As our families get together this summer for reunions, weddings and holiday picnics, there will be time to talk about all the events going on in our lives, big and small.
Some say this is the best time to start a conversation about exactly how we hope to be remembered after we are gone. Experts explain how to prompt loved ones to have the talk of a lifetime.
Larry Chappell loved weddings. He and his friends made a point to show up every chance they got.
“Whether they were invited or not, whether they knew the people or not they would crash weddings on weekends,” said Bonnie Chappell, Larry’s wife.
But no wedding got a bigger turnout than Larry’s own when he tied the knot with Bonnie. Larry serenaded his guests at their wedding in 1979.
“Tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree. Sang it at our wedding. That was sort of his signature song. And his signature dance was the chicken dance," Bonnie said thoughtfully.
So after a lifetime of love and laughs, when Bonnie lost Larry to diabetes after 32 years together, she knew exactly how he should be remembered and enlisted the help of family friend and funeral director Jennifer Tomon.
“Would everyone please stand, and she started the music in the background. Would everyone please participate in the chicken dance,” Bonnie said while reminiscing.
“That’s him, and that’s how he would want to be remembered," Tomon explained.
Tomon says the best time to plan is while a loved one is still with you.
“What you really want to get into is the backstory of why things are the way they, why they made the decisions that they did,” said Tomon.
Think of three “C’s” as conversation starters. Ask about their childhood. What was the neighborhood like? Who was their best friend? Talk about community. Did they serve in the fire department or the military? What did they cherish? How did they love to spend their time? Tomon says after that delicate questions get easier.
With Larry gone, Bonnie has already planned her own memorial service and burial to take the burden off family.
“Then have a party afterward. If that’s what my family wants they can have a party,” said Bonnie.
The National Funeral Directors Association has additional resources available, and more tips for having the talk of a lifetime with loved ones.
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