Making Final Arrangements

While we are raising our children, the last thing we want to consider is our death. It is far too important that we remain here to care for our family! However, if you are like me, you have been forced to consider this possibility the moment you were diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. The illness does not seem to care that we are raising children. Some of us, I am sure, are far too busy fighting to stay alive to worry about planning a funeral. In fact, wouldn’t planning a funeral admit that we have given up on the fight? For me, it has been quite the opposite. I have found comfort in the fact that my funeral and the accompanying details have been handled. I even wrote a letter for my memorial service. This is one burden I believe I can handle for my family, so they will not have to do it themselves. If this is something you might want to tackle, here are a few things to think about. You might make some notes for your family, so they know your wishes, or you might want to set everything up yourself. I was amazed at all I could plan not knowing if I would be here for months or for decades. 
This document provides suggestions that were given to Inheritance of Hope by professionals as the most important things that must be handled after the death of a loved one. I will list them, and then I will add my own thoughts.
I know this is a difficult topic to think about, I really do. Randy Pausch, the author of The Last Lecture, and a young parent who passed away from pancreatic cancer, once said about his terminal illness: “Someone’s going to push my family off a cliff pretty soon and I won’t be there to catch them …. But I have some time to sew some nets to cushion the fall so that seems like the best and highest use of my time and I better get to work.” I believe these suggestions are one small way to sew those nets for your family. May God bless you in your net-building.
Kristen Milligan (1973-2012)
Inheritance of Hope Co-Founder


Call over a close friend or family member for support and help

I have already talked to those people I feel would comfort my husband and my children the most. They were honored to be asked, and I have found that many people hesitate to reach out when they are uncomfortable, which seems inevitable after a death. My friends, since they have been asked by me, will take their jobs very seriously! Furthermore, I have specifically asked those moms I adore the most to stay involved with my children. This gives me hope that wonderful women, who knew me, will always be a part of their lives.

Call funeral director, who will help with many details

I called our funeral director regarding my own funeral. I discovered it is not uncommon for a funeral to be both planned and paid for by a person before their death. Cremation, burial, coffin, flowers, etc. are all decisions you can make, allowing your family to grieve instead of make these decisions after your death. Be sure to have a conversation to explore your burial desires. Perhaps you want forego many of these decisions by having your ashes scattered at a place that is special to you and your family. In this case the funeral director is only needed for the cremation. Whatever you decide, communication is important in the process.

Locate wills and other documents

If these documents are not already together, I would strongly suggest gathering them together and making sure your spouse or other loved ones know exactly where they are. I have seen families lose the one who is the keeper of these papers, and chaos often ensues if no one knows where to look or what to look for.

Call priest or pastor to set up a service

It was important to me to have the pastor I felt closest to officiating my memorial service, and it was important to me to have this service in our church. These are decisions that are personal to you and your family, and can easily be made now. Even if you were not ill, don’t you think it would be a good idea to share this information with someone? It is ideal if you are able to talk with your spouse, your older children, or your loved ones about these decisions. I tried to remember in my planning that these events are really about comforting them, not me! I also decided I would like to write a letter to be read at my funeral. I believe this will be a powerful way to share what is most important to me with my family and friends.

Call family/friends with notification and information on services

If you have a page through a website like or, this is the easiest way to let people know of funerals, visitations, or memorial services. If you do not have this, I suggest speaking to a friend about making these calls so your family will not have to do it. Perhaps you could make up a list of names and numbers to make sure no one is missed and not informed.

Designate a beneficiary of memorials

People who are grieving the loss of a loved one often forget to designate an organization that may benefit from donations made in honor of someone who passed away. This is a wonderful opportunity to greatly bless an organization that has importance to you or your family. Consider sharing an organization with your funeral director, your loved ones, or write it down with other instructions for after you are gone. I, of course, have planned for Inheritance of Hope to receive donations in lieu of flowers! If you would like to do so as well, you can request that donations be made in lieu of flowers to Inheritance of Hope at or PO Box 90, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768.

Notify newspaper

I have written my own obituary – does that sound awful? I want to spare my husband that responsibility, but I admit it was a little bit fun. I could share what was most important to me. I found some simple examples on the internet, and I read a few obituaries to see what I liked the most. It felt good to have it done and put in an envelope with the other information my husband would need if I were to pass away first.
Visit to view Kristen’s obituary.

