts, then let everybody help put the photos into a family album or scrapbook. Ask them what their favorite picture was and why. These are great opportunities to record these precious experiences in the scrapbooks along with the photos, and talk about what matters most to you and your loved ones. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn during these types of activities.
  • Roll of the Dice: Family road trips before the invention of GPS were always an adventure. Take some time to share some of your most memorable road trips with your family. You can recreate some of that adventure with your kids with this fun activity. Pile into the family vehicle for a fun trip into the unknown. Take one die (or let one of your creative kids make paper origami dice—trust us, almost every kid knows how). A larger die, like the kind that hangs from a rearview mirror, will make the process easier, but small dice can be used, as well. On each side of the die, tape a direction: Left, Right, Legal U-Turn, Straight. Some directions can be used twice to cover each side of the die. Let a family member roll the die to get you started on your journey; whatever direction it lands on, that’s where you’re headed. Each time you come to a stop sign, stoplight, or dead end, let a family member roll the die to determine which way to go next. The journey ends when you reach an interesting location you’d like to explore—or the driver can make an executive decision after a while and conclude the adventure at a fun spot like an ice cream parlor to share your experiences and relive old memories as well.
  • Home Camping: This is a tried-and-true summer family activity that is always fun. Plan a family campout in your backyard. Talk about some of your favorite camping experiences from your childhood. Make s’mores, share songs that you learned as a kid, tell spooky stories that you may have heard when you were a scout, teach your kids games you played in your old neighborhood, and just bond. These are great opportunities to pass down family stories and traditions.
  • Night Games: Remember how much fun it was to play night games with the kids in your neighborhood when you were a child? The majority of kids today can conquer the latest Internet games but have no idea what you’re talking about when you mention “Kick the Can” or flashlight tag. Share those rich and wonderful experiences with your children. Organize a family night-game session and introduce your kids to the fun children used to have before the Internet and television took over their worlds. You can also invite some neighbor families to join in the fun.
  • Remember Those Who Have Died: During your summer bonding, make time to “Have the Talk of a Lifetime” with your family members. Visit the cemetery as a family and decorate the graves of your departed loved ones. Pull out old family photos and tell your kids stories about deceased relatives they may not remember or didn’t know well. Start a family history project and help your kids sketch out a family tree. Take the opportunity to teach your children the importance of honoring the memories of your loved ones and exploring where they came from.

Memories to Last a Lifetime

For more information about having the Talk of a Lifetime, visit talkofalifetime.org or contact us today.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime

Chalkboard

By Kathleen M. Berry, CFSP

Kathleen M. Berry & Associates International Memorialization Supply Association

A few months back, I was invited back to my alma mater to listen to a very dear man, mentor and teacher give his thoughts and share words of wisdom one more time to the crowd in attendance. He was traveling to the Order’s retirement community and wanted to leave us with some parting wisdom.  As he began, he talked about his life on campus, the years of teaching and the many lives that had touched him over the years. He took the time to introduce his family to all and his final thoughts centered on forgiveness. He imparted good words to be remembered…as he always did in class.  After he was done, the microphone was passed amongst the crowd.  Some told stories of antics from the past; many gave open thanks to him for making a difference in their lives; everyone talked about his stick figures on the chalk board; a number spoke to how he married them and baptized their children, but, truly, we were all there to thank him and let him know how much he was loved!   I visited with him afterwards and he said to me that his body does not have the energy it used to…the mind is good, the body, not so much! I wished him well, told him that I loved him and squeezed his hand…he smiled in that familiar way.  He was giving his final formal session on campus. Throughout the evening there were tears, laughter and such sharing…and before I knew it…we were having “the Talk!”  It was with my school community, a man we loved and it was so very awesome! Remember, next time you are in a room, having a grand time sharing memories, before you know it…you too, will be having “the Talk!”

The Evolution of Memorializing Deceased Loved Ones

Woman holding picture frame

From simple to very elaborate, individuals and their families have more options than ever for memorializing their loved ones at the end of life in a personal and meaningful way.

The Legacy of Memorialization

Since the dawn of time, human beings have been participating in rituals, services, and other activities to honor and remember loved ones who have died.

