Have the Talk of a Lifetime Conversation Cards

Famicity is about preserving the family story so that it can be passed on to future generations.

How many times have you heard “If only I had asked grandpa about his life” or “I wish I knew what to ask”?

It’s too often that we don’t ask the questions before it’s too late. We may not realize time is short, or we just don’t know how to have the conversations. That’s where Have the Talk of a Lifetime comes in.

In the previous blog “FAMIC – Funeral and Memorial Information Council” we introduced FAMIC as a resource to help families educate the public about death in regards to memorialization and honoring their loved ones when that time comes.

To complete the FAMIC story, this blog highlights a special project developed by FAMIC to further assist families in having special conversations about their lives and their wishes when they pass away.

What is Have the Talk of a Lifetime Conversation Cards?

As genealogists or family historians, we know that the memories of our loved ones are important and it’s even more important for them to be passed on but what we may often don’t know or often struggle with is how to start conversations with our loved ones regarding their lives or what they may want after they pass away.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime is a campaign managed by FAMIC (Funeral and Memorial Information Council) to help families have important conversations about the things that matter most to them and how a person’s life story can be remembered and honored in a meaningful way.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime involves a set of 50 cards with 50 questions and other materials that start and encourage the conversation by providing talking points and subjects that a person might not know to ask a relative about their lives.

Who benefits from these cards?

  1. Children
  2. Grandchildren
  3. Nieces/nephews
  4. Future generations to come (assuming that the stories collected will be passed down)
  5. Other distant relatives putting together the family story
  6. Estate Planners

In testing, Linda told me the story from Thanksgiving where the people at dinner ranged in ages from her 99-year old aunt to her 4-year old twin nephews. She presented the cards around the table and listened and watched as everyone came together and just talked and told stories.

The younger children were excited and wanted to always play that card game.

The Story Behind the Have the Talk of a Lifetime Conversation Cards

~ “Don’t lose a generation of memories and history by not taking the time to preserve and record”

The Have the Talk of a Lifetime cards and other materials were developed by members of the FAMIC organization as a way to educate and promote the public on creating and preserving the memory of loved ones and relatives.

Death isn’t a topic that people typically enjoy talking about and are often unprepared for even though eventually, everyone passes away so encouragement from funeral industry professionals is important along with the right tools.

After various studies, it was determined that the public is generally uninformed when it comes to funeral planning and knowing what their recently deceased relatives want and actually need.

What kind of funeral do they want? Do they want the traditional funeral or do they want more of a celebration of life? Is there a happy middle between the two as a compromise for the deceased and the family? This can understandably be a very stressful time.

One of the goals of the Have the Talk of a Lifetime is to change the attitude and perception of funerals that with the proper knowledge and knowing what options are available, so that when those unpleasant times come, and they will come, stress and sorrow can be reduced.

When Pre-Planning isn’t Always an Option

We always think and assume that it’s only the older generations that pass away but we know all people, any age, pass away which can sometimes come as a complete and unexpected shock.

Who’s in charge and what happens when you just don’t know? In these cases, every circumstance can be different but it’s when the Have the Talk of the Lifetime materials could come in handy to bring the family together to sort through how to handle these unexpected situations.

Example: Where I personally grew up, the father of a former classmate passed away unexpectedly. He was in his 60s. Almost a month later, my classmate, in his early 30’s, passed away. As his passing was extremely unexpected, his family had not healed from the passing of the father. I noticed in his obituary that it was the almost word for word the same as his father’s. While he did have a celebration of life, there was much confusion on where he was buried. Was he buried? Where was he buried? Was he cremated?

This was even an ongoing discussion on his Findagrave memorial as some family members said he was buried in one place or another. Finally, someone confirmed that he was cremated.

From where I sit as his former classmate and as a genealogist myself, I was frustrated as I don’t feel his wishes, which were probably unknown, were honored and I don’t understand why there was such a debate on his burial vs cremation details. Was it lack of communication or something else? In this situation, could Have the Talk of a Lifetime helped the family?

