Three times in my life I’ve shopped for a casket and all the accessories that come with a funeral . 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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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.”