“I don’t know what I want to do, but I do know that I will never wear a suit to work.” At the time, I wasn’t lying when I made that bold statement to my college advisor. I was a bubbly and vivacious young Manhattanite who was trying to choose among exciting jobs in the fashion, event planning, or maybe even non-profit worlds. I had the passion to work in those industries; all I had to do was choose one.

But my plans changed. Just before I graduated from NYU, my 60-year-old father, my idol, lost his battle with cancer. He was the most important person in my life, and I was convinced that he was too good for a typical funeral.

So I used my event planning skills and gave my father a worthy sendoff: friends delivered funny speeches, roasting my father; we covered his casket in peonies, my mother’s favorite flowers (which were out of season at the time); and at the end of the service we played The Rolling Stones and David Bowie, and everyone danced their way out of the chapel. Not only did I shock and impress the hundreds of guests who attended, but also I surprised myself. I found that I really enjoyed planning funerals! And actually, it all made sense: planning funerals combined the best of all the careers I’d been interested in.

After graduating, I stunned my family and friends and I took a job at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel, the funeral home where we held my father’s funeral. For over three years I worked with the talented funeral directors there to help families through their extremely (and uniquely) difficult times. Sometimes I assisted with organizing a 1500-person funeral; sometimes I was simply a shoulder for a widow cry on. No matter the task, I felt privileged to be a part of helping people through the emotional and logistical challenges of a funeral. As time went on, I also had the opportunity to work with our prearrangement counselors, sitting with families as they discussed and choose what they wanted their farewells to look like.

Through my work at the funeral home, my passion to help people after they’ve lost a loved one grew. I realized that I wanted to reach more people than just those who came through the Campbell’s doors, so I got my MBA. Perhaps, from a business standpoint, there was a way  to reach and assist more people.    

It was at this time that I was able to connect with Everplans. I soon realized that their entire team shared my passion for removing the fear and helping make these hard topics more approachable. They, like me, want to make the difficult task of planning as easy as possible—whether planning a funeral or planning for your family’s financial future.

I know from experience that no one can predict for sure when a death is going to occur. Unlike many, I accept that death is inevitable. My hope is that in working with Everplans I can help people think about things like funerals before the time comes. Rather than fearing the experience and brushing aside funeral planning, I want to show people that with the right information and the right attitude, the end doesn’t have to be overwhelming and scary—it can be a joyous celebration, just the way you’d like it to be, complete with The Rolling Stones.

I'll be contributing to the blog with my thoughts on funeral planning and the funeral industry; I'll be tweeting @FuneralGuruLiz; and I'm also on Quora, answering all your funeral queries. Be sure to stick around!

In the New York Times this week there was a piece on the importance of talking with your parents about their financial affairs. We couldn't agree more.

Talking to your family—whether parents talking to children, or children talking to parents—is one of the most important things we can do to prepare ourselves for the future. Financial, legal, and medical issues are going to come up for all of us. Knowing what mom or dad wants, and having those wishes spelled out in legal documents, not only relieves adult children of a huge burden, but also ensures that parents' financial and medical instructions are followed in the way they want. Naming a power of attorney and health care proxy is the first step that parents should take. Creating a will is essential as well, especially if parents have complex assets or young children. And organizing passwords and important documents, and then actually sharing the location of that information, is the third essential to-do. These are difficult conversations to have, and the logistics can feel overwhelming, but everyone will benefit in the end.

And to read about other people's experiences in planning (and not planning), check out the comments section of the piece.

via New York Times

Judy MacDonald Johnston, creator of Good [End Of] Life, gave a powerful talk at the TED conference this year. It inspired us; we hope it inspires you.

If you've been looking for another platform on which to engage with Everplans, your day has come. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, Everplans is now on Pinterest!

Check it out and let us know what you think! We'll be adding new images all the time.

How much planning have you done? How does it compare to the amount of planning done on average in this country?

via eFuneral

How does a funeral home advertise its services without being crass, creepy, or morbid? A Japanese funeral home, Nishinihon Tenrei, has tried (and succeeded, we think) by creating a beautiful ad featuring a skeleton made from pressed flowers. The agency that created the ad, I&S BBDO, wrote about the challenges of the project: 

The March 11th earthquake and tsunami had a traumatic effect on Japan. Issues of life and death, hope and despair, beauty and tragedy became an all too real part of people's everyday lives.

