Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

At a recent Jimmy Fortune concert (Fortune was one of the Statler Brothers), my husband was enthralled with the old song The Far Side Banks of Jordan. I wasn’t familiar with it, but then my husband is more of a gospel music fan than I am.

When he talked about the song again the next day, I asked, “Do you want me to add it to your funeral music?”

He replied, “Do you know something I don’t know?”

This is the final installment of “suggestions to follow so that when you die, the people responsible for managing your legacy wishes will know what to do.” While that is a long and unwieldy name, you get what this is about.

If you find it odd that I’ve planned my husband’s and my funerals, step back and consider for a moment: Who else knows exactly what we want? And should our deaths happen before very old age takes us in our sleep, why would I want to add the burden of planning a service in the midst of a tragedy?

When our son Tim died nearly ten years ago at the age of 22, I had to do just that. In shock and grief, barely able to think, I knew I wanted to be the one to plan his service.

While our wonderfully supportive church staff and funeral committee helped greatly, there were details only a mom or dad would know. For example, typically the church service calls for the formal Christian name to be used. But Timothy was always just Tim. To have had the name Timothy used throughout the service would have been jarring to those who knew his preference for just Tim.

There are so many details to consider when planning a funeral or a memorial service. Among the first, naturally, is do you want a funeral or a memorial service? Or do you prefer the newer type called a celebration of life service? Confused already?  At a funeral, a coffin holding the body of the deceased is usually present. If the person wanted to be cremated, that happens after the funeral, according to online sites for planning services.

A site that offers a good starting point for planning your service is You can download (for free) a five page checklist that will help guide you in your planning. Use the guide as a starting point, as it doesn’t cover everything. Note: Be careful of funeral planning sites as they are often selling stuff in addition to giving free advice.

A few years back, I read an interesting book called Accompany Them With Singing by Thomas G. Long. It’s about how Christian funerals have evolved from sending off a loved one on the last journey home to “spiritually impoverished” services that seem to be more focused on providing comfort for the mourners. This book has helped guide my planning as well. If you attend my funeral in thirty years or so, be prepared for lots of music.

It’s likely I’ve raised more questions and concerns than provided any answers in this post. But I’ve remained true to one of my reasons for writing: to gently poke you in the ribs and make you think about some life, well…and death, issues differently.

Note: Rather than interrupt your reading, I add all my links at the end of the post. Should you choose to read further, here they are: checklist

Jimmy Fortune singing The Far Side Banks of Jordan

Johnny and June Cash singing the same song 

As interesting article on