Funerals: Know Before You Go

Three times in my life I’ve shopped  for a casket and all the accessories that come with a Me with toe tagfuneral . Each occasion was out of need, which isn’t always the best time to make well-thought out decisions.  I must’ve been more discombobulated than I thought because I didn’t journal anything about the experiences at the time.

(I did jot a few notes about  Uncle Mert getting bent out of shape because he was left out of the loop . He felt he should’ve been consulted about funeral decisions [casket, flowers, etc] now that he’d inherited the role of the oldest  person in the extended family. No. He wasn’t paying for anything. He just wanted to weigh in on everything.  Note to self: People get a bit bonky when family dynamics change.)

So I started  research for my third book.  (I don’t advertise my books here, if you want to know about them email me, and I’ll help you find my pen name. )

My rather eccentric characters are dealing with end of life and  old age shenanigans.  Unfortunately, out of all of my real-life see-ya-in-heaven-send-offs that we had for the wingdings in my family…my recollections are fuzzy on details.

So…back to the funeral home for research.Coffin Montage copy

I have to say…it’s a bit more interesting to shop for a casket, when I don’t have anyone to wear it. I thought I’d pass along a few discoveries that may help you if you’re ever funeral shopping or conversation stalls out over coffee meetings.

Your only choices aren’t  in the mortuary’s showroom.
You can order your caskets  and urns from Costco, Wal-Mart, or direct from the manufacturer.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Sometimes they even have sales and discounts.  They try to ship within 24 hours. Usually shipping fees are included in the price.  The Federal Trade Commission’s  Funeral Rule prohibits the mortuary from rejecting the shipment.

Not available at retailers, this custom-crafted coffin/coffee table by Charles Constantine is functional and elegantly styled.

Not available at retailers, this custom-crafted coffin/coffee table by Charles Constantine is functional and elegantly styled.

Can you take home delivery?  Why, yes you can.  If you’re not planning on using it for a few years, storage is up to you.

BUT WAIT!  Don’t get all excited and start spending the money you’ll save on your funeral while you’re still alive.  Costco only delivers to 37 states.  WalMart delivers to even fewer, and not all zip codes.   You may need to move to a different part of the country before you exit this earth in order to get a good deal.

I Think I’ll Just Rent

For a reduced fee, you can get a specially made Rental casket: a fancy box around a simple inner container.  Think of it like an apartment. The walls stay, but the tenants keep changing. It’s suitable for viewing. It should please even Uncle Mert (in case you didn’t get his opinion about the coffin beforehand.)

They Aren’t Just Ashes Anymore

For about $3K, ashes can be compressed into gemstones of different colors (image not included)

For about $3K, ashes can be compressed into gemstones of different colors (image not included)

I was discussing the subject of death and burials at a recent gathering and a friend confessed that her Granddad’s cremains had been in a desk drawer for the last 10 years.  They just hadn’t gotten around to scattering him yet.  Which opened the door to numerous true confessions. A lot of ashes hadn’t ended up where they were intended.

Me-on-the-Moon

Now there can be a Man in the Moon AND a WOMAN in the moon!

Now, in the 21st Century, ashes can be put to good use besides fertilizer and mantle decor. They can be pressured into a diamond.  Added to an underwater reef.  Or they can be shot by satellite into Earth orbit, or the lunar surface, or deep space.  The next launch is June 21st…so hurry and get your ticket.  The literature says you can “help make the dream of spaceflight a reality”  (Nevermind, the dream actually ended when the person stopped dreaming and died.)

Which brings us to the last piece of interesting advice…

Ignore anyone at the mortuary  (or your Uncle Mert) who Tells You… “This is the last thing you can do for your loved one.”

I had to think about this for a moment and finally realized:

What Can I Really Do For The Deceased? Smiley

They’re gone.  They don’t know if I built a monument or if I divvied up the ashes among all family member so everyone could finally have a piece of them.  If I’m really honest, I’m doing it for me.  If I’m actually going to do something for the dead…

I Need to Do It While They’re Still Living.

That kind of puts it all in perspective, doesn’t it?  All the blogging, writing, gardening, eating, traveling….

All the little pieces—some jagged, some smooth—that make life (not death) shouldn’t be put off.

The Rev. Brian Bergin holds the fireworks shell that contains his father's (Rev. George Bergin) ashes.

The Rev. Brian Bergin holds the fireworks shell that contains his father’s (Rev. George Bergin) ashes.

So, excuse me. I’m going over to spend time with Uncle Mert.  I want to tell him about a Lutheran pastor who loved fireworks so much, he asked his son to load his cremains into one.

According to USA Today “the burst should be a trail of sparks and at the end of each comet trail, there will be a little cross-shaped burst.”

WaaaHoo!

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About Barb

I escaped from a hardscrabble farm in Oklahoma. I'm not sure why people think I have an accent. I miss the sunshine, but not the fried foods.
This entry was posted in Change, Choices, Humor, Life, Worries, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Funerals: Know Before You Go

  1. xtremeenglish says:

    I’ve forgotten how funny you are. Loved the “his” and “hers” lists. And the coffins!

  2. Aly Evans says:

    My husband makes cremation marbles, pendants, and paperweights. He has made hundreds of special memorials and people always really seem to appreciate them. You can check out his work on his website: http://cremationmarbles.com/

    • Barb says:

      I usually don’t allow links in the comments, but I went to the site and these were quite beautiful and sentimental in a charming sort of way. Thanks for sharing and good luck.

  3. Thanks for giving me a head start. I know that one day I have to face something like this. Now, let me see what captures my fancy…hmmm? Can’t decide yet, too many points to consider like budget.

  4. I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award! Hopefully I’m doing it right and you’ve not got it yet. If you already have, take it as a token of my admiration (?) and award yourself the [insertawardhere] trophy. Good enough.

  5. dorannrule says:

    I have nominated you for the Super Sweet Blogging Award! Go to http://countryliving4beginners.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/a-super-sweet-award/ for rules and regulations! :) ~Dor

  6. JSD says:

    I actually like the idea of the ‘green’ burials. I don’t know if that’s the proper name, but my understanding is that there is no embalming, no casket, they just wrap you up and bury you with the intent that nature takes it’s course and we will return to the earth. Sounds just what I did when my beloved dog Susie died. I wrapped her in my son’s Mickey Mouse sheet, and we buried her under an oak tree.
    As for donating, my parents told me they wanted that, but when Dad died, we insisted on a very brief visitation, service, then cremation. We (and the funeral home staff) were shocked at how many people came to pay their respects, even our city’s mayor. My mother told me afterwards that she was real glad we talked her out of the donation.
    Great post, Barb, as usual. Now how do I get to your books?

    • Barb says:

      What a wonderful tribute to your dad that he’d touched so many lives. And how kind of you to provide a way to say goodbye. Actually JSD your comments and some of the others have really helped me on the research I’m doing. I need people’s reactions and decisions when death occurs. Thanks.

      I’ll email you with the pen name and book link. Thanks.

  7. Nisha says:

    I’ve heard of ghosts who have come back to haunt their love ones because the funeral requests that they made when they were alive were not being fulfilled. So they might be gone but it’s always a good idea to give them a good send-off, just in case…

    • Barb says:

      Pffffttt!!! If I have to come back, I’m riding roller coasters, bungee jumping and doing stuff in which I won’t have to worry about dying because I’m already dead. Haunting sounds like too much work.

  8. It’s good to be prepared. So thank you, Barb, for the heads up on what to expect. I still get miffed when I get calendars from a local mortuary. :-)

    Even though I’ve given up on the idea of a cemetery plot, I am still searching for the perfect one liner for the headstone: “I told you I was sick” has already been taken. “Leave a comment” might be appropriate for a blogger. Any takers?

  9. Now THAT’s the way I’d like to go, Barb. What a fantabulous idea.

    • Barb says:

      Kate, knowing you… you’ll be resting in a cornerstone of one of those wonderful places you share with us. Do you think you can get into Downtown Abbey.?

  10. pegoleg says:

    “it’s a bit more interesting to shop for a casket, when I don’t have anyone to wear it. ” ha ha! Funny but true.

    I took my 80+ mother-in-law out for dinner yesterday and we got to talking about final wishes. She was very definite about not wanting a long obituary in the paper, and not wanting a visitation except family, and wanting to be cremated, etc, etc. Of course I’m sure we’ll do everything she wants, but I couldn’t hep gently saying “A funeral and visitation is for the benefit of the living. My family can do whatever brings THEM comfort when I’m gone. I don’t really care what they do – I won’t be there.”

    • Barb says:

      I’ve always thought you were a brilliant woman. I mean… what would any of us do if we were buried in a coffin that advertised Starbucks on the side ( to help defay funeral expenses, of course). We’re gone and celebrating. new bodies and not having to pay taxes anymore.

  11. momaescriva says:

    You really don’t know what it’s all about until you go through it. However, there is always something funny and far out that comes from planning a funeral.. True story. When my dad died, my brother and I took care of all the details, from meeting with the FD (funeral director) to picking out the box, etc. Now, you have to know that my brother didn’t live in Portland but in Eugene. I’m not sure if we picked a NFD (that’s a newbie funeral director) but when dad’s obit was printed in the paper, we suddenly got a new sibling. It read: survivors included, me, my brother Dick, and another brother, Eugene. Needless to say we had a lot of ‘splaning to do to everyone including my mother who wondered if my brother and I kept something from her.

  12. souldipper says:

    Great post, Barb. And what’s this being coy about your books? I agree with Jean – post them right up front. What have you got to lose? Well, wait a minute…did you write some nasties about close friends and family?? :D

    An Aide at the hospital where my mom died told me about this group of people who do “discount funerals” because they can’t stand folks being hijacked at the height of emotion. Because mom was being cremated, they ordered a smart coffin of heavy cardboard that looked like wood. Made total sense to all of us in the family – especially since we knew cremation was mother’s second choice. She actually wanted to be burned on a pyre in a boat on the ocean. I asked her if she wanted her kids to spend time in jail and tried to divert her by suggesting we shoot her out of a canon over the harbour. She didn’t like loud noises, she said with a twinkle.

    I don’t know what I’m going to end up deciding…I can’t stand the idea of being buried and the thought of being slid into an incinerator is ghastly. I like the firecracker idea!

    • Barb says:

      We have this huge mausoleum which has room upon room of crypts. The place is quite fascinating not only because of the deceaseds’ creative repositorys (urns that look like books, statues, and landscapes) but because of the loving mementos the living have left at the crypts: boxes of chocolates, crayon pictures, beaded friendship bracelets. It’s very touching to see that people find comfort in knowing where their loved ones are taking a last slumber. I’m finding we’re quirky when it comes to the rituals of death. I think your Mom’s sense of humor was perfect.

  13. colonialist says:

    Expensive caskets to be buried or burnt are bonkers. It is nice for surviving relations to have somewhere to think about/pay respects to the deceased, and graves fill this need. Also, a kind of commemoration, although less and less these days. Old ones are valuable in genealogy.
    Don’t see why you don’t put a link to your books on a sidebar widget? Authors should not be shrinking violets.

    • Barb says:

      Yes, it’s strange when you think about it. We bury thousands of dollars by investing in an 18-guage steel box. I was surprised to learn that none of them are perfectly sealed. Nor does embalming last forever. We all return to dust and ashes, eventually. It puts everything in perspective when I’m trying to decide if I want one more chocolate chip cookie.

  14. winsomebella says:

    I am all for making the effort while they live. Though, as in cases like Uncle Mert, time spent may shorten your own lifespan :-).

  15. I don’t think anyone would be offended if you listed the titles of your books on your About page. That’s only the mildest of advertising, girl.

  16. Fireworks, huh? Talk about going out in a blaze of glory. There’s even a place (In Alabama, if I remember right) that will load your cremains into ammunition, both in shotgun shells, and in bullets. (That way, Bubba can make it to one more hunting trip, I reckon.)

    Great post! The very worst time to deal with all those funeral decisions is at the time of need. Your head is spinning, your heart is broken, and funeral dude Lurch wants you to buy the most expensive casket in the showroom… to show your love for the dearly departed. Just stuff me, and let me sit in front of the TV as the resident couch potato.

    • Barb says:

      I think with the name of your blog…you need to be a couch YAM (Susan writes the highly inquisitive: I think; therefore I Yam blog).
      Yes…I found the cremains/ammunition company. It’s called…wait for it…Holy Smoke. No kidding. And just as you say, for $850 they’ll load a pound of your loved one into shells. I’m not sure what you do with the ammo. I reckon you’re right…it’s for one more hunt. Knowing my Uncle Mert, he’d sit outside and shoot gophers.
      I also found a place that sells camouflage caskets. You can’t make this stuff up.

  17. grins says:

    There is an old song John Prine did about him dying. He parts out himself. He gives eyes to blind, stomach to a beer Co.etc. but my favorite line is throw my brain to a hurricane. Considering the state of my lawn, I think I’d just as soon be turned to mulch. Sorry I can’t work too much on my blog lately. My shoulder makes it hard to type. Miss you, Grins.

    • Barb says:

      Let’s be real honest here. Yardwork is HIGHLY overrated. Put another chair on the porch. I’ll join you in working on that beer contribution.
      I just heard the song “Oh Buttermilk Sky” last week, but you’ve just given me a new favorite. I can’t wait to learn it on guitar. John Prine: Please Don’t Bury Me.

  18. digipicsphotography says:

    Great post. I’ve had to deal with that in the past with my parents. Not fun. But I was fortunate when my mother died. I picked a Funeral home out of the phone book and they were so helpful. They also didn’t try to sell me the most expensive thing they had and they handled transferring her body to Memphis where my dad is buried. i didn’t have a chance to research funeral homes at the time, but I got lucky and picked a good one, randomly.

    • digipicsphotography says:

      Oh, and BTW, I am the type of person who doesn’t give a flip who I offend when I’m the one doing all the work (funeral expenses, etc.)

      • Barb says:

        It’s amazing how many people get their nose out of joint by something that happens at a wedding, a funeral, or other life-changing event. You’re right. It’s best to nod and chalk it up to our relatives being irascible yonks. I can’t wait to be one of the yonks at somebody else’s event some day.

  19. Pingback: Friday Foolishness – Idyllic Edition | Guapola

  20. rose l. says:

    There is also memorial jewelry which holds a little bit of cremains. You can spread the rest in a special place while keeping a little close to your heart to ease the separation.

    • Barb says:

      Rose, What are you still doing up? Thanks for the info. I saw teeeeny-tiny urns so everyone could have a cup-ful of the cremains for their mantle, but I hadn’t heard about the jewelry.

  21. It is always a delight to come and visit you. My brain is out to lunch and didn’t invite me, so I am going to apologise in advance in case I make even less sense than usual.
    1. Brag about your books woman. We want to know! Really.
    2. The two funerals I somehow acquired responsibility for were done on the cheap. No, neither of them were cremated on high gloss satin. Neither of them wore it alive, and I saw no reason for it in death.
    3. I want an eco-funeral. I want to buried in a (quickly) bio-degradable casket and I would like a tree planted above me. No memorial stones – a tree for the birds to shelter in is much more bettter.
    4. If you want to criticise my arrangements feel free to take over the responsibility. I would rather contemplate the fluff in my navel than arrange a funeral.
    5. As usual, a brilliant post. Thank you.

    • Barb says:

      I wish there wasn’t an ocean between us, Sue. I’d be over at your place often, getting some home-cooked advice. I didn’t take the space to go into the bio-degradable caskets/baskets/cardboard boxes, but you’re right, it’s becoming a strong personal choice. Here in Oregon we even have a final resting place which requires no coffin. Just skin to earth. Your attitude makes me think of my favorite story that I’ve gleaned about funerals. A woman’s family took her to the mortuary for a pre-planning session. When they kept urging her to pick out different funeral “packages”, she just smiled, winked, and said, “Surprise me.”

  22. El Guapo says:

    I like the fireworks or the reef idea.
    Of course, none of that matters since I’m going to live forever.

    • Barb says:

      I just watched a documentary about long life. They think they’ve found the genes that fight off disease and inflammation, allowing cells to heal and regenerate better. So, yes, Guapsterola. It’s possible you and Iron Man, Tony Starks, will live forever. You’d be a welcome addition to the gene pool. HIm?…I’m not so sure. Be sure to procreate. Keep those genes going.

      And I’m very touched you dropped by my blog door to check on me. That was very kind of you. May you live long and prosper. (Didn’t Vulcans live a long time, too? Are you part Vulcan?)

  23. Margie says:

    I kind of like the idea of the gem – a blood diamond, but not with the same stigma.

    • Barb says:

      It’s an interesting idea, isn’t it? Especially when you consider that a lot of jewelry becomes an heirloom and is passed along generations. I know some people that should be molded into MOOD rings, instead of gemstones.

  24. Al says:

    How ironic! Since it had been so long since your last post, I thought you had passed. Just yesterday I went ahead and ordered one for you (actually, my long lost, great uncle died also and there was a two for one special). I’ll call right away to stop shipment…….let’s see now, where did I put that “Coffins ‘r Us” number?”…..

    P.S. – Glad you’re not dead.

    • Barb says:

      All, honey…just let the shipment deliver to my door. I’m sure it’s better than the IKEA Do-It-Yourself Coffin I’ve been working on.
      It’s good to hear your humor again.

  25. Elyse says:

    Barb, I loved this. I have had to make these decisions all too often. Note to relatives — I am cheap. if you don’t like that, choose and pay for your own.

    The cemetery where my parents are buried is the worst of the worst. When I called to order flowers one year for my mother’s b-day, I was treated to a recorded loop extoling coffin choices, burial plot locations and cremation options. I wish I were making that up. After I screamed bloody murder, they removed the recording. I told them that the rest of the world viewed such advertising as a wee bit ghoulish whish is not a good thing in their line of business…

    Oops, I’m rambling. Good to see you. And please promote your books how else are we going to find them?????? I will put them on my “Blogging Buddy Books” page, gladly!

    • Barb says:

      I understand completely. I once ordered flowers from a florist and had them sent to my Mother-In-Law’s grave. I guess that was too ghoulish for whoever delivered the bouquet because they never got to the cemetery.
      And you are so kind to offer promotion. For now, I keep my “pen” persona separate. Hopefully, one day the two “me’s” will get to meet and do silly pictures together. Thanks, so much.

  26. Alice Lynn says:

    Barb, you gutsy girl, to lift the lid on the coffin so to speak. Death is one of the main events of the earthly journey, not one that can be skipped like marriage or having children, and yet we are reluctant to talk about it. It’s as though discussing it will bring the bad luck fairies down on us. Births, marriages, and new babies are much more fun, and undeniably more life-affirming. While I don’t advocate focusing on mortality, it can seem just a shadow away. I can’t wait to read the wisdom, comfort, faith, and humor (yes, humor) that your characters will share with us.

    • Barb says:

      I think it’s telling that I’ve avoided writing about the ultimate change ( death) for so long. Probably because I knew I’d have to dig through a whole bunch of family funerals. Most of the events are funny—now. But back then, I was mortified and wondered if I’d been switched at birth into the Clampett side of the family that didn’t strike oil, and still lived in the hills.
      Thanks for being one of the guideposts on my journeys.

  27. Red says:

    I am going to save everyone the trouble of all those decisions. I am donated. Maybe they can finally figure out how I stay up for days on end. :) Very glad to see you today, Barb. <3

    • Barb says:

      I blame sleeplessness on full moons. Bless you for donating. Maybe you’d be a better candidate for cryogenics. With a brain like yours, they should freeze you and bring you back when the rest of the world has fizzed out on XBox and Speed Twitter. You and El Guapo will be our last great hope.

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