In her final years, Karen had a chronic illness and didn’t get out much, but her large collection of teddy bears kept her company at home. At her funeral, Karen’s teddies were brought along so her loved ones could take one each.

The people who had bought her a teddy over the years were asked to take it home, “so you’ve always got a bit of Karen with you, to comfort your grief,” was the heartfelt message from Karen’s husband.

With a direct cremation arranged, Karen’s send-off was held in a hall, with loved ones asked to bring a share plate and celebrate her life. “That’s when I knew I wanted a direct cremation,” said Kate Jameson, a palliative care nurse for about 25 years.

A woman's teddy bear collection was used to personalise her memorial
Karen’s large collection of teddy bears kept her company while she was chronically ill and stuck at home.

Kate has supported countless people through their end-of-life journeys. She’s helped many patients and their loved ones arrange their own funerals and she’s attended many of these funerals herself. But the one that moved her the most was the simple service for Karen – a woman whose husband couldn’t afford a traditional funeral.

“He didn’t have much money, but he had a lot of love and that reflected in the memorial celebration,” Kate, 49, said of Karen’s husband.

The Armidale, NSW, woman said these kinds of DIY funerals felt more authentic than others that can cost many thousands more. A direct cremation with a personalised service is an affordable funeral solution for people struggling financially.

“Those people that do a GoFundMe [crowdfunding campaign] don’t need to do all that – they can just arrange a direct cremation as a low-cost option,” Kate said.

Preplanning your funeral ensures you’re part of the process

“We would always try and get the people in our hospice care to pre-arrange their funeral, to make it easier for family and friends,” Kate said.

“Planning their funeral helped people die more peacefully if they felt they were part of the process … I’ve seen the best and the worst. The ones that were the best were the ones the patients organised themselves.”

Without any funeral plan, the deceased’s wishes aren’t always made known to the people who cared for them most. And they may not get the send-off they would have really wanted.

“I’ve seen what happens when people don’t organise a funeral ahead of time,” Kate said. “People you really want there may not be invited.”

A woman's teddy bear collection was used to personalise her memorial.
Those who had previously bought Karen a teddy as a gift were asked to take it home to comfort their grief.

Planning a relative or friend’s funeral can sometimes cause arguments among those who may be divided about what they think is best for the deceased. “If the person might have said ‘I would like…’ stated in their Will, it could have saved many arguments,” Kate said.

She experienced this first-hand recently when her former partner passed away interstate. He had nominated his executor more than a decade beforehand, but Kate said the executor lived in a different state and hadn’t been in contact as much as the almost daily contact Kate had. So, when it came time to arrange the funeral, the executor made decisions that Kate didn’t think were fitting with what her former partner would have wanted. A private funeral was arranged at a time that was convenient for the executor, she said, who wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.

“My former partner wanted something small and no fuss, but he got a wall of flowers and a fancy coffin. There was no notice in the paper until the day of the morning funeral so no one had time to read the notice until after the service, and none of the people who really cared about him day-to-day were able to be there.

“As soon as he died, I called anyone I had a number for. I had to rush from the airport to the funeral service by taxi so after that, I took several days to personally visit everyone my former partner held dear. They were devastated – to hear that he had died and also that they haven’t had an opportunity to say goodbye.”

A Bare prepaid cremation keeps things simple

“Witnessing my friend’s funeral situation, my priority was to organise my Bare Cremation,” Kate said.

“Organising a funeral with Bare is really simple. I am not tech-savvy so the wonderful Jacki from Bare organised my direct cremation wishes by phone, which was a huge relief. My executor lives interstate and has ill health, so all they have to do is call Bare when required because I have organised Bare to take care of everything, including disposal of my ashes, to avoid any unnecessary stress.”

Kate has already saved her birth certificate and Will documents electronically onto her Bare file, so there’s no need to track down paperwork later on. “My wishes are clearly articulated, so there will be no arguments with anyone,” she said.

Not only can prepaying your direct cremation save your loved ones the stress, but it also ensures you’ll can “go your own way” with a more personalised celebration of life when the time comes. You might like your own teddy bear farewell. Or perhaps a BBQ by the beach, or a meal at the pub is more your thing. The options are endless.

To get a quote for a prepaid cremation, visit the Bare Cremation website, or call 1800 870 601.

How to plan a memorial

For more ideas on personalising a memorial ceremony, read the following articles: