Like your parents, but the next step up, grandparents can instill a mixture of emotions. As a little one, they could coerce obedience by promising to tell your parents whether you had been good or not. It was only in later years that you realized they probably wouldn’t say a word if you had been bad.
As parents, grandparents probably raised their children with a firm hand, but with age tend to mellow which means grandchildren probably get away with much more than their parents ever did.
Some things never change though.
The mother who insisted she was not hungry when the last piece of bread, or meat, or even pie beckoned to the stomach of an eight-year-old is probably the grandmother who does the same when you went to visit them.
The father who was a military veteran and instilled strict discipline in the ranks is probably the same grandfather who will sneak with you out of the garage down to the local ice cream store or bakery after making you promise not to tell grandma that something has spoiled your dinner.
While some grandparents never learn, others have had the privilege of helping the next generation to learn and grow. Some grandparents undermine the parents, while others are careful to help instill respect, loyalty, and honesty.
Mygrandparents were the good kind of grandparents. I never knew my maternal grandfather as he passed away when my mother was only sixteen, I spent many years loving my maternal grandmother and the man she married after being a widow for 18 years. We called him Grandpa and he was everything you could ask for in a proper British gentleman.
A master electrician and professor at a local British college, I can remember visiting them and him asking me to help him “do some repairs up in the attic.” A stately man, he carefully took off his suit jacket and worked his way up the ladder still wearing a sweater, pressed dress shirt, and a tie (with a double Windsor knot). Knowing nothing about electrical wiring, he made me feel important as though I had actually done the work.
Grandma, or Nanny as she was preferably called, could bake up a storm. Tarts, sausage rolls, scones, and all things British helped keep appetites at bay. She always had a faint smell of lavender and she was meticulous about her clothing and hair. Til the day she died at almost 87, she had a full head of dark brown hair with no more than a handful of gray or white hairs.
My paternal grandmother abandoned her family when my dad was little, but we did know and spend time with my paternal grandfather. Distance and careers kept us from visiting as often as I would have liked, but he knew he was loved. Laying carpet, tile, and linoleum until he was in his 70’s, he taught me the importance of hard work.
On one visit when I was about ten, we drive across the US to visit him. While there, he kept us entertained while still working hard. In his 70’s, he could still run circles around what I can do in my 50’s. During the visit, my parents bought him a brand-new wallet as his was falling apart. I asked for the wallet, but my parents didn’t think it was of any value and it was thrown away. We left the next evening and headed back across the US. All I could think of was a wallet in the trashcan behind the house, but it was eventually forgotten.
Years later, I visited my grandfather down in Mexico with my own little family that we had just started. During that time, the previous visit when I was ten entered the conversation and it triggered the memory of that old wallet. I shared the story with my grandfather and we laughed about what makes a memory. Reaching into his back pocket, he pulled out a newer wallet and asked me if I would like to have it. I was very surprised, but insisted that I had a newer wallet myself and wanted him to keep what he had. He never had a great deal of money or possessions, but he was just Grandpa. He was the type of person that would give you what you needed and even what you wanted whether he could afford it or not.
My stories could probably fill books of all the things they did for us and with us, but the one common factor was their love for us. They didn’t always agree with our decision any more than our parents did, but they stood with us especially when life was difficult.
Asa grandfather myself now, I look at past generations and realize the rich heritage that was left to me. Sadly, we are not allowed to spend time with our grandson due to a nasty divorce, but I can only pray that one day that little fellow will know that we tried to be there for him. I hope that like my own grandfathers, and my children’s grandfathers, that I will be a rock to help guide through life but do so with as much graciousness and love as I was shown.
All of my grandparents are now gone, but their memories live on. I wish I would have taken more time than I did, but when you are young, you think that with a full life ahead of you that they do as well.
My goal is to be the kind of grandfather to my grandchildren that they will one day be to their own grandchildren. If I do it right and they follow in the footsteps that I have followed before me, then I will have succeeded.
You see, I was born in a town northeast of London, England. However, I now live in the far western US state of Wyoming. The difference between the two is like night and day.
The county where I was born has approximately 200,000 more people than in the entire state where I now reside.
England has a moderate climate with four seasons — winter, spring, fall, and rainy!
Wyoming has a tropical climate — oh wait, never mind, I was thinking of somewhere else for a minute. The climate here also produces four seasons — winter, arctic, spring (with possible snow flurries) and summer/fall (scheduled for 3 weeks in July in 2019).
I am currently writing a long way from home — a very long way.
This last week I traveled from one part of the US to another while helping my parents move from one state to another state. During this week, I have been apart from my immediate family who I love very much. However, today is the day that I get on an airplane and go back to Wyoming.
As I have pondered the differences from one state to the next, I am also reminded of how blessed I am that I have the ability to travel.
My travels have taken me to about 17 countries and 47 out of 50 states. I have seen a lot of beautiful places and a few places that I would rather not live if at all possible.
While I contemplate on traveling though, I am reminded of those who have not. This may be due to their financial constraints or maybe just no interest. A few years ago, I remember asking one individual if they had ever traveled outside of the US. The response was surprising when they revealed that they had never even traveled outside of their own county, much less their state.
We had the privilege of teaching national pastors and church leaders in Liberia, West Africa. We met people who were born, grew up, got married, and still live in the same village with the furthest they have ever gone being one village away from their own. In all likelihood, those people will die never having traveled more than two or three miles from their homes.
I am preparing for a trip a long way from home — a very long way.
No, I do not mean when I board a plane later today to go back to my home. I am preparing for the trip that comes to all people. It is not something we can escape. Speaking of death is morbid for many, yet, every culture and society in the world have learned to prepare themselves for the inevitable.
Some fear death and the unknown. Nobody has ever gone to the other side and returned to describe it. Even in the Holy Scriptures we read of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ and how He was put to death, was buried, and rose again on the third day. Yet, conspicuously absent is any reference to what was on the other side of the curtain called death. The only record from Jesus we have is that He is going to the house of the Father to prepare a place for all true believers to live when they die. Nothing more.
The Bible does record a few instances where the dead were brought back to life, yet, not one person has described what it looks like. One record indicates that the apostle Paul died and went to heaven, yet he tells us that it is not possible to write down the glories of what he saw.
At the end of the Bible, the apostle John was given a vision in which he saw some of the things that are found in heaven. It is absolutely impossible to even hazard a guess as to what it truly looks like.
What I find sad though in my journeys a long way from my homes is that very few seem to be preparing. They live only for themselves or for the moment with no concerns about what the future holds.
For me, I was born at an early age. LOL. I can vividly recollect memories of things and people I met when I was just two or three years old. Then I blinked and I was looking up at the teenagers and could not wait to learn to drive. I blinked again and I was a teenager wanting to find somebody I could marry and have children. However, I did not stop blinking and 20, 30, 40, and now 50 came and went.
I have to consider what I have been doing for I do not have much of my life left. My strongest years are behind me but hopefully my wisest years are still ahead. My hair is no longer full and dark brown, but gets thinner with more gray every month. I am not the thin 127 lbs. I was when I got married and every extra pound I carry now gets harder to remove.
For all my travels though, I have seen much. I have learned much. I have no regrets about what I have accomplished, but there are things I wish I could have redone or goals that I would have pushed through to complete.
Like the picture above, the way ahead turns and winds its way through hills and mountains. I cannot see or even know what life will push my way as I travel through some of those valleys. Some will be difficult and painful while others will be filled with joy. The road I see though looks forward and does not dwell on that which is behind.
Yet, I cannot change the past so I look forward to the future and enjoy the present.
Each day started out with pain throughout some part of my body and a headache that never subsided for almost nine months.
As the headaches intensified, I thought I would just be tough and that it was another weird phase. I have not always had the best of health during my life. All of this really started when I was about 16, and contracted a severe case of mononucleosis (glandular fever).