Call social security, life insurance, & lawyer, if applicable

"A Letter to be Read at My Memorial Service”

by Kristen Milligan (Revised February, 2012)

Dear loved ones,
As I write this I admit feeling a little sad. Sad because my greatest earthly desire was to grow old with Deric … 17 years of marriage was not nearly long enough. Sad because it is a mother’s job to be there to comfort her child when that child experiences her first broken heart, or when he sits on the bench during a much anticipated game. Sad because my heart hurts to think I will not be there to share in my children’s joys and inevitable accomplishments, their weddings, or for the births of their own children. Sad to leave my mom and my sister with yet another loss after the premature death of my dad. Despite the sadness this illness has brought, when I consider my life I quickly realize that God has blessed me abundantly … how can I feel anything except overwhelming thankfulness?
I have recently embraced 1Thessalonians 5:16-18, which reads “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus!” I have learned to be thankful, even for this cancer, and today is certainly a day to rejoice. Today I am home, holding the hand of my earthly father and standing in the presence of our almighty and most loving God. No regrets … I have done all I ever dreamed of, and I have been loved more than any one person deserves. I know today I am more joyous than any day experienced on earth, though this is difficult for me to imagine, as my life was most certainly a joyous one. I had wonderful parents, who raised me in a home full of love, security, encouragement, and humor. I had a marvelous twin sister who encouraged me to pursue interests of which I never thought myself capable. Eventually, I discovered the love of my life in a handsome, intelligent, and immensely gifted trumpet player. He has treated me like the princess I never before believed myself to be. I was embraced by his family, who have treated me as if I were always meant to be their daughter, their sister, their aunt. And then our lives were blessed even further by three beautiful little people … Ashlea, Luke, and Rebecca. The sun truly seems to shine brighter every day they are a part of this world.
The past several years have been an adventure for our family. My illness has created uncertainty in our lives, but we have had the privilege of being loved and served by a multitude of generous friends and strangers. From meals, to house cleaning, to the juicing of carrots, to thoughtful cards and faithful prayers, to scrapbooking, and so much more. These selfless acts have not only made our lives more manageable, they have brought smiles and great joy. I long ago lost track of the thank you letters I had sent and those that never made it to the mailbox or even onto paper. Please accept my belated, yet heartfelt gratitude for all you have done and know what great peace and joy you brought to my life and to my family.
I do, however, boldly ask for just a bit more. My dear friends, Jill and Lisa, have long insisted that to allow people to serve me in my time of struggle was to bless them. So I am taking this last opportunity to bless you! Though my days of needing you are passed, I ask that you continue to reach out to my family. Though it is a day to rejoice for me, their earthly struggle continues. I understand that it may be awkward, that you may feel uncomfortable because you do not know what to say or do. But I assure you, your presence alone will be a great comfort to my husband and my children. Deric needs hugs more than anyone would guess, and my sometimes quiet children will gain great strength from your expressions of care and support.
Allow God to lead you. He knows just what they need.
One last request is for Inheritance of Hope, and for the families that have so touched our lives. You see, Deric and I resisted initiating this ministry, thinking it took all we had to survive our own struggle. When we could resist no longer, we learned that God was pushing us to start this ministry because He knew it would bless us! And it has … so profoundly.
More than anything, Deric and I want to continue bringing these families together, loving and supporting them, and introducing to or reminding many of what has given us such great joy, hope, and peace during our trial … our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Please continue to support Inheritance of Hope as we work to serve these families, whether it be as a retreat volunteer, a prayer warrior, or as a financial supporter. I understand that there are so many causes worthy of our time and money; but, if you know of anyone who might feel called to support a ministry like ours, please share with them the mission of Inheritance of Hope.
Though we have been overwhelmed with thankfulness for the support of so many, I know without
hesitation that it has been Christ, and Christ alone, who has given us both a peace that passes
understanding and an indescribable joy these recent years. As I struggled with this cancer, determined to stay with my family for as long as possible, I have felt my heart soar with a joy I had not known before becoming ill. How was this possible as the doctors insisted I was dying? I have found that there is only one possible answer … it was the loving hand of God that blessed me and strengthened me and loved me with an intensity I had never felt before entering the fire. Job explains in chapter 42, verse 5, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” This has been true for me. This cancer has allowed me to truly see our great and merciful God. Nothing could be more of a blessing here on this earth, don’t you think?
I have learned in my life simply that I don’t know much. In fact, I seem to understand less and less each day; however, there is one truth that has become overwhelmingly clear. Christ is real, and He loves you, and He wants to bring you hope and joy. Not happiness which comes when our circumstances are pleasant, but a divine joy that overshadows whatever circumstances we might face in this lifetime. Ashlea, Luke, and Rebecca … God is not limited by death, and he will never leave you as I have been forced to do. He loves you more perfectly than I ever could, which must be an amazing love, for I have loved you three and your father with everything that I am. Trust God, little ones, as He has great joy and great blessings planned for you! “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future.”
Lastly, I just want you all to know that I adore you. I have been blessed by God through you beyond measure, and as you hear this I am telling God face to face how thankful I am for each of you.
May God bless you and keep you as you continue your journey, and if God allows, know I will be waiting to welcome you home.
Much love,
PO Box 90
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768
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