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(Post 7 of 33 in my 16-hour shift for the Secular Student Alliance Blogathon.)

11:00 am EDT

Speaking of death — if you are anything but conventionally religious, and you love your family in the least, write down your funeral plans in detail.

I know what you’re saying — “Hey, what do I care, I’ll be dead and gone!” This is not about you. You will indeed be as demised as a Norwegian Blue. And it’s not even about sending a “message to the world” about dying without illusions. It’s about the loved ones you’ll leave behind.

When a person with a relatively conventional religious identity dies, there are plenty of decisions to be made by the family. But they are largely a matter of coloring within existing lines — which hymns will be sung, which Bible verses will be said, which church cemetery will receive the remains. If you diverge from a conventional identity and have not made your wishes known, your death can leave your family utterly without lines and uncertain even of which colors to reach for. They want to honor your wishes, but they don’t know how, and you will have thrown them into this situation in the midst of their grief at your loss. Guilt and confusion are not helpful additives to grief.

So right now, this week, even if you aren’t sure what you want, slap something together. Burn some songs on a CD, write down a few instructions, print out some nice readings, and put them where they can be easily found. THEN, once this basic emotional safety net is in place, refine and adjust it until you’ve created the kind of event you’d like to have. They will be grateful for it.

(Have you donated a few coppers to SSA yet? That’s what this is all about. The sidebar widget awaits.)

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.