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Waiting at the red light and bodies emerge, moving through traffic with pictures of departed loved ones and signs requesting aid to assist with the final arrangements for this uninsured loved one. Pity fills each face, passing by each window during this brief moment of collection. When the departed one’s pic reposts a child’s short-lived life, who can resist rolling down the window to deposit something in the can or bucket? I think that adults should maintain insurance on themselves. 


However, not everyone carries insurance on a child—compassion surfaces for most when a child’s life is cut short. I think we yearn to participate in this communal collection plate because the thought of a family aching from the loss of a young life taken away should not have to get buried beneath the weight of how to send this young being into the afterlife in a paupers grave. It’s unfathomable. We empty our pockets. We fill our hearts with empathetic sorrow. We become a community with those who weep. We become the hope for a blessed farewell. 


I think I date myself when I say, “I remember the insurance man making house calls.” I remember calling out, “Grandma, the insurance man is here.” Whatever happened to those days? Whatever happened to that expectation of preparing everyone for that expected earthly departure, even for children. The expectation existed, insurance, no matter how poor. I never knew that I had insurance, but in my early twenties, the term insurance policies that my grandparents had on me matured. There were three or four small policies. I hinted to my grandmother, “I must have been a sick child, given all these policies.” It tickled me, but really, was I sickly? I don’t recall her response, but that stood out to me, even to this day. I appreciate how they looked out for my future. I don’t know if my mother had insurance on me at that time, but I know she pushed getting insurance as soon as my siblings and I had stable jobs. In my twenties until nearly thirty, we lagged on establishing our own insurance. At which point, my mother informed us that if we wanted burial insurance, we’d better get some because she planned to close out our policies. I’m more than confident that we had insurance through our jobs, but Mother informed each of us in her “matter-of-fact” manner that she refused to “pass-the-hat” for any of us. That’s what they called it when a collection needed to take place to help with a burial. Again, the expectation anchored in a communal collectiveness that most everyone understood: Responsible parents insure themselves and their children. 


When did this community agreement shift toward car washes and Go Fund Me, and community street collection buckets? These paths have become the norm. Everyone deserves proper homegoing. There’s no judgment here: only observations. Something in our family and community dynamics has changed regarding preparing for final days. What that is, I do not know, but it’s evident. We cannot say it’s because of inflation and economics. People made so much less in those days but did all they could to garner family members’ insurance. And if they couldn’t afford it, I recall my family discussing a community member passing, but the person didn’t have insurance. However, I never heard them say anything about those members asking for help with burial arrangements. Those who became aware of this dilemma simply found a way to give without giving. People were proud in those days. They didn’t want to receive outright charity. It may not have been this way at all, but this is how I remember it. However, every now and then, a family needed that “passing of the hat”. Definitely, families gave toward the cause, but no one really wanted that experience at all. 


Oh, how times have changed. How do we go about reshaping and reinstituting the need for final day preparation? Go Fund Me has become the new insurance. I have mixed emotions about this reality. In some cases, Go Fund Me must be the path to take; however, more and more people use it as the norm. Many have said that they cannot afford burial insurance, but the truth is, we cannot afford not to afford burial insurance. Hoping and praying for car washes, Go Fund Me, and street community collection buckets add tremendous stress to an already very stressful situation. We should help each other help ourselves by having those heart to heart conversations: Ask, “Is each member in your household covered with burial insurance?”


Let’s help each other plan for those unexpected sorrowful days. Let’s help one another reach back to the old landmark called preparation. Remind one another that preparation provides more peace of mind than the anxiety encountered from placing our hope in the bounty of Go Fund Me and car washes and community collection buckets. 


An ounce of prevention (planning) is worth a pound of cure, wisely spoken by Benjamin Franklin. We won’t need to travel the path of uncertainty if we remind each other to prepare for those days of sorrow. They are sure to come. Let’s be ready. This act of loving advice is worth its weight in gold. 


Trust. Truth.

Disclaimer: Covid has turned upside down the world. Help of every kind must be enlisted to help grieving families provide a fitting and loving homegoing. This blog embodies a perspective that resonates true; however, this pre and post-Covid pandemic currently usurps precedence. I don’t want anyone to misinterpret this encouragement to prepare for our final resting days as a lack of compassion. All of us require compassion during these weary hours of finding our footing with Covid snapping at our heels, even more so as loved ones pass away.

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