Hello Everyone. Today is the final day of Black History Month and I am sure that by now everyone has seen Marvels Black Panther at least once. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is when King T’Challa expresses to his father that he is not ready to be without him. His father, King T’Chaka then responds by boldly stating “a man who has not prepared his children for his own death has failed as a father”. 17 of the most powerful words that I have ever heard constructed into one sentence. Now there are several ways a man/woman prepares his children for his death but for the purpose of this blog; we will focus solely on the financial, emotional and spiritual responsibility that our community seems to have lost as it pertains to death.
“Baby, you can’t really live until you’re ready to die”.
These words will ring true for the rest of my life. These words were spoken by my Narnie (maternal grandmother) during one of our many telephone conversations. She proudly announced that she had recently gathered all of her paper work and other vital personal information to make them easily accessible for us (her children and grandchildren) in the event of her death. Even as someone who faces death on a daily basis the thought of my Narnie (or anyone else that I love) not being here sends cold chills through my body. After hanging up the phone and reflecting on our discussion I found myself overcome with a sense of calm and peace.
I realized what a gift she had put in place for us. Not only had she taken the time to contemplate and make peace with her mortality; she took things a step further and invested the time and energy to gather all necessary documents related to her finances and personal affairs. She took into consideration the natural grief that we are sure to face upon her transitions. In her own way she put forth the effort to soften deaths painful blow by giving us one less thing to worry about during our time of bereavement. What could be more valuable at such a time than peace of mind?
It wasn't long before the feeling of gratefulness for Narnie’s forethought was overshadowed by a feeling of sadness and concern. There are many people like Narnie who have taken the responsibility of preplanning, prefunding and preparing for their end of life and funeral/burial needs but the ugly truth is that as a whole the majority of the African American community have taken what I refer to as the “back door approach” to death and dying.
Below are 3 things that every black family needs to seriously consider before someone dies.
1. It is the role of the funeral home and funeral service professionals to comfort and provide guidance, products and professional services to those who are grieving and experiencing loss. It is not our job or responsibility to compensate for your lack of preparation. Despite the uncertainty and un-expectancy of death, unless there is an immediate need for the services provided by funeral homes and burial establishments most of us have not realized the value and importance of making pre-need investments. Pre-need refers to prefunding and/or preplanning for funeralization and burial needs. Pre-need boils down taking care of what needs to be handled to arrange a funeral prior to an actual death taking place.
Pre-need is not limited to pre-funding. Pre-funding involves ensuring that funds are available for funeral and burial expenses prior to the death occurring. Simply having a conversation with loved ones that outline your final wishes and expectations is a major step in the pre-planning process. Pre-planning can be achieved by taking the imitative to discuss or dictate the small yet significant details that are important to you or by making your vital information and documentation readily available to those who will be responsible for making your arrangements.
On average, funerals arrangements are made within 48-72 hours of a death occurring. Within this time frame surviving loved ones will need to make decisions regarding the order of service, provide the vital statistic information needed to file a death certificate and gain permits for disposition, and provide the funds to pay for the services of the funeral home. Even if you cannot afford to prefund your funeral DO NOT underestimate the importance of simply having your identification, insurance policies, deeds, will, living will and other vital paperwork in order and readily available at their time of need.
Over the years I have sat in funeral home and cemetery conference rooms with numerous families. I have watched helplessly as they struggled to locate essential documents necessary for funeralization and burial. The amount of time and energy invested into taking this process into consideration before a death occurs will be reflected in the amount of stress you or your family encounters and greatly influence their overall experience when making final arrangements. Examples of great pre-planning steps and conversation starters can be found here 3 Free Ways To Prep Your Loved Ones For Death.
2. Gofundme.com is not an insurance policy. Let me repeat, Gofundme.com is not an insurance policy. Nothing is more heart breaking than receiving an email or Facebook notification from a family member or friend asking for funds to bury their loved one. Though there are many circumstances in which families are totally justified in seeking the help of the internet for various unexpected and tragic deaths; it has become a common practice for families to expect end of life expenses to be taken on by strangers. Many people, particularly in the African American Community, are making the choice of meeting death at the back door as opposed to facing its reality and making the necessary provisions. These provisions can literally create financial life or death for loved ones who are responsible for making final arrangements.
The majority of this problem stems from the fact that we are taught in one way or another to value material possessions and instant gratification more than securing financial stability and security for ourselves and our families. Advertisers specifically target the African American community to use their purchasing power to consume products and services with no real value such as fast food, alcohol, vehicles, clothing /apparel, sports /recreation and entertainment. Our community has turned a blind eye to the importance of making preparation for end of life and death care services or products which secure financial stability for our families in the event of a death. We have yet to realize the benefit and value in preparing for the inevitable.
3. Your employer is not responsible for notifying you or your family about its life insurance benefits. They are simply not required to. It is your responsibility to make sure that your family has all of the information needed to successfully submit a life insurance claim. It is your duty to make sure that your loved ones are aware of and familiar with the process required to receive payment in the event of your death. Another misconception is that because you are employed, you are automatically entitled to take advantage of your employer’s life insurance benefits. Sadly, many expectant “beneficiaries” are rudely awaked upon learning that their loved ones were not covered by their employers plans because they did not “qualify” for some reason or another. This is often discovered when attempting to make funeral arrangements. If you cannot answer the following questions you seriously need to read 4 Steps to Confirming Life Insurance Benefits with Your Employer
Joél Simone Anthony, also known as ‘The Grave Woman,’ is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. She is dedicated to eliminating misconceptions about post-life preparation while stimulating an open, honest and straight forward discussion about death. You can submit your comments, questions and requests to firstname.lastname@example.org or by using our contact page.