Friday, March 06, 2015

The Significance of Planning One’s Own Funeral

Funerals I’ve attended over the past month have motivated me to leave a list of instructions about my own when the comes.

My mother’s took place the week she would have turned 86 years old.  Even in pain for many years and nearly blind for more than two decades, she worked hard to make sure her affairs were in order.

She left explicit instructions on how and where she wanted to buried, including the type of service, a favorite hymn and her headstone, along with an insurance policy to cover the costs.

Included with her will and health care directive was even a handwritten note reminding us to cancel auto-shipments of shampoo from the cable television shopping channel, QVC, where I am sure she was well known (smile.)

In true form, she had thought of everything.  Thankfully, she lived long enough to think through the details of her funeral.

As I always thought too, many people thought my mom was an extrovert but her funeral wishes suggest she leaned more to being an introvert.

In contrast, an even more recent funeral was for a former co-worker who died suddenly at only age 38.  I have no idea if he left instructions, but due to his young age, I doubt it.

He was a bigger than life personality and was assumed by many to be an extrovert.

But based on our years of working together and humorous comments he made through the years, my guess is that he leaned toward being an introvert on that scale.

Without our wishes documented and given to guardians, it’s anyone’s guess as to what kind of funeral will be planned, particularly when well meaning extroverts get involved.

Note to self!

The scientific meaning of those classifications have been perverted over the years, even in some dictionary definitions.  Extrovert and introvert have nothing to do with being outgoing or shy.

Based on the research that coined the terms as well as follow up studies, these descriptions have to do with how we get or distribute energy and how quickly we dial up.

Click here for an excellent overview including how people who fall under each description can respect the needs of someone at the other end of the scale or even those who seemingly straddle the line such as me, ambiverts.

Extroverts get energy from people while introverts give energy to others.  Extroverts lose energy when they are alone and need social interaction for restoration.

Introverts give off energy in social settings and need down time or alone time to recharge, often side by side with someone who understands and respects that.

Extroverts arouse more slowly while introverts arouse quickly which is why too much stimulation for them is exhausting.  So when extroverts are barely getting warmed up and siphoning more and more energy, having been depleted, introverts are coming in for a landing.

Stimulation even takes different pathways in the brains of extroverts and introverts explaining, in part, why the former is more subject to risky behaviors including management decisions.

Extroverts get their “life of the party” or “never met a stranger” reputation because they get, need and constantly seek energy from people.

Introverts get a reputation for being shy because they are better listeners and because their energy gets depleted in social situations not because they don’t enjoy them.

Both are equally at ease in public settings and roles.  Introverts tend to be more regulated and know when enough is enough.  Places of worship and social or service clubs must curb extroverts or risk driving introverts away.

I suspect that my own spirituality is best served in tranquil, natural settings is a give-away.  When I was president of a Rotary Club, extraverts always made it a challenge to keep meetings on time.

To an extravert, a brief announcement can turn into a ten minute performance as they get energized by the crowd.

The fact that service clubs, in particular, are often dominated by extroverts is one of the reasons found in studies showing that more and more people now prefer to seek “one off” causes for service involvement rather than joining those that are perpetual.

You can also tell a lot about which end of that spectrum someone falls by the type of funeral arrangements they specify.

I used to kid my daughter and sisters when I was much younger that at my funeral, they could just play B.B. King’s The Thrill Is Gone and scatter my ashes over my native Tetons, signaling that I tilt toward introvert and don’t want a long drawn-out funeral.

I guess I need to update those comments and record some more specifics.

Funerals are for the living, but maybe the greatest way to respect someone who has passed is to grieve our loss in the way they would have wanted, regardless of our own preferences for grieving.

So note to self: even though I have no immediate plans for dying, now is the time to think through what I want and then communicate it to a trusted guardian.

And for anyone who thinks they are too young to think about this, do it for loved ones.

1 comment:

jayzenner said...

I think I'm like you and straddle the line between extrovert and introvert leaning towards introvert, because time in groups can wear me out. I'm not sure I agree with you about the Rotary thing though...I've seen people at each end of the scale grab the microphone and not let go. In fact I was one of the worst offenders when I offered a Rotary Minute. I don't and won't care how they celebrate my life or death after I'm gone.