Leon Russell and Me: Making Final Arrangements

What do I have in common with musician and songwriter Leon Russell? We share the same hometown, graduated from the same high school (Will Rogers, Class of 1959 for Leon, proud Class of 1974 for me!), and our final resting place will be the same, Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

My mother and I never miss a season to decorate my father's grave at Memorial Park. After we take care of Dad's grave, we drive by the piano-shaped monument engraved with the words to one of Russell's famous songs, "And when my life is over, remember when we were together, we were alone, and I was singing this song for you."

So yes, Leon Russell has a beautiful monument located in a lovely cemetery, especially in the autumn. It is common for families to drive through the cemetery to admire the gorgeous fall foliage.

Making my final plans

A few years ago, I purchased my cemetery plot near my parents' grave. My mother was pleased because, as she said, "Our kinfolk won't have to drive to visit your grave, they can walk a few steps after they visit us." These days, I am thinking, maybe since Leon is here, too, they will swing by after seeing his monument and put a pink rose on my grave. That would be nice.

After I was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2017, I decided to pre-order my tombstone. Yes, really. I wanted only a simple stone, and this way, I could pay for it and get what I wanted. "No rush sending for it!" I told the salesperson.

Planning is difficult, but do it anyway!

I have a friend whose parents passed away a few years ago, and they still do not have a tombstone. (Money is not the issue.) Isn't that sad? When asked about it, she snapped, "I'm just not in the mood!"

Grief does awful things to your mind, body, and soul, but this is important. Do it anyway! Think of all the things your parents did for you, and I am sure they weren't always in the mood when they sacrificed for you, either.

Making final arrangements for your loved one or yourself is hard.  When my mother turned eighty, I said, "Let's make your funeral arrangements now, so no one will question how I am doing things." Mother selected the songs she wanted to be sung at her funeral and even picked out the casket she liked best. A little planning helps us cope in the future.

You can't take your money with you when you pass, but it does take a lot of money to die.  Doesn't it seem like we are always saving our money for something?  When you are a child, your parents tell you to keep some of your birthday money for your college education; then, you save for a car when you get your driver's license.  Later, you commit to buying a home.  Later in life, you save to pay for your burial.

There are always good people to guide us.  I have found this to be true in the medical community and when making final arrangements. A helpful salesperson gave me a booklet titled Personal Planning Portfolio. There is a list of 67 things that must be done! The list starts with notifying the doctor and ends with transportation to and from the funeral.

Please write it down!

If you don't feel up to formally planning your funeral or memorial service, jot down in a notebook your wishes. For example, you could make notes about the music you wish, and which photos you would like displayed. I know I love seeing pictures of the deceased throughout their life.  However, I was at one funeral where I thought their video was too long.  It felt like we were looking at every photo they ever took! There is a balance.

I attended one funeral where the grandson of the deceased played his grandmother's favorite hymn on the violin. Another friend embraced her Scottish heritage; she requested that a friend play Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.  Both services seemed to give the family peace, and they were following the request of their deceased loved one.

Remember, the plans you are making are to make tasks easier for your family in the future. For example, tell a relative where your essential documents are in your home, along with notes for your final arrangements.  These simple gestures will let them know you were thinking of them. I think Leon would approve.

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