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My mom is 81 and lives in a NH with moderate to sever Alzheimer's. When things weren't as bad, I made her final arrangements. I decided on cremation because mom had told me "don't put money in the ground, Christine." When she was relatively well, she expressed a desire to be cremated simply because it's cheapest. She was very pragmatic, and knows she "won't be there anyway." That made sense to me. Fast forward. It's been a year since I made those arrangements. My mom was in the hospital around Thanksgiving and it looked like the end was near. Suddenly, I didn't want to cremate her, as if that would somehow be disrespectful, or not giving her the send-off she deserves. (As irrational as I know that is.) Well, she bounced back and I'm not sure how to proceed. Burial is a lot more expensive than cremation and caskets are super expensive. It would be a stretch for me to afford that, while cremation is do-able. I don't know my own mind/heart anymore and I almost feel paralyzed, as if I hadn't planned at all. Maybe the emotion of knowing my mom may be dying sooner rather than later is getting to me. But do I let that change our plan? My head is spinning. Please advise.

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I think the most respectful thing you can do is follow your mother's wishes. You have the advantage of clearly knowing what those wishes are -- why would you consider anything else?

When my husband died of dementia four years ago I followed his wishes to donate his brain for dementia research and then cremate the body. I held a nice memorial service at the funeral home and had a reception afterward in my home. He would have been pleased.

My mother died a few months ago. We all knew her wish to be cremated and that is what we did. The funeral director sold us 7 small urns and mixed Mother's ashes with Dad's and filled the urns for the 7 of us kids. A nice memorial. We held a celebration of her life in a very nice park pavilion. A short service and then a grand lunch and visiting with out-of-town relatives. Instead of flowers we used potted plants that we then donated to her nursing home. Mother would have approved!

As far as I'm concerned, the "send off" is the gathering of friends and family to think about the deceased and to commemorate her life. It doesn't have anything to do with the disposition of the body.

The deciding factor here is that your mother specified what she wanted and you agreed to arrange that. I don't think a child or spouse needs to go against their own beliefs to honor the parent, but if they cannot bring themselves to carry out the loved one's wishes they should be upfront about that when asked, so the loved one can find someone else to carry out his or her wishes.

Have other people in your family been cremated? Have you attended memorial services/celebrations for persons who were cremated? If the whole experience is new to you, that may be part of your paralysis. Give yourself a little time to get used to the idea.
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We suggested mom donate her body to a medical school. She agreed. The ashes were returned to us about a year and a half later. No charge. All we paid for was a headstone. We did have a memorial service and luncheon at her church, just what she wanted.
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One of the best funerals I've been too was for the (cremated) husband of a very active community volunteer I know. He enjoyed puttering around on his John Deere tractor entirely too much, and had the best lawn in town. He pre-planned his funeral when he was diagnosed with early onset dementia, and picked a John Deere themed urn, and finished the service with the song, "She thinks my tractor's sexy." We had plenty of hymns, scripture, and memories in the service, but when that song comes on the radio, I can't help but smile and think of him. What a way to be remembered! We did not miss his casket, and he was with us in the urn. The wife waited until he was "back" to have a memorial service at mid afternoon on a Saturday when all the friends and family could be there.
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I agree - the way to honor your mom is to follow her wishes, which is cremation. Don't second guess yourself, you were right the first time. My dad was cremated and my mom will be too when she passes. Luckily my parents made those arrangements while they were still of sound mind, so I didn't have to question myself about it.
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Dear Christine, I know its a struggle when making these types of decisions. Its a very emotional one. If your mom wanted cremation, I would honor that wish. For my dad, he wanted to be buried and had picked out his plot 3 years before he passed. Its very important in our culture to give a proper send off and ensure the person goes to the afterlife with enough money. I'm glad my dad picked burial because it has been important for me to have a place to see him and remember him by. He is buried near a park where children play in the background. I think that would make him happy. I like to think of having coffee as it were with his neighbors at the cemetery. I know everything is easier said than done but I know you will make the right decision for yourself, family and mom. Thinking of you.
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You heard what your mom wanted. My FIL wanted to be cremated and placed in a monument in his front yard. He even ordered the monument, and once all the pieces arrived 6 mos later, the kids got together to put the ashes in and seal up the marble. We recognize that no one will want to buy this house with Dad in the front yard, so until the time his widow decides to sell her house, this is where Dad will be planted. Then his monument will move to the family cemetery where his parents are buried. We are following his wishes "even though."
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I agree with everyone on here. She made her wishes clear and I think that is what you should do. Cremation does not mean you cannot have a wonderful service for her. When my Mom died we cremated her, at her request. But then had a lovely little service at her favorite park across from where she used to live. The minister from her church came and spoke and I forgot to say we dedicated a park bench for her at this same park. It has her name and my late brothers on it and it is a wonderful, scenic place where we can go and sit on her bench and reflect.