Community Outreach Programs

Have the Talk of a Lifetime School Project– 5th Grade with Sunset Funeral Home

Linda coordinates The Have the Talk of a Lifetime School Project within a local school district within the 5th-grade classrooms to promote the students to learn about their family, their ancestors and heritages using the Have the Talk of a Lifetime cards.

The Objective

The 5th-grade classes were specifically chosen as these kids are at the age where they are old enough to understand and have conversations with their family members and be truly interested in their lives.

Each 5th-grade class is a given a deck of the Have the Talk of a Lifetime cards. Each student in each class picked a card and took it home to interview a family member of their choice, maybe someone that has made an impact on their life so far.

With each interview, the student writes an essay about their relative. Linda says that she personally reads every essay and is amazed at what the children learn from their interviews.

Learning about Heritage

One year, Linda explains that the classes were encouraged to learn about their heritages when interviewing their relatives. Where did their families come from?

With this, they were encouraged to cook and bring in food from their heritage.

The Results

Linda says the results are fantastic as the kids love the project, learning about their families, their heritage and being involved in the community.

Linda knows of two districts in the greater Chicago, Illinois area but is aware that other educators have taken the idea to expand into other areas. This is definitely a program she wishes to expand into areas all over the country.

Giving Back

Within each class, they are given $100 from the Sunset Funeral Home. Each class researches a local charity or organization and then chooses which organization will receive the $100 as a donation.

Other Community Events

Linda explained that the organization also holds other local family events such as ice cream socials, pumpkin carving and pizza and preplanning to celebrate life and educate and bring awareness to the program.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime Experts

A Talk of a Lifetime Expert is someone in funeral service, (always a FAMIC member) who is well versed in the Have the Talk program. These professionals cover all areas of the funeral profession including those who particularly specialize in pre-planning. It’s these experts who know how to have the difficult conversations and ask the uneasy questions about what a loved one is going to want and sometimes more importantly need when they pass away.

If you’d like to speak with a Have the Talk of a Lifetime Expert in your area, visit https://www.talkofalifetime.org/ and type your zip code in the form provided.

Other Have the Talk of a Lifetime Resources

Have the Talk of a Lifetime provides various sets of materials that anyone can download to help families have important conversations about their legacy, memories and what someone wishes are after they pass away.

  1. Downloadable workbook for families
  2. Family Tree Activity Template for creating a family tree as a family
  3. Family Activities Worksheet for discovering the story behind family traditions
  4. Funeral Planning Checklist for things to think about as your preplan a funeral for yourself or a loved one to remove stress

To order a set of Have the Talk of a Lifetime cards, visit their website.

About Linda Darby, Chief Executive Office, Greenwood Inc.

Linda has served in the memorialization industry since graduating from Illinois State University in 1984.

She has been involved in several boards and associations, including the Board of the Illinois Cemetery Association, Illinois State’s Comptroller’s Cemetery Advisory Board, Women in Funeral Service Scholarship Program, International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association, National Concrete Burial Vault Association. She is a current representative of Funeral and Memorialization Information Council (FAMIC), the trustee emeritus for the Funeral Service Foundation and a board member for IMSA. Locally, she serves as current President of the board for the Women’s Care Clinic and is active in the Global Leadership Summit “Step Up Initiative”. She is also a dedicated member of the Second Church of Christ.

Linda is a passionate and experienced speaker presenting at national conventions, state shows and smaller area funeral homes on topics that help families to heal from the loss of their loved ones. She also speaks regularly to mortuary science schools across the country on various topics.

Linda is also passionate about giving back to the community through free public community events, scholarships or simply caring for each and every family who impacts the funeral homes.

There is much more to Linda beyond her dedication to the industry and community that she services. She loves JIF peanut butter; crunchy is a must. Linda also loves grape gumballs and popcorn, but not simultaneously! She enjoys horseback riding and spending time in her garden making things grow. Finally, her favorite activity is spending time with the people she loves.