I'm Oliver Webber, here with my research assistant, Kaydence Ribetnauer. You may not be able to see us because we're tucked in between these blades of grass, waiting for our next meal to fly in and land on one of them. To nourish our bodies and souls, we ponder leaves. We encourage contemplation... especially in regard to issues that will have to be handled when we become worm grub. We hope to motivate others to thoughtfully cultivate preferences and decisions while still vigorously leaping around. We recommend croaking... using voices to broadcast wishes before it's too late to have a voice in this matter. Other than a sumptuous supply of insects, this is assuredly the most "toad-ally" considerate gift we could leave for our life companions! Don't you agree? We invite you to get your feet wet by joining our pond of pondering pre-planners. Let's make croaking meaningful!

Saturday, October 25, 2014



An article written by Gail Rubin, an end-of-life pre-planning advocate and educator, highlights a particular October 30th holiday established in 1999 by Stephanie West Allen.  Having witnessed the difficulties her own relatives faced upon the death of individuals who had not declared funerary preferences, she conceived this annual occasion to emphasize the wisdom of addressing – while alive – the practicalities and life celebration aspects of death management.

As Allen noted, “The people who are left behind are so grateful to have this already done.”  It is a gift to family members.  When they know they are following through on their loved one’s wishes, the proceedings can be so much more meaningful for them.

Reference is made to the “Terror Management Theory” within the realm of social psychology.  This postulate suggests that all human behavior is governed by one’s realization that death is inevitable in spite of a desire to live, thereby generating a uniquely human conflict that produces terror.  Does this explain why people generally exhibit a disinclination to examine matters of death and plan in advance for it? 

Can the glaring societal avoidance syndrome be remedied by courageously confronting and exploring what Gail Rubin notes as “mortality salience,” a term that defines awareness of one’s own eventual demise?  She identifies the value of Create A Great Funeral Day in that it “prompts us to be mindful and self-aware, to plan reflectively in advance, rather than in reaction after someone dies.” 

In the absence of pre-planning, funeral affairs may be perfunctory and as flat as a bottle of soda without any fizz.  Allen refers to the “rent-a-minister” approach whereby the speaker may describe elements of the decedent’s life in spite of never having known him, or deliver standard theological oratory that’s contrary to that person’s (and the guests’) tenets.    

Because of its special designation in the context of pre-planning, October 30th affords an opportunity to pause and contemplate funerary choices along with aspects of one’s life considered worth remembering. It is a day for pondering and a day for action.  It is a day to become proactive, take the bull by the horn, and declare in some form your own personal preferences.  It is a way to avoid what Allen has dubbed “a facelift funeral,” the unfortunate consequence of going through the motions without answering the emotional needs of mourners. Such a “cookie cutter” approach neglects incorporating personalized elements that render positive experiences for the living and a sense of continued connection with the beloved individuals who have died.      

So this year when you rise and shine on October 30th, consider rising to the occasion and initiating a new venture.  Be amazed by the plethora of options – many of which are unique and intriguing – for choosing courses of actions and recording them on paper or via a computer file.  Find out how exploration and decision making for life’s last milestone can be surprisingly enjoyable. Think of all you’ve contributing to the welfare of your family and add this to the list.  During the remainder of your lifetime, revisit your preference record of choices each year when this holiday rolls around, make changes according to your current outlook, realize that you have composed a wonderful gift for your family, and revel in the fact that you are prepared!

 Avoid a “Facelift Funeral” with Create a Great Funeral Day, 
by Gail Rubin

                                                A Good Goodbye Blog Article

Wednesday, October 8, 2014



Sometimes a person has been so attached to his car that it makes sense to incorporate it as a personalized element in funeral proceedings.  It might be as simple as including it in a procession to the grave.  But, on the other hand, it could become a storied aspect of an extraordinary life wrap-up:

In 1994, according to seventy-one-year-old George Swanson’s request, his cremated remains were placed in the driver’s seat and buried in his prized sports car, a white 1984 Corvette.  It occurred in Pennsylvania’s Brush Creek Cemetery, twenty-five miles east of Pittsburgh, where he had purchased twelve plots for this purpose.   A crane lowered the car into a seven-by-seven, sixteen-foot grave.  A lap quilt made by a group from Swanson’s church was in the vehicle, along with a love note from his wife.  An Engelbert Humperdinck tape in the cassette deck, with the song, “Release Me,” had been cued up and ready to play.  The license plate read “HI-PAL,” which was Swanson’s typical greeting when he didn’t remember someone’s name.  A headstone with an etching of a Corvette marks the spot. What an example of a customized funeral proceeding!

Other pre-planners have eschewed the piecemeal approach and, instead, have opted for a more overt physical presence within their prized chariots. 

At the Alamo Masonic Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas, a casual meanderer on its property wouldn’t necessarily know about a car that is sequestered in the ground underneath a simple grave marker.  In 1977 Sandra Ilene West, a Beverly Hills socialite and young widow of a Texas oil millionaire, died at the age of thirty-eight.  She had left specific directions for her brother-in-law, Sol West, to handle arrangements assuring that her body would be buried in her 1964 powder blue Ferrari 330 America.  Though adamantly disinclined to comply with her wish, Sol eventually was compelled to make it happen, in accordance with legal mandates and Sandra’s will that stated he would receive over two million dollars if the request was realized, but only ten thousand dollars if not.  The old English proverb, "where there's a will, there's a way" certainly applied in this case!  Sandra had dictated her attire, so she was dressed in a lacy nightgown, and she wanted the seat in which she was placed to be at a “comfortable” angle.  The car with the woman’s body behind the wheel was encased in a six-by-eight-by-seventeen-foot box and transported to the gravesite on a flatbed truck.  After placement in the nine-foot-deep grave, the hefty underground mass of wood, steel, and concrete was covered, thereby restoring the ground surface to a conventional appearance.  Passersby are none the wiser!   

More recently, in 2009, Lonnie Holloway, from Saluda, South Carolina who had died at the age of 90, got his wish in absentia... well, not really!  Friends said he had always insisted on being buried in his 1973 Pontiac Catalina, next to his wife’s body.  After a traditional church service and in a traditional cemetery, many folks gathered at the gravesite where an unusually large plot was in readiness. A wrecker with a crane lowered the car, supported by four straps, and positioned it in the grave. Inside was the occupant, sitting upright behind the wheel, bedecked in his hat and sunglasses, headed for his final destination.  All of the man’s guns had been placed in the car, as he had requested; he wanted to take them with him so they wouldn’t get into the wrong hands.  The owner of the wrecker had been contacted by the funeral home a year before Holloway’s death to prepare for this strikingly atypical burial, which allowed the man to be laid to rest with the two features of his life he had loved the most – his wife and his car.

So, given these instances, maybe one should think twice before uttering the commonplace saying, “you can’t take it with you.”  Maybe you can!