When we go, what do we leave behind?

Often this conversation goes into the ‘too hard basket’. Unless faced with a crisis, there’s no reason for anyone to consider things like when we go from this life, what do we leave behind?

Until recently this was not a question that I have had to think too much about; that is, until I started working in the biggest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere.

Words were chosen by their loved ones to tell their story.

The question is more complex than people realise. Burial grounds have existed for millennia, and for good reason. Physical memorials, from small plaques to uniform headstones, grand monuments to inspiring mausoleums, are an important part of all cultures. By providing a resting place for the deceased, the living get a place where they can go and reflect on their lives.

What does this look like for you?

Memorials can document contributions of community members and facilitate the historic preservation of specific eras. As an example, a key moment for the descendants of William Tipple Smith in reclaiming his title as discoverer of gold in NSW, was the unveiling of the monument on his previously unmarked resting place.

I often wander the cemetery reading inscriptions.

A devoted grandmother, a caring father, a good friend beloved by all. Phrases like “Gone fishin’” and the Parramatta Eels logo. These words were chosen by their loved ones to tell their story.

The memorials that most resonate with me are the glass cases in Rookwood’s Mausoleum of Eternal Rest. Cabinets that hold ashes and mementos. A photo of a dog, a painting kit, the bottle opener. A life summarised in the size of a document box.

What would my family choose?

“Why would you think about these things?”

God gave us one precious and fragile life, and we often take it for granted.

Working at Rookwood has taught me many things, but that is what will always stick with me. Planning for end of life is a difficult subject, but when we do broach it, we like to assume that we’ll be ready to move on to the next world.

Next time you are in a quiet space, contemplate what your loved ones will need when you are gone.

Part of what we do at Rookwood General Cemetery is encourage these difficult conversations. Too often we see families bewildered by processes and overwhelmed with decisions, all while trying to deal with one of the most difficult periods of their lives.

We do not know when we will leave our earthly lives, so why not to think about what to leave behind? By setting out your wishes, you take the guesswork and potential arguments out of a stressful time for loved ones.

If you’re reading this, I ask you to do this: next time you are in a quiet space, contemplate what your loved ones will need when you are gone.

Here are questions to get you started:

· What’s the most important thing to you when saying goodbye to a loved one?

· Where have your loved ones been buried, who have already passed? Do you want to be near them?

· Who will be visiting you to pay respects?

· How traditional do you want your funeral to be?

· Do you want to be buried or cremated?

· Are you able to pre-purchase your final resting place?

The decision to pre-purchase is a personal one and there are many factors to consider. Some of the reasons that people choose to pre-purchase are:

· By setting out wishes, your loved ones will know what you want, reducing anxiety in a difficult time.

· Some paperwork can be completed ahead of time, so your family is able to grieve without worrying about logistics.

· New graves are double-depth and allow for ash placements; by purchasing today, you could take care of your family for generations.

· Pre-purchasing your space in Rookwood at today’s prices means reducing the financial burden on your family in the future. As funeral prices rise, this is a concern for many families.

· Space is running out in Sydney cemeteries. It is estimated that existing cemeteries will be out of space by 2035. By securing a space, visiting loved ones will always be close and convenient.

Planning ahead with pre-purchase is not for everyone. It is a financial decision which should be considered carefully, possibly at the time of estate planning.

Connecting with Loved Ones

· Find their location using our digital mapping software. ‘Discover Ever After’ uses Google Maps to provide directions to your loved ones resting place. Search “Rookwood Deceased Search” on our website. With technology, we aim to provide meaningful ways to honour your loved ones from anywhere in the world. These digital tools help connect those who cannot travel to funerals due to health or distance.

· Visit your loved ones – Rookwood gates are open from sunrise to sunset, all year around. See Village Café and Flowers (near the Weeroona Rd, Strathfield, entrance) for fresh flowers.

Call 02 8575 8100 or email us to speak with Client Services staff about how you can plan ahead for your family with Rookwood General Cemetery.

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