Do we really need to spend as much as we do on funerals? My answer is pretty simple — no. I think you need to think quickly and be smart when someone passes. Try not to immediately call a funeral director. Obviously, planning in advance is your best option, but if you haven’t done that, take a minute and review the website funerals.org. It’s a fantastic resource and will lead you in a direction you may not expect. First and foremost, you do not need a fancy coffin. Drape a beautiful wooden box with a blanket or decorate the box yourself and that is the best gift you can give your loved one. Imagine burying a Cadillac. Do you really need a Cadillac in the ground? There are so many ways to save in funeral planning. Take a minute and figure out where you can cut costs. If you insist on a burial, insist on one that is low-cost. Utilize free event spaces (your home, apartment, friend’s home, etc. are great for open houses!) and organize a potluck. People want to help you, and you should let them! There is no immediate rush. If your religion tells you to bury the remains quickly, then do that part fast, but plan the life celebration a week from now or two weeks from now… or next summer. Funeral directors like you to rush. They want to make the decisions for you. Slow means savings. In many states, you can transport your loved ones remains yourself. If you live in Illinois like I do, you do have to call someone to come pick up the remains. However, I get to choose which cremation place I want and I can shop around. You have the right as a consumer to ask for prices on the phone. You can take the time (or have a willing friend) to call around and find the best and cheapest services. Not everyone is trying to make a huge buck. It also helps to have your own urn (they will charge you a lot for a ceramic vase). Take a few hours and do some research. You will be excited to find out that you can save money and not spend as much as you thought. You do not have to do embalming. You do not have to say good-bye to an artificial face. If you are Christian, you may like to know that embalming wasn’t exactly looked as a great thing when it started. There was a lot of concern that blood and organs were being damaged and removed. A lot of religions (Judaism and Islam for example) do not want you to separate the body. You can choose to keep the remains cold instead of changing them. You can say good-bye to a gray body instead of a pink one. I know it sounds hard and difficult, but death is not easy. It’s a hard thing to face. I have a hard time writing about it and researching it, but I want to help you think and consider a return to the old. A return to a simpler time around death. Just as we have started to embrace births without medication and with the help of doulas and midwives; we can start to think about death with the help of community, family and life. You are not going to hurt the remains by taking a few minutes to think. Be respectful and consider love. The best weddings I go to are not the most expensive. They are the ones that have the most meaning.
I think it is incredibly difficult to respond to someone passing. It’s hard to be appropriate in New York City during 9-11. It’s hard to know what to say when a friend’s mom passes away. It’s hard to be correct with a response when you find out a loved one has a terminal illness. I think the most important thing is to mean well. If you mean well, you will have done your best. I would refrain from sharing Christian prayers with an atheist. I would look closely at who your audience is, and respond accordingly. I think it is most important to be there with love and support, and then let the friend or loved one guide the conversation. Invite him or her out to a movie, quiet dinner, barbeque… etc. And, most importantly, keep inviting them. It may take a few years for a yes response.
It’s time to ask yourself the question, are you ready to die? It’s a hard one to answer. If you are single, renting an apartment and have few assets to your name, then just make sure you leave around $5,000 for your family to take care of everything. If, however, you are married with kids; own a home and car; you may want to think about what you need. I just bought the program, “Willmaker Premium” by Quicken. I will follow up with a review soon, but I am excited because there is a Living Will option in there, too. It’s best to reveiw everything with an attorney, but to get started, why not spend $50 and get yourself a copy. I have seen them at Costco and Amazon.com. The other nice thing to do for your loved ones, is make sure you are organized. What if you got hit by a car tomorrow? Would your loved ones find files of madness, or a pretty straight-forward system easily accessible. Do you have a power of attorney? Have you thought about these things? The bottom line is, just get organized about death. Plan your funeral if you want. Do you have strong feelings about cremation? Strong ideas about green burial? It’s not that hard to do, and it’s a pretty nice thing to answer questions for your loved ones. If you are a parent, first and foremost, think about your children. At the very least, start asking and answering some questions around the topic.
“I think I survived by running away some. Running away to work. Listen, I know how old I am and that I’m just a shoulder injury from losing roles like the one in ‘Taken,’ the actor told Esquire. “So I stay with the training, I stay with the work. It’s easy enough to plan jobs, to plan a lot of work. That’s effective. But that’s the weird thing about grief. You can’t prepare for it. You think you’re gonna cry and get it over with. You make those plans, but they never work.”
– Liam Neeson to Esquire. He was talking about the loss of his wife, Natasha Richardson
I just read a few job postings on Craigslist for pre-pay funeral plan insurance agents in Chicago. Before you prepay, consider talking to a trusted financial advisor instead of a salesperson.
