Did you know we have a date for Dad’s burial?

dateAs I entered a holiday celebration at a girlfriends house, my phone is ringing. My Mom is calling me at 7:30 p.m. She hasn’t called me “late night” in over a month.

Kay: “Hey Mom. How are you?”

Mom: “Kay, Did you know we have a date for Dad’s burial? He’s gonna be buried next month.”

Kay: “Yeah.”  I’m a little dumb-founded. I hesitate to say anything and I don’t have to wait for my Mom to continue.

Mom: “We need to get all the other plans finalized. He doesn’t want a funeral, just a few people around his grave and a burial.”

Kay: “Okay Mom, E’s (my brother) is coming in town in ten days and he has offered to help with all of the planning for Dad.”

Mom: “What do you mean, I’ve planned it all. There is just going to be the burial. I already arranged it with Arlington National Cemetery. His plot has been picked out. What does your brother have to do with any of this?”

My Mom has not had any conversations with the funeral home, Arlington or the minister. We have continued to provide her with details when she was interested and taken her our driving tours of the cemetery.

This is the part where the record screeches (Internet connection is lost) and I struggle with the perfect way to manage this call. While my Mom can’t remember what she just did, she does keep some elements of memory. Most importantly, I recognize her need to do this final act for my father — at least be involved in the process.

Since my 20’s, my parents had written instructions for their funeral plans. They never changed, until about a year ago when my Mom started telling me they wanted burials, not funerals. I never really understood why and it wasn’t a discussion my Mom would engage. However, I felt the inner turmoil growing as I sensed this was going to be a problem. My only response was often that “a funeral isn’t really for the person that died, it’s for the people who are left behind.”

We are in the final stages of working out the funeral program, we will have at least 40 people just from the family in town, in additional to dozens of colleagues who have expressed interest in coming to the funeral. I hesitate to let the idea that Dad will just have a grave site burial settle into my Mom’s brain. Instead of lying, or trying to explain what’s been planned, I usually just stop talking about the topic and change the subject.

Thankfully, my Dad wrote up his plans years before the Alzheimer’s started to cloud his thinking. My mother-in-law reminded me, than even with well made plans — you may have to improvise. Her mother had picked out an outfit for her burial that she and her sister’s changed. It turned out that she would be buried in the middle of winter in North Dakota and the dress she choose just made her look cold. The story still makes me giggle.

We all need this event.

Personally, I need a funeral. I need to witness the full honors service he will get for his years of service to our country. I need to hear the preacher share the prayers, songs and remembrances at the funeral. I need to say a final good-bye. Desired.

If you have had good success in handling a situation like this, I’d love to hear from you.