This ended up getting me confined to a hospital ward in Oxford, England for a week. The episode ended with me losing about 30 lbs in two weeks and almost seven weeks off of school. It was also during this time that I began to experience frequent migraines or cluster headaches.
In university, I was diagnosed with a mitral valve prolapse when it was discovered I had arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). This still has an effect on me from time to time.
So, when my health began to decline, I wondered whether one of these past issues might be flaring up. After almost a month of putting it off, I finally paid a visit to our local medical clinic to see what might be wrong. They took some blood, and ran some basic tests but could find nothing out of the ordinary.
The second month, my body began to collapse and I found that I was not able to even walk without the use of a cane. By now, I had been excused from work and I was on disability. Much of my day was spent trying to rest and keep the lights off so that my headache would not increase.
My family and friends were concerned enough to encourage me to go back to the doctor and unable to determine what might be wrong, I was scheduled for several consultations in the hospital.
During the next month, I was admitted and tested for everything from cancer to diabetes. I was not overweight, but at times could keep little down. CT scans and MRIs covered pretty much every part of my body at some point, but they found nothing.
The final conclusion from the specialists was that I had contracted fibromyalgia, but they could still not explain why my body was failing.
The next several months were miserable, as my body grew weaker to the point where Sundays were just about my only excursion out of the house. It hurt too much to endure long car rides and I had to have help from my wife or my sons just to move from one room to another.
While it was not the only time in my life that I had been confined to bed rest, this time of testing proved beneficial in other ways. My wife and sons were gracious in being willing to spend so much time keeping me company, and I believe that it helped us to grow closer.
During those months, I often questioned in my heart and mind, “Why?”Or, in the words of the song written in 1972 by Kris Kristofferson, “Why me, Lord?”
Why me Lord, what have I ever done
To deserve even one
Of the pleasures, I’ve known
Tell me, Lord, what did I ever do
That was worth loving you
Or the kindness you’ve shown.
I am by no means perfect. I didn’t reflect on this question because I thought I did not deserve what others have to struggle with. The real reason I was asking was that I just could not understand.
Yet, this time of reflection allowed me to redirect some of my priorities. I learned how valuable family can be and I became more grateful for the relationships that helped me survive from day to day.
Many times as my body was racked with pain, there were episodes where I would be curled up on the floor. Yet, through the clouds, I began to see the rainbows of promise. Some people have to endure things like this alone. This then adds a new level of discouragement and/or depression to the list of ailments.
The reality is that, as fallen human creations, we do not deserve any pleasures in life. If we are honest, what we do receive at the hands of a gracious God is far better than many around the world.
This fact would soon come into play in a way that we could not have imagined when I was invited in an email to visit Liberia, West Africa. That is another series of stories by itself.
Suffice it to say that the discomfort, the tears, and the pain brought me to understand several aspects of life that are easy to overlook.
1. Don’t take life for granted.
Life is so short. Not every person will have the privilege of living half a century, much less to 70 or 80. All too soon, the hands of the clock race around the face of each day. Days blur into weeks, months, and then years. We look back and wonder what we have accomplished with our lives.
2. Love your family.
I understand that not everyone has a good family. But families are not always made by blood connections. Sometimes, family consists of those you attend church with.
It could be those with whom you work that you have a close connection. Some of us are blessed with great families and we will only get through difficulties when we learn to extend love back and forth.
Family may even include friends who appreciate and pray for you, even during times when they may not know how difficult life is at the moment.
3. Realize that trials are not unique.
When I arrived in Liberia, West Africa just four months after my body began to recover, I understood how blessed I truly was. Observing the horrendous lack of standards in medical care made me realize why the life expectancy was so low in West Africa.
In England (and the US), I had access to medicines and treatment that allowed me to recover. Had I been born or lived in Liberia during that time, my life would probably have come to an end.
4. Learn to exhibit a spirit of thankfulness.
Honestly, this life lesson was very difficult. I did not want to be thankful. I wanted to complain. I did not FEEL like I was thankful, but I soon understood that my struggles were also being carried by those who loved me so much.
As my body began to recover, I was able to give thanks. I gave thanks for life, for better health, for more days of clear-headedness, for family, for love, for medicine, for good doctors and hospital staff, and most of all, for strength, grace, love, and the mercy of God.
5. Understand real success.
Success is not always made up of fame and fortune. Success can sometimes be the privilege of being able to get out of bed in the morning. Success can be measured in the real treasures of life like a loving wife and family.
Looking back, my wife and I cannot tell you how we paid our bills or even managed some weeks to purchase groceries. We did not have a large bank account and there are many things we did without during that time.
However, I can look back and realize that we experienced success because we had each other.
6. Know where your faith exists.
For my family and I, our faith is in God.
This was not the only struggle we ever faced, nor will it probably be the last. In fact, a few years later we would move to Liberia, West Africa where one of my daughters and I faced death’s door more than once due to tropical diseases.
These diseases still give us trouble and pain even today having been gone from Liberia since 2012.
However, I do not blame God and curse Him for the extreme trials we have faced. I have learned to accept that there is something I need to learn. Like the patriarch Job in the Bible, I have learned to say –
But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. — Job 23:10
Originally published through Medium on “Live Your Life on Purpose”
Whether it is a small family-owned and run funeral home or it is a large corporation that owns hundreds or thousands of funeral homes and cemeteries, businesses operate in order to make a profit. However, there is a huge difference between a locally owned and operated firm versus one owned by a large corporation.
As one example, this quote is from Marketwatch in an article dated March 7, 2017.
“The survey found median prices at SCI (the largest corporation in the industry) were 72% higher for simple cremation, 50% higher for simple burial, and 47% higher for a full service funeral than at independent homes surveyed.”
This series of articles is not designed to disparage making a profit in the funeral or cemetery industry. As I have stated previously, I still have friends and former colleagues in the industry. I would drive across the state to work for them if I needed a job in the industry again.
What concerns me is that families are rarely given the knowledge needed to make informed decisions that will help them save money. There are many things that an overwhelming majority of funeral directors will NOT tell you.
In addition, the exorbitant rate of markups found in many firms is shocking, and the only way you will normally find out is on the worst day of your life.
Nobody truly likes the thought of their loved one being burned in a crematory, or being buried in a box six feet under the ground. The thought of those we love not being with us is bad enough without having to deal with the thoughts of horror that can run rampant through the mind.
Funeral directors know and are trained in how the human mind works. They will use these methods to steer or guide you into making the decisions you do. Many times, you will have no idea of the controlling or manipulative tactics that are employed in order to drive up the cost of your loved ones’ funeral.
The western world is one of the few places where so much money is spent on the disposition of a body. On average, we spend 4 times as much as the cost of disposition in the UK, as just one example.
This is the average markup on a casket. Simple terms, the funeral home or corporation buys average metal caskets in bulk from companies like Batesville for around $300–500 each. They are then delivered and placed on display where families will pay $1300–2500 for the same piece of shaped metal. The lower end pricing normally reflects costs at independently owned firms versus the prices found at corporate-owned locations.
What to Do
1. Stay away from items that are nothing more than gimmicks or phrases that are inaccurate at best and grossly misleading at worst.
Concrete is porous. This means that the lined vault you purchase after being told it would keep your loved one dry is nothing more than an over-priced fabrication (in modern English — a big, fat lie).
The additional cost of several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars added to your bill is simply the extra inclusion of a rubber gasket that costs the funeral company less than $20. Again, sealing a casket does nothing to protect the integrity of the body. In fact, if you choose a mausoleum-type entombment, you will not be told that the casket is NOT fully tightened down and sealed.
A solid casket made of wood will generally cost between $800–1500 to the funeral home. Some may be a little less, but those are then increased to $3800–7500 for the same item. One of the costlier features is a keepsake drawer built into the casket lid where families are encouraged to leave mementos for their loved one. If a family expresses an interest in one of these caskets, the funeral director will NOT tell them that they are welcome to place letters, pictures, or keepsakes in ANY casket, even if it does not hold the expensive feature.
2. Do not get suckered into purchasing expensive items that seem like they are a “required service.”
“Rental caskets” — Yes, this is an actual item.
It involves the use of a long cardboard box. The deceased will be cremated, but the family wants an actual funeral service. Funeral homes have a special unit that opens from the top and the end. This allows the cardboard box to be inserted into the nicer looking casket just for the funeral. The privilege of using this rental service will cost you an additional $900–1700 on average. The casket is then removed from the funeral service and the cardboard box holding the actual remains is taken out for cremation. This rental service is generally for a use period of 45 minutes to one hour.
“Embalming” — NOT REQUIRED BY LAW IN ANY STATE!
If there is no viewing to take place, embalming is not necessary. If only immediate family members are going to say goodbye, again, embalming is not necessary. Embalming is supposedly the preservation of the body, but this is not entirely accurate. Embalming does not AND cannot guarantee that your loved ones remains will remain intact and not go through any form of decomposition over any set period of time. Embalming is merely a chemically induced means of forestalling rapid decomposition and allows the body to be prepared and seen in a more natural state for funeral services.
3. Shop around. Shop around. Shop around.
“Choice” — If the death was sudden, the family is still allowed to choose which funeral home they want to use. It does NOT matter which funeral home is on duty. What matters is what you want.
“Check prices” — FCC requires that all funeral homes provide a General Price List (GPL) and casket price list. Locally owned funeral homes will normally post these online as well, but the homes and cemeteries owned by large corporations generally do NOT publish their GPL. Staff are often trained to stall your requests until they can get you seated in a chair where high pressure is the name of the game until you sign.
“Online” — Read online ratings for your selection of funeral home. While reviews are not as prevalent as for other customer service based companies, you can normally learn a great deal about the way a funeral home or cemetery operates.
“Flowers” — Yes, it is important to even shop for flower arrangements. In the shock that comes with the death of a loved one, most families do not give one moment of thought to what they spending.
Funeral homes that are directly linked to a florist shop are not always the best place to shop. Connected florists often have higher profit margins because of the reasons already stated. Visiting a local florist and making a selection without telling them it is for a funeral can save you 40–60% on the cost of a floral arrangement.
In my next article, I plan on giving information on the best practices needed in order to save the most amount of money.
On the worst day of your life, the last thing you or your family should have to deal with is sticker shock.
A quick perusal of this link will show a wide variety of prices that have to be considered.
The average price of a funeral in the USA is currently between $7–10,000. Do you know WHY it is so high? Do you know what you are required to purchase and what is just an option? Do you know that many funeral homes love when you walk in with an insurance policy and no idea what you should be spending? Why is this?
The normal scenario for most families looks like this:
A sudden death, prolonged illness, hospice care, or car accident results in either the deceased being transported to a local hospital or the local law enforcement will be authorized to contact the funeral home that is on duty.
Most funeral homes in a town or county are on a rotation. This simply means that when an accident occurs, the coroner will contact the on-call funeral home to come and collect the deceased. The family is given no notice of which funeral home has your loved one in their preparation area. There is also no guarantee that a pre-planned and pre-paid funeral policy will be in force.
The next morning, the closest or next-of-kin will receive a phone call from the on-duty funeral director where the body is located. The shock of the death has not normally settled in and now a call comes extending a professional courtesy of condolences and informing the living that they need to come same day or the next morning to the funeral home to make arrangements.
Sadly, the disposition of the deceased waits for no individual.
One of the hardest aspects of my job as a manager or funeral director was watching the faces of families entering the front door of the funeral home or cemetery office for what could be the first time in their life.