This is who will be selling to you. Check out this verbiage that caught my eye from the postings:
“Community Service Counselors, an employee agent of SCI (Service Corporation International), represents specific SCI funeral homes to work with consumers to prearrange and prefund their funeral and cemetery arrangements. …Prearranging and prefunding of funeral and cemetery arrangements is a $5 BILLION a year business… the compensation opportunity for the agent is above average… Various incentives are offered to the agents, including an all inclusive trip to a 5 star resort if production targets are achieved…”
“The Golden Memorial Plan
Golden Memorial Insurance Agency/ Lincoln Heritage life Co. is looking for agents. We are looking for Salespeople Who know how to Close. GOLDEN MEMORIAL IS THE #1 FINAL EXPENSE AGENCY IN THE COUNTRY…Looking for someone who has the ABILITY TO CLOSE DEALS…… GOT THIS ABILTY??? YOU WILL BE UNSTOPABLE HERE… INCOME POTENTIAL.. UNLIMITED !!!
What We Offer:
- Same day advances
- Liberal underwriting
- Exotic incentive trips ”
Next time they call you, just say, “I think I will plan my own exotic trip – not yours.” Click.
I want you to remember that you can rent caskets, and maybe the corny graphic to the left will provide a visual reminder to you later. I think it’s incredibly difficult to remember everything you have to do when you are in the midst of planning a life celebration or funeral.
Here’s the good news, you can save yourself $5,000+ and refrain from purchasing a fancy casket for your Dear Aunt Betsy’s burial. The bad news is, unfortunately, not ALL funeral homes rent caskets, but many do, and it may be worth it to you to ask. A funeral home may still charge you $600+ sometimes to borrow their caskets, but, it’s a lot better than paying $4,500. Sometimes family members buy a fancy casket for wakes, and then opt to cremate their loved ones in a separate cremation container.
There are no warranties with caskets. None. Zero. Zilch. No warranties for fancier caskets, “sealed” caskets, gold caskets, metal caskets, etc. Read the fine print. Once your loved one’s remains are buried, you will not ever (hopefully) see the casket again, and it’s worth it to consider renting a casket and then opting for a more eco-friendly wooden burial container for the earth. Renting is definitely your greenest and most economical option if you are interested in a wake or service with a traditional casket.
Just a reminder. You have the legal right to ask for a price list before you even set foot in a funeral home. Funeral Directors, by law, are required to give you price information over the telephone.
Consider stepping up the basic funeral program with a more elegant design on cotton rag paper, or even just a creative piece printed on normal paper. Add a colored ribbon or paste an actual photograph on one side, so you are giving your friends something they can hold onto when they leave the service. The other option would be to send out a memorial announcement on the one-year anniversary of their passing. There are times when you can’t reach people by phone, and mail is certainly better than e-mail.
When someone close to me dies, I generally try and call their friends and family. The news spreads fast these days with internet chat groups, social networking websites, and e-mail, but I am kind of a traditionalist. The phone and snail mail, are my preferred choices for letting people know. If mourners are unable to attend the service, it can be nice to follow up with an announcement of sorts. Even just a custom card with a photograph on the outside would be lovely.
At Wake the Memory, LLC, we are able to help you design and coordinate printing your funeral programs, announcements, thank you notes, etc. If you are local to the United States, we are also available to call your loved ones for you if you want to provide us with a list. We know that it can be difficult to pick up the telephone and tell the same story over and over again. We are here for you and know how difficult it can be to do everything by yourself.
Photo Credit: www.karianna.us
Our babysitter’s grandmother died yesterday, and her little sister remarked, “We will never have that jell-o again!” She was talking about the flavorless jell-o their grandmother used to make, and it made everyone laugh as they thought about the neon red dessert. Instead of letting the jell-o recipe rest, the family has decided to create a feast of memories. They plan to prepare and eat all of their grandmother’s favorite foods (including the jell-o) this weekend as part of their ritual to say good-bye to her.
What a wonderful idea.
Here is an example of a prayer card I designed to be easily printed on a 5 x 7 piece of photo paper. If you would like to order something like this, please click here: Email Me or visit my contact page and fill out the contact form. I can design a custom card for you quickly or you can use this exact design. My rates vary, but are extremely reasonable and I respond quickly! I know that funeral planning can be fast and difficult. My job is to make it as easy as possible for you. I like to design prayer or obituary cards for easy printing at your local one-hour photo lab so that you do not have to wait. If you want to include a picture of your loved one, I would have you e-mail me a photo and we could start from there.
I was at Barnes and Noble the other day on Clybourn and Webster, and I noticed a wonderful serenity journal. Unfortunately, it is on their website for all to order, but the one above is similar from Amazon.com. Anyway, it got me thinking. There are two things that allow me to release emotion with ease. One: painting. Two: writing. I think journaling is an important way to allow yourself to grieve. Losing a loved one is beyond difficult. Write about that person. Draw and think about that person. Doodle. Put together a scrapbook. I’ll talk more about scrapbooking soon, but for now, go buy a journal or rustle up a few pieces of scrap paper and punch three holes in it when your done. It can even be a spiral notebook from the Dollar Store. Write your loved one’s name on the cover and make that book about him or her. Write about him. Remember her. Anything that comes to mind… write it down. Then, when the tears stop flowing easily, you can open your book and visit your friend again through your memories.