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My father in law died during the pandemic and we have not been able to plan his service. He was an atheist and wanted a party for a celebration. We had him cremated and we are holding on to the ashes. His wish was to be buried in his Unitarian church’s memorial garden. My mother in law has not willingly talked about the burial or any of the details. My husband is their executor, it feels like he is in over his head.
It is an unusual time but I feel like something off about the complete avoidance about planning any kind of burial or service. In the meantime, I am not comfortable having his ashes with us because he was so vocal about his intention. Any advice?

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Why not just bury his ashes in Unitarian’s church memorial garden with immediate family, privately and plan a celebration party after pandemic? Would that not comply with his wishes?
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There is no rush for this or to carry out his intentions. If she doesn't want to talk about it right now, so be it. Executor hubby can take care of the other details in dad's life and leave the burial to later on. Settle the estate and then deal with mom's will in the event they had wills leaving everything to each other - hers will need an update to avoid problems later on.
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Why is your husband in over his head if his father made his final wishes known so explicitly? And I wonder why he wants to be placed in a memorial garden of a church he was a member of since he was an atheist? I guess his wife wasn't, but still.........an odd request in any event. Why not call the church and simply ask if/when his ashes can be buried in their memorial garden? Your MIL doesn't have to arrange anything or consent to anything, either, since the idea is to follow the decedent's wishes, right? Once the ashes are buried, you can have a small celebration in his honor.

Not everybody wants to plan funerals or memorials or services; some people can't handle the topic of death at all. I imagine your MIL is still grieving the sudden loss of her husband and doesn't really want to face the whole finality of the burial. Can't say I blame her. Which is why you and your DH can just move ahead with your FILs wishes, thereby letting MIL off the hook. When my father died, my mother was such a zombie there was NO WAY she could even answer a question never mind plan anything, nor did I expect her to. I did everything, and just picked her up for the service at the cemetery.

My condolences for your loss; best of luck moving forward with FILs wishes
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herdingcats Jul 2020
Many UUs are atheist, actually. It's not unusual. An old UU saying is "deeds not creeds".
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Family held a memorial service for my grandmother right after her death. It took almost 4 years for her kids to scatter her ashes. There isn't a right or wrong way to handle the situation, especially now with COVID. Maybe the "right" thing to do is help your husband understand that he is doing the best he can under the circumstances. Your MIL may need the time to adjust to her husband's death, so knowing that you will do as your FIL wishes in the future may be the best all of you can do for now.
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I know people have end of life wishes, but in reality what is done is for the people who are still here. I think if a party is wanted it might be a good idea to hold it on a one year anniversary , hopefully things will be easier to navigate then and the grief will have had a chance to turn to being able to remember happy times
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It is hard for any of us to give any comments or how we did things. Every family is different. In our case, with lifelong distancing of our families due to my husband's military career, our situation, was that my husband had only one sibling remaining , not in our home town but many States away ; my family lives across the United States. It just wasn't in my mind to ask my family to attend my husband's 30 minute "funeral" because I didn't see the reason to have it. If the mother is showing signs of dementia, sounds more than just showing signs, then maybe the caretaker child can just arrange for burial where the person wanted to be buried. If the remaining children are all close, just plan a dinner or Sunday get together and invite all whom you want, any family members, few close friends you want. Something smal,big BBQ, or nothing at all.
I arranged through our funeral arranger for a small military service with a Chaplain and one soldier at the nearby National Cemetery. Just our son, his wife and their twins. My husband was not a sociaI person and had no close friends. I gave the chaplain some information about my husband, my daughter-in-law made a small bulletin board with various pictures of my husband over the years, and a newspaper article of him. The twins were almost 6 at the time, and were thrilled to see the photos of their grandpa on display. I arranged to have two flags presented, one to me and one to the twins (mine will go to them, so they each have one of Pap Pap). Just as the Chaplain started to talk, two waitresses from my husbands favorite restaurant arrived. I was surprised. That's all we had. After the small service we had planned to have lunch at a certain restaurant, and invited the Chaplain and soldier (who declined), and invited the two friends. The chaplain said grace at the restaurant and a few encouraging words. During the lunch we said very little about husband/father/grandpa. The chaplain shared some words of encouragement and for the rest of the luncheon we had laughs and talks, that's the only thing my husband would have wanted. We were just wife, son, family and those 2 friends, and the chaplain.
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1nephew Jul 2020
This sounds like it was lovely, an event you and others can remember positively. Well done.
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Plenty of atheists attend the Unitarian church. If he was an atheist, then, you have absolutely no problem waiting until your mother-in-law is ready to do the planning or at least until a party is even feasible. Delaying the party and burial of ashes is understandable during the pandemic and this is no poor reflection on his family. What you are really concerned about is the manner in which she is grieving. Best advice I can give to you is for all of you to get grief counseling. Hospice offers this; hopefully they are doing these counseling sessions via zoom during covid. It may be that your MIL just isn't up to this task. When my dad passed, my mother directed me to work with the funeral home. She really didn't want to do it. I complied. If you have time, you could investigate options for the burial of his ashes, research markers or benches, possible inscriptions etc, so that when MIL is able or interested you can show her what you have found. If she passes the job to you, you are ready to act.
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what’s normal? Her grief and incapacity. I don’t understand why this is a problem for you. It doesn’t matter if this decision takes time. And it’s her decision and indecision. People are more important than rituals. If you don’t want the ashes in your house let your husband know. He and her family members will have to come up with a solution. And you FIL family.
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Does your MIL want the ashes? In this world crisis for now.. planning a service may have to be put off. But..helping your MIL to create some sort of memorial in her home might help her grieving process??? IE: a small table with pictures of him and the family etc... creating positive memories. I dont know the mind state of your MIL? If you do get to visit her..having her husbands favorite meal with some family around can open conversation. personally. I would just keep the love and giving flowing. Good thoughts your way. One step at a time. Sincerely.
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What's the rush? When my father died 3 years ago we opted to wait 2 months and hold a memorial service. Per his wishes he was cremated and I scattered some of his ashes around his home town. The rest were put into a box that commemorated his career and buried in a small family gathering.

He died in the summer and had many elderly relatives so heat and getting people to a funeral would have been a hardship to many. So we had a memorial service with pizza and cookies. Instead of solemnity and grieving we were able to enjoy memories and stories. I made posters with pictures from his life and my siblings brought momentos of his life.

This was easier on Mom, too, not having to make so many decisions at such a traumatic time. And quite frankly saved up a lot of money on a funeral.
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cherokeewaha Jul 2020
That is exactly how I have expressed my wishes. My cremation is paid for, my ashes to be spread in the spring over the fields of blue bonnets that I love and no funeral just a get together of our children and grand children for a good meal/cookout/crawfish boil and lots of memories of all of us together.

Now my husband wants a big funeral which has been paid for and wishes to be buried beside his mom and dad who had a 3 person plot. But, he flat refuses to finish the planning by purchasing the vault required and a headstone. He has picked out his casket and told me what he wants to wear. I just wish he would finish the purchases needed to be complete.
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