A good funeral director or cemetery manager will work hard to put the family at ease, as much as humanly possible. A compassionate funeral director or cemetery manager will try to make the process smooth by guiding the family through every decision.
Yet, it is at the moment that the family walks in that a huge problem exists. As in every industry, some truly care about a career, especially in those jobs that involve customer service. However, there are also those who only see what they do every day as a job.
Whether you know it or not, a funeral director or cemetery manager is also required to be a salesperson.
The level of expertise and compassion can and will determine how smoothly everything moves forward from the collecting of the earthly remains of the deceased to the burial or cremation process, but it normally comes at a price.
More and more funeral homes and cemeteries are being purchased by large corporations. With each purchase, compassion goes out the window for the sake of profits and exorbitant cost markups. The compassion that should be shown to a grieving family is regularly being replaced by price-gouging and sales pitches designed to make you feel guilty. This guilt could be about the level of service you provide for your loved one down to the casket selection.
As the family signs the paperwork, the hardest part of the process has not yet arrived. Insurance and payment is covered and then the funeral director will stand. Informing the family that they need to follow him or her into the casket selection room, you will NEVER be prepared for the shock that is coming.
Many families I assisted and cared for managed to keep it together through the paperwork process. There might be a few tears, but standing to walk into the casket room was almost always a shock that brought tears and massive expressions of grief including wailing, shrieks, or screams of agony.
There is something about the entrance into that specific room that generates a great sense that this is very real. “I have to choose a final bed for my husband, wife, brother, sister, grandparent, baby, or child to sleep in.”
I cannot recall the number of times I was asked if I could make a selection for them just so the family would not have to enter THAT casket room.
Funeral homes and cemetery offices have largely become marketing machines. Caskets are aligned with the most expensive brands being softly lit. Lids are open revealing plush pillows and satin or velvet finishes. Soft music may be playing while the funeral director/salesperson is expected to direct you to these selections.
Many funeral homes, especially those owned by corporations do NOT put out the cheapest caskets available, and some directors will go so far as to lie to the family telling you that there is nothing cheaper.
The casket room has a wide selection from high glossy wood caskets to different gauge metal caskets. Some have keepsake drawers, while others are labeled as sealed and “waterproof.”
There are NO waterproof caskets.
The FCC and funeral laws are slowly changing to correct the myths still being perpetrated by funeral homes and cemeteries about waterproof caskets or vaults. Concrete is porous. Metal rusts and loses its integrity quickly depending on the soil composition and local water tables. Caskets with a rubber gasket also decay and provide no guarantee that water will not enter the final resting place of your loved one. Vaults are the same way and do not offer guarantees.
But many spend thousands thinking that the body of their loved one will remain dry and safe.
Back to the casket room, the director is taught to watch you closely for buying signs. He or she will point you in the direction of certain caskets and may even include softly spoken words such as: “Your loved one deserves the best you can afford.” Or, “This casket provides peace of mind that your loved one will ____________.”
No, no, NO, ABSOLUTELY NO!
With sympathy and empathy, your loved one does NOT care about what kind of casket. You will NOT see that casket or vault for more than a few minutes. When your eyes are red from weeping long into the sleepless nights, you will NOT give one thought or have peace of mind about whether you bought the right casket or not.
The reality is that funerals are for the living, not the deceased.
On average, families that enter a funeral home for the first time after the loss of a loved one will spend approximately 35–60% MORE than they would if they had been prepared. The funeral and cemetery staff knows this and many are trained to capitalize on your grief.
Bonuses, monthly contests, and corporate pressure are heaped on funeral and cemetery staff to keep the average profits high. A funeral director with a conscience and who helps too many families keep their costs low will soon find him or herself out of a job.
The ivory towers that hold executives of the large funeral corporations do NOT care about your family. They do NOT care about the deceased. They ONLY care about profits.
