Have You Planned For Your Funeral?

leaf sunset

We recently attended a memorial service for an elderly friend in our church. But he wasn’t a typical elderly churchgoer. More than half the people in our church are under 25. I’m an “oldie” at 30! Aside from his wife, Howard was the only regular member over age 70. But he wasn’t just a “member.” He was the grandfather of our whole community.

Since his death, no one can stop talking about him and his impact in their life. Many, including us, weren’t even particularly close to him. But our interactions with him are so memorable. He was warm and wise, humorous and humble. Always so interested in the other person, and always had something interesting and encouraging to say. He knew Greek and Hebrew, studied the Bible voraciously, and also taught water color painting, played the piano, and sang. He probably had many other talents and accomplishments that I don’t know about, because he didn’t talk about himself much.

Before his death, he let his family know that in lieu of a funeral he wanted his friends to have a BYOB dance party.

I don’t know anything about his finances. He was a social worker and was retired by the time I met him. He certainly understood the Secret to Financial Freedom and inflated his usefulness instead of his lifestyle. However he handled his money, his memorial service left me aspiring to leave a legacy like Howard’s.

The point of all this money stuff is so we can actually live. Howard lived a full life up until the day he fell unconscious. He had a degenerative muscle disease during his adult life, but he saved his energy for serving others. The day before his collapse, he went over to a friend’s house and grilled steak for the family. During an recent week-long church trip he volunteered to give an in-depth Bible teaching for those who weren’t able to go on the trip.

His life was the epitome of real worth.

We can talk Vanguard vs. Betterment all day. We can talk Roth vs. Traditional all day. We can talk Minimalism vs. Pragmatism, Classic vs. Extreme Frugality, Budgeting vs. Tracking all day and night long.

These are all helpful philosophies, tools, and practices—if we keep them in their proper place. They are servants, not masters. They are the pieces, not the purpose. You could get all the financial stuff right and leave an outrageous inheritance, but if your family hates you, it’s worth less than nothing. Worst investment ever.

It’s also often said that on your death bed, you won’t wish you worked more hours or drove a nicer car. That’s a true and lovely sentiment, but what are we supposed to do with it? How do we live today wisely and well while also planning for the future?

I believe the answer lies in diversifying your life’s portfolio, leaving both real and net worth behind. The net worth could be easily consumed within a short period of time. Real worth is something that can last much longer, even for eternity.

Howard’s passing made me realize I don’t want to be moderate about my real worth legacy. I want to leave my kids a modest amount of money (maybe), and a host of friends celebrating a life that changed theirs. I want my family to have a hard time finding a venue big enough for my memorial service. I want a sea of youth 50 years my junior dancing at my final going away party. I want people deciding to turn back to God as they contemplate how I reflected the love of Jesus.

In reality, these are the details are Howard’s legacy. Mine will be different. But I certainly want it to reflect the spirit of his: that countless people felt deeply loved and drawn to Jesus by him.

I’m nowhere near having built such a legacy. And I know my legacy-building can’t be about me. That’s the irony—if I want this all for my own glory then it should never happen. That’s not how love works: “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Real worth isn’t about what I’m doing, it’s about how that helps someone else.

Howard planned for his funeral every day, with kind and encouraging words and thoughtful acts of service. By sharing about God’s love with grocery baggers, and teaching New Testament Greek classes to punks like me. By faithfully praying for hundreds of people each week, and making dinner for his friends. He will be greatly missed this side of Paradise, but his legacy is thriving.

Are you planning for your funeral?


31 Responses to “Have You Planned For Your Funeral?”

  1. The Green Swan says :

    What a legacy Howard left and what a role model for the whole community. It sounds like a blessing to have been in his life. Major lessons to be learned from how he lived his life. Thanks for the post!

  2. Tonya says :

    I’ve read a lot of books that basically have you begin with the end in mind, or have you write your own eulogy so you can visualize what you want to accomplish, or more importantly, who you want to be while you are still living, aka, being able to visualize what legacy you want to leave behind. Your friend sounded like a wonderful person!

    • Kalie says :

      I think those type of exercises are very useful. It may feel morbid to think about but it’s inevitable and very motivating.

  3. Amanda says :

    It sounds like Howard was an inspirational fellow with a big heart. I love his dance party idea! I’ve always known I don’t want to have a standard funeral – I think I’ll take a page from Howard’s book and plan a party. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kalie says :

      I loved the idea as soon as I heard it, too. Also, I’m touched that people would read and comment about someone they didn’t know, so thanks.

  4. Ms MoneyPennies says :

    I am sorry for your loss! It seems like Howard was a great guy who left a great legacy! Thank you for sharing his story, it really makes me reflect on how I want to live my life and what kind of legacy I want to leave.

