as difficult as we thought and the benefits were greater
than we had imagined. My husband of nearly 37 years and
I are in the process of completing arrange-ments for our
cremation and internment. We’d skirted around the issue
for years, intellectually knowing we should, but emotionally
hesitant. But it made no sense to keep putting it off.
initial motivation for moving forward was to not leave the
decisions to our children and the surviving parent. As my
husband says, we can’t control when we will die, but we
can control much of what happens afterwards.
long made clear our wish to be organ donors and are registered
as such; we both want to be cremated; and we knew where
we wanted to be interred. Both of us live far from our birthplaces,
so there is no family burial site that felt right to both
of us. So Ottawa it is.
a pre-planning consultant at an area cemetery, admitting
we neither knew the questions to ask nor what decisions
needed to be made. We just knew it was time to find out.
the conversation was easier than I had feared. Granted,
I got emotional a couple of times during our visit. But,
I cry at weddings, so shedding a few tears as I contemplated
my burial was no surprise. And I am sure I was not the first.
first thing we learned were the industry’s words to describe
the circum-stances under which funeral arrangements are
being made – “pre-need” or “at-need.” The latter is when
death has occurred or is imminent and there is no luxury
of time. We are very glad to be “pre-need.”
thought the greatest benefit of pre-planning was to save
the children and surviving parent the difficult task of
making decisions under emotional stress. But, having never
talked about it, neither my husband nor I would have actually
known what the other one wanted.
to decide on a location within the cemetery; the type of
marker; and what would be written on it. I don’t think any
of the decisions we’ve made would have been as clear, or
felt as right, if they had been made in the aftermath of
one of us dying or receiving a terminal diagnosis.
strongly that I would like a short epitaph on our marker.
But, as an anglophone married to a francophone, I didn’t
want to use one language over the other. Being “pre-need,”
I had the time (with the help of Google) to explore options.
I believe we came up with the perfect solution: ACTA NON
VERBA, Latin for “Deeds not words.”
it describes our philosophy of trying to be good people,
giving back to our community and supporting our friends
and family without the need for recognition. There was always
the option of separate epitaphs or a bilingual one, but
that would make the bronze marker too busy, since we don’t
share a last name. We went alphabetically, so he gets top
imagine that either of us, in grief, would have come up
with this work-around.
decisions have taken the financial burden off our children
and taken the guesswork out of the process. We are both
happy with the decisions we have made together. Dying is
not cheap, but even if we both live another 20 years, the
bill is paid and the cost of the services purchased will
one thing we haven’t done is make any plans for a Celebration
of Life or Memorial Service. In our mind, there are just
too many variables - which one of us will pass away first,
when might that be and in what kind of health will the surviving
spouse be? The only thing we know for sure is that we want
observation is the depth of commitment to each other this
decision represents. Moving from one province to another,
getting married and having children were all monumental
decisions. But being buried together is a profound commitment.
the thing for which I am most grateful, and which is only
possible because we are planning ahead, my woodworker husband
is able to make the boxes that will contain our ashes. It
not only saves money, it gives me great comfort knowing
I will be surrounded for eternity in an oak box he lovingly
crafted. Have the conversation.