‘Living funerals’ can build meaning and connections before death

More people are looking to living funerals as a meaningful way to connect with friends and loved ones before their passing.

At the beginning of the 1983 movie The Big Chill, as everyone gathers for a friend’s funeral reception, Jeff Goldblum’s character reflects how people throw a great party for you on the one day they know you can’t come.

Today, more people are taking the opportunity to change that, creating a farewell celebration before they die that is meaningful both for them and their loved ones. The movement has grown significantly since the approval of medical-assisted dying, where people know the date of their death in advance, says Julie Evans, with Sands Funeral Chapel in Colwood.

“We are seeing more living funerals, and fielding more questions from people as they look for ways to connect deeply with their family and close friends before their passing,” Evans says.

Since medical-assisted dying was approved in June 2016, it has accounted for about four per cent of expected deaths on Vancouver Island, at a rate that is five times higher than the national average, Evans says.

Of those, 50 per cent took place at home.

While some people request not to have a service following their death, the opportunity to connect with loved ones beforehand can create beautiful connections and memories.

“We ask questions like when or where you were happiest, what is most special to you, what would you like to be remembered for? Maybe you’d like to create personalized video messages to those closest to you, or offer them a chance to share how important you are in their lives?” Evans says. “It’s a wonderful gift to give to our loved ones – an opportunity to show and share their love – and when we die, we can do so with a full heart.”

As the experts in end-of-life-planning and customized funeral services, Evans and her team are happy to answer any questions people have or help them create meaningful events. You might include a favourite place, favourite music, scents or food, or even a custom drink.

“If you close your eyes, what is your vision? We can help you create that, whether you’re at home, or in another setting.”

Medical assistance and dying information sessions

Anyone interested in learning more about medical assistance and dying is invited to Sands Colwood for one of two free information sessions Friday, March 29 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. The sessions will include those working locally in the field and are simply designed to provide information and answer questions people may have, Evans explains.

For more information visit Sands Funeral Chapel at 317 Goldstream Ave. or call 250-478-3821.

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