So Many Urns, So Little Time - End-of Life Planning

I heard a story recently that got my attention. Here’s what I remember about it.

In a nutshell, someone’s mom had died and the daughter “in charge” of picking out an urn for her mother’s ashes was so consumed by grief that she sent her spouse to the funeral home in her place.

Next came the phone call from the spouse to his cousin while in the “shopping area” in the back of the funeral home.  He was asking for help in making the selection (by phone)  of the “appropriate” urn.

How does one possibly decide what urn to buy? And what is the significance of that decision?


Here is the dilemma that the son-in-law faced.  His mother-in-law just died.  His wife’s grief had removed all clarity in her own decision making.  And there were too many choices.

The discussion back and forth between the two cousins included questions such as these:

  • What kind of urn should I choose?
  • Is it more respectful to purchase the higher priced urn for my mother-in-law?
  • Why are there so many choices?
  • What if I pick out the “wrong” kind and the service is tomorrow?
  • What if my wife’s family questions my decision?
  • How much should an urn cost?
  • What if I am told after the fact that I spent too little? or too much?
  • What kind of material should it be made of?
  • How big should it be?

Feelings of being inadequately prepared to handle such a huge decision within a short period of time triggers stressful feelings doesn’t it?

While curious to know how this was all resolved, the concern is that no one was prepared and “death happens”.   This kind of “deer in the headlights” decision making after the death of a loved one is very common.  The decision about the style of the urn which will contain your loved one’s ashes is fraught with stirred up emotions.  Pressed for time, people often”wing it” when it comes to the details for funeral and memorial service planning.

Perhaps this story will lead you to think about the details of planning a funeral or memorial service…right down to choosing what urn (and maybe even buying one in advance) you’d like your remains in.  Consider doing it for the sake of your loved ones who will most likely be in that haze of grief and perhaps not sharp enough or wise enough to make those “tough” personal decisions  during an emotionally charged time.

My great-grandfather’s ashes were placed inside his favorite fishing tackle box.  When his  grandson died, he too had chosen to have his ashes placed in a woven fishing tackle container along with some of his favorite “flies”.   No one was left to make that personal decision.  Thank you for being prepared George and Buddy!  I’m almost positive that’s what the immediate family members said while breathing a great sigh of relief.