The dilemma of observing different religions can arise within the same family, if a branch of the family tree or a younger generation decides to “leave the church” for another house of worship. Expressing your wishes before the need arises may help avoid conflicts. You might talk about it around the dinner table at a family gathering such as Thanksgiving or a major holiday.
If your family get-togethers are stressful affairs, you might think about writing and mailing letters after the holiday. You can state your preferences related to your funeral, final disposition, and religious or non-religious observances to siblings, adult children, and living elders. An example of this kind of note:
It was so good to see you and the whole family at Thanksgiving. There’s something I wanted to bring up, but it never seemed to be the right moment. I’d like everyone to know what my preferences are regarding a funeral, whenever my time comes.
Please work with Pastor Smith at our church. I’m fine with her doing a traditional church service. I haven’t purchased any burial plots. I’d like to be cremated and have my ashes scattered in the lake where we spent every summer. It’s so beautiful and peaceful there.
Please don’t worry that I’m thinking about going anywhere soon. My health is fine. I just wanted you to know what my preferences are, so the family can be prepared whenever my number comes up. I look forward to spending many more years on planet Earth.
Just a few lines with a touch of humor – indicating religion and disposition preferences – can make a big difference in family discourse when the time comes to move on. And you might get some interesting phone calls in response, opening the door to honest communications.