Having THAT Conversation…

You know the conversation I am speaking of: not the one about DYING AND DEATH, but the one about FINANCING THE DYING AND DEATH.

My father was VERY TOUCHY when it came to the subject of money. I remember in my teens I once asked Dad how much money did he make? His response “As long as I can get you what you need and some of what you want, you don’t need to worry about it.” Well alrighty then.

The situation was different when I finally broached the subject of money again with Dad. I am in my late 30’s married with children, he is about 2 months from being told from his oncologist that his only option is hospice care. The entire time I was visiting Dad, I knew I needed to bring up the subject of finances.

Admittedly, I entered the subject through the “backdoor’. We both knew the end was coming close so I started the conversation with “So….I need to know what type of funeral you want.” (Boy that sentence was hard to type; Dad’s been dead since May 2003 and it can still be rough.) Dad described what he wanted to wear – blue suit, white shirt – red tie, how we wanted the casket – closed, if he wanted his favorite poem (Invictus) in the program or read at the funeral — no, where did he want to be buried – in Connecticut, next to his parents.

We talked about financing the funeral and he told me he had no money. (This was met with a “side eye” from me. In my mind the late Gary Coleman was saying “What chu talkin ’bout Willis?!”). Dad played it straight the entire time. There was a reason that he told me he had “no money” – it was because my stepmother was seated nearby. Even though HE KNEW this was difficult for ME, he still had me thinking there was no money to pay for this funeral. So I planned accordingly.

So Dad dies and the family meets at the funeral home to plan the arrangement. At this funeral home to make the arrangements are my stepmother, her son, a family friend who is a minister, my husband, me and the funeral home owner. I am given free reign to choose the casket, the vault, etc. Everything I chose is in the “middle” range – not the most expensive, but not the least expensive either. I figure out I was given reign on the choosing because I was paying for the funeral. I was surprised when I received the next month’s American Express bill and the $8,900 charge for the funeral was not there yet. I was happy because I figured I needed another month to have the money to pay it off. In my surprise, I called my stepmother. She was surprised too.

It is not until much later that I found out that I was being tested. My stepmother believed that I knew of some money that my father left and I was not being forthcoming about it. Little did I know that my stepmother had an arrangement with the owner of the funeral home that he would do my father’s funeral at no charge. (I have no idea what type of relationship would provide a free funeral but there it is.) The test was if I knew I had some money coming I would purchase an extravagant package, if there is no money I would (presumably) go cheap.

About 45 days after his death, I receive a notice from an insurance company. Somehow they traced me to my current address. I was notified that I was the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. The policy listed me as a beneficiary living at an address from 9 years and 3 state moves ago.

My stepmother was not pleased with me because I received the money. I had no idea anything was coming to me. I was hurt because I was tested to see if I was telling the truth. My stepmother and I never reconciled over this.

Parents if you don’t want no one knowing about your finances until after you die PLEASE write the information down in a sheet of paper, put it in an envelope, and instruct someone to open it upon your death.



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