So, I would cremate her but still have a send off for her.
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Dead is dead. Whether our loved one's corpse is pumped full of chemicals. Or donated to science. Or cremated. Or buried. Or any combination thereof.

Your mother was smart and kind, to have shared her final wishes with you. It sounds like cremation suits your mother's values. It is also the option that is less financially damaging to you. That goes a long way.

If you feel called to integrate something more traditional into mom's passing, investigate an option like OldBob described. It satisfies the "viewing/final respects" meme; and it concludes in the practical manner that aligns with your mother's wishes.

BTW, when the time comes, there will be people near and far who'll think you did the wrong thing. No matter what you do. That judgment comes part and parcel with the role of primary caregiver and closest relative. We front-line old-age managers do not have luxury of distance, delusion, and knowing only selective parts of the truth.

You are caring and you have a big heart. The important work is now -- and you are a wonderful companion for your mother. Your kindness will be her last memory. And you can always be proud of that.

As for what takes place when mom is no longer alive, forge on with whatever you think is appropriate.
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It sounds like your mother made her wishes known when she was thinking clearly, and it was only later, when she may have been confused and you then changed your mind. I would trust what she said before her mental condition declined. And I wouldn't play mind games about what I think is better and that I know better than her. It was her choice. I'd like to think that my family members do what I asked them to do. If you honor your mothers's wishes, I wouldn't allow anyone to bully me about it. Are you named as her executor?

Of course, if you go the other way, it's your decision.

I think it's perfectly fine to have any kind of service, gathering, tribute, formal, informal, etc., that the person wants if it can be afforded. (Some people don't want one of any kind.) Many services don't have to cost a thing, as they can be held at their church, home, or park.

There is no need for a casket either to show respect or say farewell. You can have nice photographs, mementos, art work, music, etc. honoring the deceased. Someone can speak or just play music and talk about their experiences and love.

I don't know your situation, but with seniors who have not been in contact with their friends in many years, many friends have passed away, and they no longer have social circles, then, there are hardly anyone at their funerals. Most people can't get off work for funerals of anyone, but family members, so, I'd take that into consideration too.
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Thanks again for all the thoughtful responses.

Since I probably speak more candidly with the people on this forum than so of the people I see every day, I want you to know that a couple of days ago, I purchased my mother's cremation urn. I had picked it out months ago, but never made the purchase. It will take a better part of a week to arrive, so, better now than later when I might be pressed for time.

I realize that what I really want for my mother is a send-off that is a show of love and of how she touched and helped people during her life. I realize that, casket or urn, I can't bring her friends back from the dead, and I can't make the people who haven't seen her in two years feel a sense of urgency to re-connect. I also can't force her siblings, nieces, and nephews, whom she hasn't seen in years, to *want to come from out of state to pay their respects. So who does that leave attending her wake? Me, my husband and an appearance by some of his siblings. A few people from work (if I tell them; I haven't worked there very long), the few friends I have left after being essentially out of commission so I could dedicate all my free time to my mom, my sister who hasn't seen my mother in years, and whomever wants to accompany her from out of state, a few people from church who'll come to be nice, but who really aren't invested.... It's sad, really.
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