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Plan Ahead

What is a Gathering?

By Meaningful Funerals, Plan Ahead

Also known as a post-funeral reception, the gathering is a final opportunity to experience community with others and to offer support before returning home. The gathering allows friends to strengthen their relationships and to remind each other that they are not alone as they continue their grief journey.


Gatherings usually include food and drink. Often, they are held in a family’s home, but it is not uncommon to have them in restaurants, churches, or event centers. Sometimes the family prepares the food for everyone who is invited, but if the family doesn’t feel up to the task, they can ask friends to help or can arrange for the food to be catered.


In some ways, the gathering is similar to the visitation, a time of communion and reflection that occurs before the funeral ceremony, although it is generally more casual. The funeral ceremony is often bracketed by these two events: a visitation that functions as a transition from the frantic pace of daily life to the contemplative mood of the ceremony, and a gathering to help people slowly transition back from ceremony to daily life. At the gathering, stories about the loved one are often shared. These stories may be inspiring and moving, or light and amusing. Tears and laughter both have a place at the event.


Above all, the gathering is about support. It’s a time of fellowship that provides encouragement and comfort to the bereaved. To the family of the deceased, it’s a reminder that the loved one touched the lives of others, and that everyone is working together to help them get through the difficult time. The gathering is an essential element of a meaningful funeral that strengthens the bonds between those who mourn.

Building a Legacy

By Estate Planning, Living Well, Plan Ahead

Making a Difference

We all want to leave our fingerprints on the world. When we reflect on our mortality, we inevitably find ourselves wondering how we want to be remembered and what we want to accomplish before passing away. In other words, what legacy will we leave? In such times, we often find that the things that occupy our time are trivial and unsatisfying. Acknowledging the reality that we will die allows us to put things in perspective and to focus our energies on the things that are really important.

When you pass away, how do you want people to remember you? What are you passionate about? Answering these questions will help you to make your life a model for those you leave behind.  Each of us has a unique opportunity to live a meaningful life and create a legacy that will inspire people. Here are some tips for building a legacy that will make a difference in the lives of others.

Identify the things that are most important to you

Before you start to build your legacy, spend some time in reflection so that you know what direction to take off in. As respected author James Cabell once said, “While it is well enough to leave footprints on the sands of time, it is even more important to make sure that they point in a commendable direction.” Determine your direction. What do you care the most about? What are your strongest beliefs and convictions? You may want to make a list of the values that mean the most to you.

Consider the avenues for communicating these values

Once you have these values laid out, you can begin thinking about how you want to achieve them and communicate them to others. Now’s the time to start planning some personal projects. You may want to write a book about something that is important to you or a letter that contains life lessons that you have discovered. You may decide to get active in community service or donate to charities that you find meaningful. Invest time or money in causes that you really want to support. By taking action and investing in the things that you care about, you inspire others to do the same.

Ask how your decisions could potentially impact others

When considering what projects to invest in, try to envision how your different options could affect people. While it is obviously impossible to predict with absolute certainty how your actions will be interpreted after you are gone, putting some real thought into the end results of your actions is beneficial. On close examination, you may see that some of your projects are more practical and more beneficial than others. Since the activities that you engage in represent an important part of who you are, make sure that you are spending your time in the best possible ways.

Live your legacy in everyday life

In the rush to create an inspiring and exciting legacy, it can be tempting to let ourselves be consumed by big projects. But it’s also important to remember the small things: a kind word, a smile, an opportunity to laugh. Stop periodically to evaluate your intentions. Building a legacy is a great way to inspire others, but don’t let your desire to be remembered turn into an obsession that keeps you from living out your values. People will remember you for the way that you lived your life daily, for the small ways in which you embodied your values and treated others.

Learn from your loved ones

There’s no inspiration like that which comes from the people that you love. If you are trying to live your life as an example for others to follow, you may want some help from those you trust the most. Talk to your family and close friends to get feedback. Your loved ones know you better than anyone, and they can give you some ideas regarding the activities that could contribute to your legacy. If you don’t want to talk openly about your legacy, that’s also fair. But be sure to listen to those around you. They can inspire you without even knowing it. Paying attention to the people who motivate you will remind you of what is important as you work to build a meaningful legacy.

Living Better: Positive Psychology and Health

By Estate Planning, Living Well, Plan Ahead

Positive Thinking

Want to feel younger and healthier? Being happy may help. Studies suggest that positive thinking can significantly improve physical and mental health. It’s not always easy to view the glass as half full, but with practice and persistence, you can cultivate a state of mind that will make you more appreciative of the good in life and more accepting of the bad.

The Happiness Placebo

What do you think of when you hear the term “placebo effect?” To many people, this term only has a negative connotation. While the word “placebo” may initially conjure up images of hypochondria and controversial medications, the phenomenon of placebo is actually rather useful. Many people have found that they can become happy simply by believing that they can be happy.

By working hard to obtain a mindset of happiness, you put yourself in a better position to face life’s challenges and to potentially live a longer, fuller life.  While there is currently no way to prove causation as opposed to mere correlation, studies suggest that people who feel young may actually live longer, and that optimism may contribute to feeling young. And the obvious role that happiness plays in reducing stress, which has negative health effects, lends credence to this theory.


What does it mean to be happy? Most people don’t find happiness in a stable job, a large paycheck or even the fulfillment of their biggest goals. Instead, the greatest factor that determines happiness is acceptance: the ability to be content with your current situation. Maybe you don’t have as much in retirement savings as you would like. Maybe you never got to work at your dream job. Or you’re experiencing more physical pain than you did when you were younger. While all of these things are genuinely frustrating, they aren’t necessarily problems that happy people are immune to.

Happy people learn to live in the moment and accept the present situation as the only possible one. Statements that begin with “If only…” or “I wish” don’t often emerge from the happy person’s tongue. Learning to accept the negative parts of life is key to obtaining happiness. This mindset is conducive to better health and a more meaningful, enjoyable life.


Acceptance is the ability to deal with the negative events of life. The flip side of acceptance is gratitude, the ability to highlight the positive events. Studies suggest that practicing gratitude can strengthen the brain, improve sleep, and reduce pain. In fact, doing an activity as simple as making a daily list of what you are thankful for could significantly increase your quality of life. People who are appreciative of life’s gifts, whether those gifts be big or small, have a greater chance of being happy.

Choosing Thoughts Wisely

The human brain is selective. It chooses what information to process and what information to shrug off, what is worth thinking about and what is worth letting go of. By employing both acceptance and gratitude, you place a greater influence on the positive experiences than the negative, and cultivate a mindset that can lead to greater health and better quality of life. Learning to master your thoughts and steer clear of negativity will help you to view the world through a healthier lens.

Getting the Most Out of Life

Of course, there are many things that lead to a greater quality of life. We know that eating well, exercising regularly, and avoiding destructive habits are good for our well-being. But if you don’t train your brain to be accepting of your situation and appreciative of what you have, and if you don’t truly believe that you can be happy, then these healthy habits can only do so much to give you a meaningful life. Happiness isn’t an emotion that hits you at random. Rather, it is a state of mind that can be obtained through practice and intentionality. By practicing positive thinking, you allow yourself to get so much more out of life.

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