How Do You ‘Talk Turkey’ About Cremation Over the Holidays?

Nov 25, 2015 | 0 comments

As the family gathers for Thanksgiving and the December holidays, it’s an opportune time to “talk turkey” about end-of-life arrangements with relatives who need to know such details. For 50% of the U.S. population, that means choosing cremation. How and when do you start the conversation?

Gail Rubin, funeral expert and Celebrant

Gail Rubin, CT, The Doyenne of Death®

“It’s a heck of a lot better to discuss thoughts about advance medical directives and funeral plans over the kitchen table or during a long walk than over an ailing patient in a hospital emergency room,” said Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist (a death educator) and author of the new book, Hail and Farewell: Cremation Ceremonies, Templates and Tips.

What do you ask? Rubin suggests you consider posing these questions during family holiday together time.

  • How do you want to be remembered? What are the three most important things about you that you want everyone to know?
  • What disposition method do you prefer? Cremation? Burial? Donation to science?
  • Have you made any arrangements yet? (If parents say, “It’s all taken care of,” say, “Great! What are the details? Where is the paperwork?”)
  • Who outside the family do you want us to definitely contact about your memorial service?
  • Where would be a meaningful place for us to hold a memorial service for you?

“These can be tough questions to ask, but you can break the ice by thinking about your own funeral plans and sharing those thoughts first,” said Rubin. “Watching a funny TV show about funerals is also a fun way to start the conversation.”

“Viewing the Emmy-winning ‘Chuckles Bites the Dust’ episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show from 1975 is the best 30 minutes you can spend,” she continued. “The story involves the untimely death of the TV station’s resident clown and his funeral. You will laugh and relax. The program ends with the characters discussing what they each want for their funerals, the perfect opportunity to start a conversation when the show is over.” The program is easily available online or through DVD rental.

Rubin’s upbeat TEDx talk on end-of-life issues, A Good Goodbye, is another way to think about The End and start a conversation before there’s a death in the family. View the video of the eight-and-a-half minute talk:

A Good Goodbye | Gail Rubin | TEDxABQ

Hail and Farewell Cover SmallRubin’s new book, Hail and Farewell: Cremation Ceremonies, Templates and Tips, also provides great resources and ideas for those considering cremation. Co-authored with Susan Fraser, CEO of In The Light Urns, the book is available for $10.00 from,, and can be ordered through bookstores.

Title: Hail and Farewell: Cremation Ceremonies, Templates and Tips

Publisher: Light Tree Press, P.O. Box 36987, Albuquerque, NM 87176-6987

Retail Price: $10.00

ISBN: 978-0-9845962-7-0

For media review copies in print or electronic form, send a request to Gail Rubin at 505-265-7215 or email Gail [at]

A Good Goodbye