There are at least 23 items in Catherine Rigby-Harley’s list of things to do when a loved one dies – from informing immediate family and friends of the death, to gathering the deceased’s personal and financial records.
It is not an easy to-do list, says Ms. Rigby-Harley, who has lost a father and a husband, both priests. “Often, grief just takes over.”
Determined not to put her family through the same labyrinthine process that she experienced in arranging her husband’s funeral, Ms. Rigby-Harley decided to make plans for her own farewell. At about the same time that she was mulling over a pre-arranged funeral, she was searching for something meaningful to do. Arthritis had put an end to her volunteer work for the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, where she is a member of the Anglican Church Women (ACW). “I asked God to show me how I can serve him in a new way,” she said.
The answer came while she was poring over funeral home documents. “It was so cold,” she said. “It didn’t even ask what type of service and what kind of hymns I wanted.”
Ms. Rigby-Harley produced My Last Wishes, a 20-page fill-in-the-blank manual which, when completed by an individual, will guide family members through the funeral preparations and after.
The manual, designed by Ms. Rigby-Harley’s daughter and published by the ACW, is now available through the diocese ( 5732 College St., Halifax, N.S., B3H 1X3) for $5.95. Proceeds ($5) will go to the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund and for reprinting costs ($0.95).
“We hope that each diocese will take part in it,” said Ms. Rigby-Harley. “With this manual you are helping yourself while helping others.”