You Have to Start Somewhere
Welcome to my first blog! I will start off by telling you that it has been a long winding road to come to the decision to write a blog. “Who would want to read about funerals?” was my thought for a long time. After some long debates and second and triple guessing myself I reminded myself of one thing, I have always believed that, to borrow a line from the old Syms Commercials, “An educated consumer is our best customer” so how could I want an educated consumer without taking any steps to try to educate.
So I will try to use this space to update you occasionally on different topics in the funeral world. I will try to dispel rumors, confirm facts, and hopefully teach you something along the way. As we journey through this together I would hope that you chime in and let me know your thoughts, ask me your questions, or share your experiences.
Your Funeral . . . Surprisingly Not About You
As a funeral director, people often come to me and tell me what they want for their funeral. Most of the time they talk about how they don’t want any services. “Just cremate me and throw me away,” or “I don’t want a big fuss made about me,” they say. With all due respect, your funeral is not about you. Your funeral is about how your family gets a chance to say goodbye.
I am not trying to say that direct disposition of a deceased is not appropriate. I am saying that neglecting any type of memorial service may not be in the best interest of those you leave behind.
To illustrate my point a little more clearly, let’s take a look at what happens in some households where there has been the death of a pet. As an example, we will use a fish. We wake up one morning to see the family guppy has gone to Davey Jones’ Locker. After a few uncomfortable questions from the kids, you proceed to the bathroom, and after a few words and some warm remembrances, we send little guppy to the great beyond. That, my friends, is a simple but yet meaningful funeral. Why should we consider doing anything less than that for someone who has a profound impact on our lives?
“So John, what is the real point here?” I hear you thinking as you read this. My point is simple. Before you talk about what you want for your funeral, talk to your family and see how they might want to
Cremation—The Other Type of Disposition
Cremation is probably the topic I get asked about the most. Although just about everyone has had some sort of experience with cremation, I find that not everyone really knows a lot about it. So let me start with some surprising facts:
1) Cremation, although considered a form of disposition of human remains, is NOT considered the final disposition. Some sort of plan should be made for the permanent resting place.
2) At one time, cremation was forbidden by the Catholic Church. It was originally viewed as a pagan practice, but in 1983 it became embraced by the religion. In 1997, they started to allow funeral masses with cremated remains in lieu of casketed remains.
3) Selecting cremation does not affect the services you wish to have prior to or after cremation occurs.
4) In general, when a cremation is complete, the cremated remains weigh roughly between 3 to 9 pounds.
5) The term, cremated remains, is used instead of ashes because when the cremation is complete, bone fragments are still present.
6) The cremation chamber (retort) reaches 1400 to 1800 degrees.
7) Any type of radioactive implant, pacemaker, or silicone implant must be removed prior to cremation, as those products tend to explode.
8) It is possible to cremate a metal casket, but this practice is highly discouraged.
9) There are few laws that cover the scattering of cremated remains…most laws pertain to scattering at sea.
10) After the cremation is complete, a funeral director is not needed if you wish to plan any other services, including burying the cremated remains.
So now that we have some facts out of the way, let’s talk about the advantages of cremation. The first obvious advantage is cost. Your average burial can run from $8,000 to $16,000, depending on the selections you make. Cremations can run from $2,000 to $8,000, again depending on the selections you make.
The second advantage is the fact that there is literally no end to the types of services you can have or how long you can have them. For example, you have a death that occurs in the dead of winter, and you want to have someone buried but the weather is a major factor in scheduling. With cremation, we can “complete” your services in a timely manner and schedule the inurnment for a time in the spring or summer when the weather is more conducive. Maybe you want to bury someone on an anniversary or birthday. That can be easily accomplished. Maybe it’s something as simple as you want to keep the person at home until such time as you are more ready to say goodbye.
I want to take a second here to focus on the first fact I mentioned in the beginning. Cremation, although a form of disposition, is not considered a final disposition. Let me explain further. Many people have come to me and arranged for a cremation, and when I ask what they plan to do with the cremated remains, they look back at me with a blank stare often saying that they haven’t thought about it. My recommendation is to either bury or scatter cremated remains. I say this for a few reasons. One reason being that I have heard how cremated remains had ended up in a closet or even a trunk of a car. Worse yet, I have heard of cremated remains being passed down through families only to find that one day someone, not knowing what the container was, threw them out. So my suggestion is to do something meaningful with them before something unintended happens.
Now let’s talk about cremation services and what they can be. Services surrounding a cremation can happen one of two ways—services prior to or immediately after the cremation occurs. The services can be remarkably similar in the sense that they both can have a visitation or a religious service and a burial, if needed. The advantage of having the cremation first means that if you wanted the visitation, it could be in your home during a party, on the beach, or during the deceased’s favorite sports team’s crucial game. The possibilities are endless. If you choose the services before the funeral, you will have a more traditional type feel, but the choice is yours.
I want to sum up by saying that as a funeral director, I see value in any type of funeral a family needs in order for them to feel like they have done the best they can in memory of their loved one. Having said that, I see a huge benefit to those families who choose cremation because of the options it affords them.