By Gail Rubin

The film “Get Low,” starring Robert Duvall and Bill Murray, effectively illustrates the idea of pre-planning one’s own funeral. Duvall plays a Depression-era curmudgeon-hermit who wants to have a funeral party while he’s still around to hear what folks would say about him.

There’s no time like the present to pre-plan your big send-off and give your family the gift of knowing how you’d like your life to be celebrated.

Here are a few good reasons to plan in advance.

1. When a family member dies, you need personal information to process a death certificate. Create a Great Funeral Day is a good excuse to pull important personal information together, such as Social Security number, date and place of birth, mother’s maiden name and military service details. Without having this information easily available, stress is increased at a time of grief.

2. Why leave family and friends wondering, “What would he or she have wanted?”

Be creative! When a Jimmy Buffet fan died, his family held a “Parrot-head” funeral, requesting the guests wear tropical garb in honor of his trip to eternal Margaritaville. At a memorial service for a bar owner, his family held an open house at one of his taverns.

A friend held a wonderful celebration of life for her mother at home that included storytelling, drinking Irish whiskey, singing songs Mom loved, and burning fragrant herbs in an outdoor fire. When the event was over, my mother-in-law told me, “Don’t sit shiva for me when I’m gone – hold a party like that one!”

3. Think about how you’re living your life. What will be said about you at your funeral is crafted by your thoughts and actions toward others, a legacy built day by day. Will people say you were giving, loving, kind, caring? No one ever said on his or her deathbed, “I should have spent more time at the office.”

Before my brother’s partner Wes died of liver cancer at the age of 50, he said that he didn’t want a memorial service. Yet we held one anyway, with the New Orleans jazz that Wes loved and eloquently-told stories focused on diverse aspects of his life. We laughed, we cried, we marveled at the mystery of life and death.

The service concluded with the launch of one hundred white balloons that carried our prayers and goodbyes to him up into the sky. His demise happened so fast, many friends had no chance to say goodbye in person. As my brother later said, “We didn’t do it for Wes, we did it for us.”

Go ahead – create a great funeral before you die. Do it for the people you love.

Gail Rubin is the author of the award-winning book, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die Visit her blog, The Family Plot, at

A Good Goodbye