THE BLOG
11/26/2014 11:07 am ET Updated Jan 26, 2015

9 Questions to Ask Friends and Family at Thanksgiving

So, what to talk about at Thanksgiving dinner, when you are sitting indoors because the bad weather canceled the touch football game, washing dishes, or watching an NFL blowout?

Politics? Probably not.

Sports? That could be dangerous.

Religion? Who's been to church or a religious service lately?

What if I told you there was a way for you to have civil and even inspired conversation before, during, and after mealtime?

Think about your family members. You know how much they get under your skin or how their politics might not mesh with yours. But...

Do you know what music is important to them?

Do they know what music is important to you?

What words do your siblings cherish?

What causes do your aunts and uncles care about?

Where is your parents' favorite place on earth?

Consider this: On Thanksgiving, have all your family members plan their funerals at the dinner table.

What? No way! Why would you suggest that? How morbid!

Maybe. But look, this day will come, so you might as well give it some thought. In the process, you can share and get answers to all of these questions and learn about the people you love (but who might be driving you crazy, especially if the weather is going to keep us all indoors). Why not plan the most important party you will never attend and, in the process, learn something about other family members and perhaps yourself!

And boy does the information come in handy!

I learned this from my dad. My dad had planned out his funeral years before he died. When he dropped dead, we knew exactly what he wanted. Every sibling had the instructions, and, just in case we were not paying attention, there was a copy in his top drawer.

The instructions went so far as to state when the service should be. At least one Sunday was to pass before we held the service so that church members were sure to be in the know.

The Exercise
I am leaving out the hard stuff, like who you want to give your money to, whether you want to be cremated, and instructions on a living will. I did stick in the question of whether or not you want to be an organ donor, because we should all ask that question. But instead, let's stick to the fun stuff. So here goes:

Where do you want the service to be held? Place is important.

Who do you want to lead the service? If you don't have someone in mind, it might not be a bad time to identify that person. Otherwise, you might get stuck with a dud. It happens. I know I have seen it, and it's not pretty.

What music do you want played? And is there someone you want to play it?

What pieces of sacred text and/or literature do you want read and/or printed? To paraphrase Forrest Gump, you can tell a lot about people by their favorite readings!

Do you want there to be songs/hymns sung? What are they? Why do you love them?

Who do you want to speak at the funeral? Please, no more than three.

What do you want people to remember about you? Learn what people are proud of.

Who do you want the memorial gifts (in lieu of flowers) to go to? Find out what causes people care about.

Where do you want to be buried/scattered? You will be surprised.

An added bonus: When people are talking about their own memorial services, others around the table will be more interested, civil, and indeed, kind. Not a bad way to spend Thanksgiving Day.

Don't forget at the end of the weekend to write this stuff down, put it in a manila folder, and stick it in the left hand drawer of your desk with the words written on the cover "When it's my time."