These images are thoughtful, sensitive, and visually stunning. We'd love to see American funeral homes take a cue from this campaign and develop modern, compelling images that speak to death with this much grace.

via ConnectingDirectors


This Sunday, as is tradition in the United States on the second Sunday in May, children will celebrate their mothers with cards and flowers and drugstore chocolates—the single day of the year when mothers are supposed to be pampered and recognized for all that they do.

For many of us, the commercialism that has become the "holiday" that is essentially about respecting your mother seems more than a little absurd. If you're in this camp—offended by the price of carnations in May, repelled by a mimosa brunch, and someone who believes that mothers (and fathers...and all the people you love, for that matter) should be appreciated on more than just one day of the year—you're not alone. Anna Jarvis is with you.

In 1905, the mother of a woman named Anna Jarvis died, and the young Ms. Jarvis decided to create a holiday to remember her mother. As she saw it, her mother had done so much for her, and she wanted to carve out time for all Americans to remember their mothers, even after their mothers were gone. Only 9 years later, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother's Day a national holiday. And, as the story goes, it was all downhill from there.

When some infidels took it upon themselves to add a “happy” to the sentiment—as in “Happy Mother’s Day!”—Miss Jarvis threatened them with legal action. As far as Anna Jarvis was concerned, there was nothing “happy” about what had happened to a day intended for personal remembrance, and so she spent the rest of her life attempting to dismantle the institution she had created.

The true sentiment behind Mother's Day (which is, for the record, "Mother's Day" and not "Mothers' Day") is a good one. It's important to be thankful, to acknowledge the ways that others have helped us throughout our lives, and to mourn the people we've loved who are gone. This is not a call for an Anna Jarvis-style Mother's Day takeover. But it is a reminder that, behind all the commercialism, Mother's Day is a good reminder to appreciate those we love, not just on the second Sunday in May, but everyday.

via Babble

An obituary that ran in a Portland, Oregon newspaper last week featured some unmistakably familiar names...

Margaret Groening is the mother of Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons. Her family (or at least their names) clearly served as the inspiration for many of Springfield's most famous characters.

Gretchen Rubin, author of the mega-bestselling book The Happiness Project, gave Everplans a lovely shout-out on her blog this weekend.

Two of Gretchen's "Twelve Personal Commandments" for happiness are "Do what ought to be done" and "Do it now." When it comes to planning for yourself and your family, these are two sage pieces of advice. Planning for the end of your life can be scary, both logistically and existentially. But making these preparations is one of the greatest gifts that you can give to your children, your spouse, and yourself. We'd like to echo Gretchen's Commandments. Click here to get started.

In the May issue of The Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch looks into the work of two doctors, Dr. Angelo Volandes and his wife Dr. Aretha Delight Davis, who are making a series of videos to help people make better end-of-life decisions. The videos are a response to what Dr. Volandes believes is "the most urgent issue facing America today...people getting medical interventions that, if they were more informed, they would not want."

As an unintended consequence of the advanced state of medical technology and the medical establishment's mandate to save lives, many people at the end of their lives are faced with a problem unique to our times: unwanted treatment. Rauch writes, "The U.S. medical system was built to treat anything that might be treatable, at any stage of life—even near the end, when there is no hope of a cure, and when the patient, if fully informed, might prefer quality time and relative normalcy to all-out intervention."

Though there are no statistics on the number of patients who receive unwanted treatment at the end of life, medical professionals seem to agree that because patients make healthcare decisions without being fully informed, many are receiving unwanted treatments as a default. But most doctors are not prepared or able enough communicators to speak with patients about their options.

And so, in response, Dr. Volandes and Dr. Davis are developing a tool to help patients and families make fully informed decisions around their medical care, and better communicate with their doctors. Their videos show patients with a variety of illnesses, and Dr. Davis explains what the most common treatment options are for the condition, and actually shows people receiving those treatments. Then she suggests that people have The Conversation: an open, honest talk with one's doctor about one's condition, the treatment options, and the benefits and risks or drawbacks of each treatment option.

Rauch describes The Conversation this way, in terms of his own father's care:

The momentum of medical maximalism should have slowed long enough for a doctor or a social worker to sit down with him and me to explain, patiently and in plain English, his condition and his treatment options, to learn what his goals were for the time he had left, and to establish how much and what kind of treatment he really desired.

With his video series, Dr. Volandes hopes to create a platform for true communication between doctors and patients. His goal is that, through systematizing The Conversation, more people will receive less unwanted treatment. Only with communication and The Conversation, and tools like Dr. Volandes' video series, can real change come to the medical establishment's default approach to treating patients at the end of life.

via The Atlantic