Preplanning For Your Family and For Yourself

Active retirees Joe and Dena Nelson made prearranging a priority.

When it comes to life after retirement, Joe and Dena Nelson are living the American Dream. The former college sweethearts have been going strong, having fun together for 50 years and don’t have any intentions of slowing down.

They’ve travelled the world together, recently touring New Zealand and Scotland. Dena, a former event planner, said that while she has enjoyed the long distance vacations, it’s their spontaneous driving trips that end up being the most satisfying.

“We just like to take off in the car, no reservations, and just go,” she said. “It’s led us to some wonderful experiences.”

You can also catch the Nelsons on stage and behind the scenes as part of the Shoestring Community Players theater group. Joe, a former chemist, caught the drama bug when he was in the fourth grade and has parlayed his woodworking hobby into a successful role as a set builder. Dena, meanwhile, helps out on the business end of the group. They’re both regulars in front of the curtain as well.

Though their hobbies and vacations keep them on their toes, Joe and Dena said they’ve had more fun watching their two sons grow into mature adults and raise beautiful families of their own, adding five grandchildren to the mix.

“I think the greatest joy has been having our children become our friends,” Dena said. “When your own children become your friends, you know you’ve done your job.”

While nowhere near the end of their adventures together, it was with family in mind that the Nelsons started thinking about organizing their final wishes and preplanning funerals. Both Joe and Dena had experienced the benefits of prearranging first hand with their parents’ services.

“It made it so much easier for both of us because we didn’t have to deal with purchasing plots, purchasing caskets,” Dena said. “We didn’t have to deal with the immediate details. That was decided for us and made life so much easier – made death and the grieving process so much easier.”

Joe said he believes the preplanning process is just another part of being a responsible parent.

“To me, if you’re taking care of your family the right way, you want to make sure that things are covered and you want to make sure that all the things for the end of life are covered,” he said. “If you have all the details taken care of ahead of time, then the folks who are remaining have more of a chance to recover and to have a better feeling during the service than if they had been tied down worrying about financial matters and things of that sort.”

Dena added that the decision to prearrange was also about a parent providing love and support to their children when they would need it most.

“Losing your parents is very difficult and I think it’s the gift we can give them to help them on their journey,” she said. “It leaves them free to do the job of grieving. I think that’s very important.”

“Having this type of service means that it’s paid for. Even though the cost of living may go up, it’s still covered, and that makes a lot of sense.”

Though family was the core reason to preplan, Joe wasn’t afraid to admit that there were some personal reasons for him as well. Organizing his final wishes was also about creating an event that would truly reflect his values and unique personality.

“You can figure out what you want to have done and don’t have to worry about what the kids think you might want to have done,” he said with a smile. “It’s a gift to the children, but it’s also a gift to yourself to have your funeral taken care of exactly the way you want it.”

Like the Nelsons, many adults value the idea of prearranging their funerals. Getting started, however, is not always as easy.

“You know it needs to be done, you tell yourself that you need to do it, but you don’t know how to start,” Joe said.

In the midst of all their travelling, acting, and family fun the Nelsons made time to call a nearby funeral home to ask for more information about prearranging. They scheduled an appointment with a local preplanning counselor who guided them through the steps.

“When we met, Eric, our counselor, we had him over to our house and it was a pretty easy process,” Joe said.

“He was very clear in how he presented the materials and answered all our questions and concerns,” Dena added. “With his help we did the work that we needed to do and it was a good feeling.”

Getting all the details right was important to the Nelsons. They focused on prearranging services that they hoped would have a positive impact on their friends and family. For Dena, planning a suitable service was important, especially to help give loved ones a sense of gentle closure.

“If you can go away with a feeling that it was a period to the end of the sentence, I think that’s what’s most important,” she said. “It has to say something about the person. It has to be personal.”

The Nelsons opted to prefund their funeral. By doing so they were able to control the cost and choose a payment plan that best fit their needs. Joe said that the choice to prefund was simple economics.

“Having this type of service means that it’s paid for,” he said. “Even though the cost of living may go up, it’s still covered, and that makes a lot of sense.”

With the paperwork done, Joe and Dena were free to get back to their active lives. Not long after they finished the prearrangement though, Dena fell ill.

“It was a relief to know that if anything happened to me that things were taken care of,” she said.

Comforted by the fact that her preplanning and prefunding would benefit her family in a worst case scenario, she eventually made a full recovery.

These days though the Nelsons don’t have much time to think about preplanning and prefunding funerals. They finished the process quickly and know that their family won’t be burdened down the road, but it’s not really on their minds anymore. They’re too busy planning their next trip, getting ready for their next play, and showing their five grandkids how much fun a couple of retirees can be.

What’s Your Story?

Have you already made your arrangements, or benefitted from a loved one who did? Share your experiences with our community and help others take the first steps toward peace of mind. We’d love to add your story to our library of true testimonials on the importance of preplanning.

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