Departure Directions: Taking Charge of Your Final Arrangements

Have you written your Departure Directions and given them to your family? If you have and they include Penn Forest, we’d love to have a copy to put in your file. That way we’ll know your wishes at your time of death and we’ll be ready to help pass them on to your funeral arrangers. Note: you do not need to have a pre-paid account to have a file. You can set up a file with us at any time. 

Departure Directions is the term for your written instructions or guidelines—determined by your values, beliefs and priorities—for how you wish to be cared for and remembered after you die (your after-death care). It includes how your body will be cared for and by whom, how you will be laid to rest, who you would like to involve, and what rituals, if any, will be carried out.

Departure Directions can also address things like what name you and  pronouns should be used in your preferred rituals, as well how your body should be dressed or garbed. You can also designate who will have the final decision for your arrangements. 

Begin your own exploration by contemplating one or more of these questions:

  1. Reflect on a death ritual you attended and consider what was great about it and how it impacted you.
  2. Reflect on three-to-five core values that guide the way you live and think about how they can guide the way you are cared for after you die.
  3. How would you explain your beliefs about what happens to you when you die?

Pennsylvania — Yes, designated agent law (click here to download the form). Pennsylvania Statute, Title 20, Chapter 3, Subsection 305, gives citizens the right to make a “statement of contrary intent” that will override the next-of-kin’s usual authority and let the citizen designate whom he wants to control the disposition of his body. Click here to search the Pennsylvania statutes.

Please contact us to discuss further. 

Why Can’t We Face The Idea Of Death?

A few days ago I tried to talk with a friend about preparing for her death.  This 65-year-old lady is as smart and practical as any I know.  After beginning the conversation, she abruptly interrupted me, saying “But I love life; I’m having a good time.”  She turned and walked away.  I’ve pondered this comment and other conversations I’ve had with people about preparing for death, and have concluded that most people won’t think about it.  How can this be, when it is the one thing we cannot avoid?

I believe there are three [possibly more] systemic reasons for this:

  1. When I was growing up, children’s stories often addressed the subject of danger and possible death.  “The Three Little Pigs” and “Little Red Riding Hood” to name two.  Thornton Burgess’s “Mother West Wind” series, once popular children’s stories, was loaded with danger and threat of death.  But stories told to children these days, and for the last 30 or 40 years, hardly ever confront the possibility of death.  Most of today’s people are unprepared to consider death as part of living.


  1. Our parents and grandparents lived in a more rural, small-community world.  I grew up in a small town, yet my parents raised chickens and rabbits that were butchered and eaten by us.  I grew up helping to pluck feathers and skin rabbits.  Few today, including myself, are subjected to the killing and butchering of the meat we eat.  Death is exempted from our lives unless we work for some megalithic meat packing company.
  1. Our youth-driven cultural outlook has helped to warp our sense of reality.  Science has been so successful at improving health and keeping us alive that we now view death as a failure of medical science.  There are two sides to this coin.  Improving health is wonderful, but keeping us alive toward an inevitable end when no quality of life is left, seems cruel to me.  What happened to letting people simply go to their final rest?


Even the process of disposing of our dead has become impractical and out of touch with reality.  “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust” has been replaced with “ashes to methanol and dust to formaldehyde.” Concrete vaults and waterproof coffins are purchased to stave off decomposition of the remains.


These are expensive items that in reality do not work as advertised; environmentally- damaging items that are costly go into the ground never to be seen again.  Wouldn’t it be better if we were to let the dead contribute their remains to the good earth that gave them their life?



Shouldn’t we older persons, who have grown up more aware of death and are ourselves closer to death, discuss death with our loved ones?  Only then can they be prepared when the inevitable happens, and indeed the inevitable will happen to every one of us.

Penn Forest Maple Tree


This post provided by John Brobst.  John is treasurer and a board member of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Pennsylvania, a nonprofit organization that helps its members plan affordable funerals for themselves and their families.


For more on this topic, check out these websites: