Just last week I had the privilege of being part of the Celebration Service marking my brother in law’s life. He was younger than me, and as a keen cyclist and hillwalker, much fitter. He had been a secondary school teacher and guidance head for thirty-four years and was due to retire soon. He had four children all in their twenties. They were a remarkably close, welcoming, and lively family.

As you can imagine the event itself was a potent cocktail of loss, sadness, bewilderment, memories, stories, and tears, topped up with a few shots of laughter, hugs, and smiles. However, the overwhelming feeling was one of family. Of being together. Not just the five closest members, but all 200 people together, in one place being reminded of the larger-than-life character with an outrageous sense of humour, and booming, contagious laugh that could change the mood in any room. Several commented that they had never laughed or enjoyed a funeral before. That they were left with a sense of hope, that there was more to come.

Being together with others at times like this is important. Isolation can be a tempting, comfortable option, but the sense of personal wellbeing gained from comforting and supporting others is palpable, intense, and deeply rewarding. My sister and her family were genuinely touched by the warmth and scale of love and support shown not just on the day, but the days just before, and after the event.

I was asked to help with planning the event, and inevitably there were lots of people happy to suggest how things should be done. I suggested the family resist the temptation to accommodate other people’s ideas and focus on how they wanted things done. The family summed up their shared values as being faith, family, and fun. So that is what we did, incorporating each into the content of the celebration. The whole service had to reflect their father’s personality and qualities, and they did him proud!

Planning was a key part of the preparation, as they had not been left any guidance or funeral plan. In fact, my wife steadfastly resists any conversation about what should happen when I am no longer around. I suspect many find the whole idea of discussing funeral arrangements while people are still in robust good health as insensitive and offensive. However, on our long drive home we found ourselves openly comparing ideas, music we would like, who would do the eulogy, dress codes, and more. As a result, I have come round to the idea that having a plan takes the pressure off the family, who let’s face it, hardly need more to contend with. The space to think through the new unwelcome rhythm of life and how to grieve, cope, and move forward can be more than enough for most families.

My sister and her children are adjusting to their new life circumstances. Thankfully, things were left in order. Paperwork piles have been whittled down, and the day-to-day rhythm of life will settle down in time. You can plan for life’s seasons and for the range of outcomes life can bring but the emotional impacts are something else. That’s where friends, close, trusted friends play their part. Advisers can look after the paperwork, while friends and family look after the person.

So, I am putting pen to paper (call me old fashioned, but for me an email does not have the same distinctive touch as a letter), to provide my thoughts on the content of my “Until we meet again” curtain closer. It will find its place in my “in case of emergency” folder, ready and waiting for whoever needs to open it and hopefully smiles that familiar smile as they read the contents.

As a business, we are planners. We understand the importance of planning. Our plans are a way of creating a very personal sense of order, leaving some direction for those coming after us to follow. They should reflect the personality, ambition, and wishes of the individual.

We know from personal experience the value of having everything in its place, and a place for everything. Many of you already have all your important papers in order, and hopefully securely stored. As part of our Stewardship app, we have designed space for an “In case of emergency” private folder for all your legal and personal documents. This should help avoid the “I know we have a Will, Trust, Insurance policy somewhere…” moment.

Life will always have its ups and downs, twists and turns but having an anchor point such as a financial plan or even a funeral plan can help ease the pressure on those who may be struggling to see a way forward when things are difficult.

We look forward to meeting many of you at our forthcoming Appreciation Dinner on November 4th.

If this very personal note has left you with any questions we can help with, please let us know.