These traditions of memorialization vary from culture to culture and have evolved over time. Ancient Egyptians engaged in mummification to sanctify their dead and help departed souls reach the next life. Other ancient peoples created carvings and artwork in honor of the dead and engaged in a variety of burial rituals.

Today, people are remembered in numerous ways, from public memorials and candlelight vigils to tributes paid virtually via social media after they die.

The practice of hosting funerals has also evolved to include varied creative expressions of love and remembrance.

Creative Memorials

Some common practices that are finding their way increasingly into modern funeral proceedings allow mourners to use their creativity as they remember a loved one.

Often, families display photos and other memorabilia at funerals to pay tribute to the life of the departed, and others go further in putting together items like photo wreaths, video montages, and other memorialization creations.

Many families request that well-wishers donate to a favorite charity in lieu of flowers, while others write messages of love to their departed loved one and send them into the sky inside helium balloons or Chinese lanterns. Still others plant flowers and trees in honor of the deceased. Many other innovative practices of memorialization are becoming the norm when a loved one passes away.

Having ‘The Talk of a Lifetime’

The desire for simplicity with regards to your own final arrangements is very common. Recognizing your loved ones’ fundamental need to remember, honor and celebrate your life and achievements is the key to understanding why having the Talk of a Lifetime is extremely important.

Our loved ones need to understand about all of our lives and especially how we want to be remembered. Ultimately, their final tribute to us allows them to begin their grief journey. In a way, having the Talk of a Lifetime is the most unselfish gift we can give to those we love.

Memorialization fills a vital role for those mourning the loss of a loved one and encompasses all aspects of honoring a life that has been lived. Memorialization services, visitation, placement in a cemetery, creating a memorial marker or monument, and any other means of paying tribute to our loved ones are all considered to be part of the process of memorialization and are vitally important. By providing surviving family members and friends a caring, supportive environment in which to share thoughts and feelings about the death, memorials are the first step in the healing process.

For more information about how you can “Have the Talk of a Lifetime,” contact us today.

Creating a Memory Book

Memory Book Sharing stories with those who matter most isn’t just important today; it will be especially significant when it’s time to commemorate a life. Have the Talk of a Lifetime encourages families to have conversations about life and what matters most. These discussions can help families make important decisions about how they wish to remember and honor the lives of their loved ones. Creating a memory book is a great way to share stories about meaningful pictures and tokens. It makes for a wonderful family activity with all of your loved ones, and it’s an easy way to start the Talk of a Lifetime.

Memory Book Steps

We have all made a difference in the lives of our family and friends. Photos and keepsakes remind us of unforgettable and heartfelt moments, which is why creating a memory book is a wonderful way to share your memories. Here are some steps to take when creating your memory book:

Choose a theme

Your book can flow smoothly if you create a themed structure. Some families decide to opt for a storyteller perspective, making the book from a certain person’s point of view. Start by sharing stories for the photos and keepsakes you want to include, journaling their shared stories as you go. You can even make separate books to commemorate holidays, family weddings or other special occasions.

Collect Supplies

As you gather the images and tokens that fit your theme, it’s important to have supplies. We recommend having a sturdy photo album book because it’s a keepsake you’ll want to make last and pass down to other generations. Make sure the paper you choose for the memory book is buffered, acid-free, and lignin-free to protect the images. There is plenty of paper made specifically for photo albums that can be found at most craft stores. You can also find special acid-free colored pens to mark the dates and names for each photo. As you choose the photos, be sure to talk about and record in writing, the emotions that you remember so your loved ones can relive your memories, and know what was important to you.

Organizing

Sorting your pictures by dates and events will help ensure that images go in chronological order. The more concisely you organize and sort, the easier it will be to focus on the memories and create a flowing story.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime

Creating memory books is a rich and meaningful way to gather the family. It’s a great way to help you Have the Talk of a Lifetime. You can talk about everything. As you put your book together you can share the big events and small victories. You can also use this time to Have the Talk about how you want to be remembered. It can make the difference of a lifetime. Talk to your loved ones during a memory book day to help everyone prepare for the future and make the most out of upcoming family events. Contact us for more information about Have the Talk of a Lifetime.