    • Kalie says :

      Thank you. I think we are all glad that he went peacefully and quickly after having health problems for years. Thanks for reading his story!

  5. Brian says :

    Rest in peace Howard. It sounds like you touched a lot of people. I hope that all of us have someone like you in our life.

    • Kalie says :

      Thank you for your kind words, Brian. I agree that everyone needs a Howard in their life–and hopefully we can be that person to someone else in some way.

  6. Josh says :

    We recently attended a memorial service for a family friend. He didn’t live the best of lives when he was a young parent, but realized it later. It was a great time to reflect & for his own children to see how important he was to other people.

    So it’s never too soon (or too late) to start accumulating real worth.

    • Kalie says :

      Sometimes the most powerful people are the ones who have experienced a deep change. You’re right that the best time to start working on real worth is now!

  7. DC YAM says :

    Wow what an inspiring post, and what an inspiring man! It sounds like he was really selfless and honestly at that age it would probably have been “easier” to go to a church with others his age. I love hearing stories like this and always makes me take a minute to step back and reflect on what I’m chasing after in life.

    • Kalie says :

      Yes, he definitely chose the path less traveled when it came to church. He chose to move across the country to join his son & his family, who lead our college ministry. I also need frequent reminders for self-reflection.

  8. Our Frugal Escapades says :

    Sorry to hear about your loss. It’s inspirational stories like these that give us pause so we can reflect on just how special a person can be. It sounds like Howard had a powerful influence on everyone in his life, and this power alone will live on as it motivates others to devote their lives to creating their own legacies. Thank you for sharing this with us!

    • Kalie says :

      Thank you for your condolences. I agree that examples like this are very motivating to realize the influence we can have on others.

  9. Dr. J says :

    Condolences for your loss, sounds like he exemplified all the things he believed in, and would echo your sentiment about keeping real vs net with in perspective. Life is short even at its longest, and it’s the people and experiences that account for most of the joy

    • Kalie says :

      “The people and experiences that account for most of the joy.” Well said. Keeping that in perspective is huge.

  10. IncomeSurfer says :

    Wow. Thanks for sharing your inspiring post. I’m sorry for your loss, but it sounds like he was really a pillar and role model for all. Death or serious illness can really put things in perspective. We all need to make the most of the time we have together. Mrs. IS and I have been trying to live more intentionally, and traveling together more, in order to try and accomplish this. Heck, after our 10 week roadtrip…..I’m just impressed she’s still talking to me 🙂

    Thanks again for sharing your post

    • Kalie says :

      Thank you for your condolences. I agree that these events, though sad, remind us of what life is all about. I’ll have to check out your site to read about your 10 week roadtrip. That sounds awesome!

  11. Latoya Femme Frugality says :

    This is so spot on. If money is the only important thing, the only reason you focus in personal finance, the point has totally been missed. I don’t want to be remembered as mommy who was so concerned about histling, work, or debt that she forgot about us.

    • Kalie says :

      I feel exactly the same way, Latoya. I know my kids will not remember how much money I made or didn’t make when they were little, but the memories of our relationship.

  12. Jaime Donovan says :

    No I haven’t planned for my funeral but I’m still at college getting my degree.

    However my mom has a living trust and one of those documents on what to do if you get in a serious accident and don’t want to be “a vegetable” as my mom calls it. Yea she’s all prepared.

    I’ll do that once I graduate and get a real job.

  13. Dividendsdownunder says :

    What a great person Howard sounded, it’s a shame we can’t physically tell the people that have passed how much they meant to us.

    Money is just a tool for exchange, what you do with that exchange is the most important thing. How we leave our mark on the world and the people around us is what we will be remembered for.

    Thank you for sharing Howard’s story. I’m sure he would appreciate you sharing his life lessons across the whole world.


    • Kalie says :

      I suppose we could be more encouraging to the people in our lives and make sure they know how much we appreciate them while they are still with us. I don’t slow down to consider and communicate this often enough. Thank you for your kind words about Howard’s story.

  14. Millennial Moola says :

    Granddad left the best inheritance he ever could have by teaching us how to pray, playing board games with us all the time, and loving everyone in the whole family unconditionally. I felt a part of the love the Bible says Christ has for us through him. He left some financial assets as well, but truly he could have been broke and I would have felt like he made me a billionaire from the way he loved all his grandchildren.

  15. Francesca - From Pennies to Pounds says :

    I was discussing this with my husband the other day, as we were wondering if the funeral costs would be covered by life insurance. Thanks – you’ve reminded me to look into it!

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