A List You Need to Have | Planning Ahead for What You Want

A List You Need to Have | Planning Ahead for What You Want

Ok, have I got a list for you!

As you know and perhaps have seen first hand, most families have to make decisions about ceremonies with only days to plan. A lot of special conversations are avoided because people are uncomfortable/afraid/upset/fill-in-the-blank with the idea of talking about what they want at their funeral ceremony.

This list could help change that. This list could begin the process of planning ahead. This list could help you have that special conversation.

At one of our recent workshops Dr. Bill Hoy gave us this list and asked each of us to cross out anything that we really didn’t want.

What was on the list? All the different kinds of ceremony options available for funeral/memorial services.

This activity really caught my attention. I’ve never seen the options laid out this way and I was curious to see if there was anything I would just HATE to have done.

Here’s the list:

What I Want

Words that best describe “my ceremony” (cross out anything that doesn’t apply for you)

Personalized memorial folder

Visitation with the body present

Life tribute video

Reading my favorite scripture or poem:

Personal keepsake to be given out (recipe card, seed packet, peppermint stick, etc.)


Transport me “back home”

Tree/shrub planted in a significant place

My favorite minister:

Celebration of my life

Ritual of my social group (Elks, Eastern Star, etc.)

Headstone/monument at my grave

Limousine(s) for my family

Extravagant show

Music by:

Military honors

 Big church funeral

I don’t want anybody to see me dead

Gathering with food (including my favorites)

Divide me into several keepsake urns for family/close friends

Family/friends physically participate in burial

No formal service for me

Memorial contributions to:

My favorite flowers


Photographs and/or videos

Catered dinner at:


Pretty interesting list, huh? Did you find some things you definitely do not want? Were you surprised by some ideas that you definitely do want?

Can you drill down the list of things you liked to 2 or 3 that would be “musts” for you?

Dr. Hoy then asked us to share our preferences with the person next to us. I got to share with Neil (I won’t tell you what he wanted) about the service I want and how I want the books in my library given to those attending my service. I love the idea that these books could go home with people that I have loved and a connection between us could be kept in a simple, and meaningful few hundred pages. This ceremony brings me great comfort and just feels very “me.” It’s what I want.

So, I invite you to print this list (What I Want) and put some real thought into what you do and don’t want as parts of your ceremony. Maybe print several copies and ask others to join you in the exercise. Learn about each other and see with a new perspective the beautiful varieties of people around you and how they want to be celebrated.

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Becky Finch Lomaka says:

    Hi Molly,
    I loved this list too! It may sound kind of strange, but when we have our close friends and family over to our house, the conversation sometimes turns to this very topic (maybe I will print this list out and pass it out at our next family BBQ)! We plan out every other celebration of milestones in our lives and our funeral should be no different. Hopefully this will get more people talking. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Neil says:

    Hi Molly – I do know what I would like my ceremony to be! 1st would be a viewing for two days, with food and drinks for my guest. I would like a funeral service with my body in attendance, a good Irish wake, then cremation. During my ceremony I would like to have a celebrant share my life story, DVD of my chapters of my life with friends and family in the DVD. I love the memory keeper, so that would be a must. During all these different days I would love to have a wide music selection from A to Z!

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