My purpose in writing these articles is with the hope that people will read something that will help them face the inevitable on the worst day of their lives. I still have close friends in the industry, but far too many that I worked with only cared about profits and large paychecks.
In a coming article, I plan to address the markup levels of everything from services to caskets to vaults to the candles available to purchase at the funeral home.
While every state is different, I wish these were some things that EVERY adult knew about funerals. Having previously been in the cemetery/funeral industry for almost 8 years, I can speak to the practices of private firms as well as cemeteries and funeral homes that are owned by large companies. My experience includes working for three of the largest firms in the world.
There is a great amount of money to be made, but it is normally made at the expense of the living on what could arguably be the worst day of their lives.
Not all companies, cemeteries, or funeral homes are corrupt. This also applies to funeral directors or cemetery managers. Some of the nicest folks I have ever met and considered to be friends have worked in the cemetery/funeral industry.
1. A Last Will and Testament means nothing at a funeral home. This document is for the disposition of your property and has nothing to do with your earthly remains. In common law, the deceased is considered to be the quasi-property of the next-of-kin. Basically, this means that the next-of-kin is responsible for providing the necessary and legal means of disposition.
2. Legal disposition is restrictive to the laws of your particular city/county/state. I am not aware of any state that permits the digging of a big hole on your property and burying your family member. Some states may put severe restrictions on such actions. For example, I worked in several states that required a minimum amount of land had to be fenced and set aside by the landowner in perpetuity for the burial of human remains.
3. Some think that they can just save money by donating their body to science. In their minds, this avoids the expense of a casket, embalming, and then burial or cremation. This is a myth. Many states have placed restrictions on companies that used to provide this kind of service. Some companies are so overloaded with bodies that unless you have some form of disease that a science center wants to research, then your family will be required to provide disposition. In addition, once the science center has finished with all of their research, many do charge the family for cremation and an urn to send the cremains back to the family.
4. Cremation is simply a form of disposition of human remains. Wikipedia gives a very good description of cremation’s history, modern techniques used, as well as some religious aspects as it pertains to various religions. On average, cremation tends to be the least expensive means to dispose of human remains. In some parts of the USA, cremation only accounts for about .5–1% of all dispositions. This is particularly true in the southern states. However, in some places like New England or the upper West coast, cremation can account for 95%+ of all dispositions.
5. Embalming is NOT required except in certain circumstances. This is a common charge that is included on itemized funeral home charges. It is pushed by funeral companies onto the consumer because it is an easy way to make a larger profit margin. If you have any questions about the use of embalming, then check the laws in your state.
For those who want the bottom line, embalming does NOT preserve the body forever. Factors in the length of time it takes for a body to fully decay depends on the embalming process, soil composition, and burial vs. entombment in a mausoleum.
Embalming simply helps preserve the body from more rapid decomposition and is generally for the purpose of being able to have a funeral where viewing is going to be present. Embalming does not and cannot provide any guarantees about the state of your loved one’s body.
As a general rule, embalming may be required by a funeral home if there will be a public viewing. However, family members are generally permitted to say their final goodbyes without an embalming process of their loved ones.
6. Prepaid funerals do NOT cover all costs involved in a funeral. For example, the overwhelming majority of large funeral firms have “add-on charges.” Most of these are almost 100% profit making items that are not necessary and certainly NOT required.
7. Cemeteries are generally not a part of a pre-paid funeral plan. A funeral plan is provided by a funeral home but the charges from a cemetery are normally separate. This often includes cemeteries owned by the same company that owns the local funeral home.
Charges at a cemetery can amount to several thousands of dollars that a family was not expecting. As with funerals, laws vary as to what is required. Some may require some type of vault to surround the casket, where others will still permit the burial of a casket without an outer covering. Vaults were designed as a means to more evenly distribute the ground and provide a nice uniform look to the cemetery. We will talk more about various products in a later article.
8. Funerals are for the living and not for the deceased. One area that still brings up resentment is the guilt that the living is made to feel for the deceased. A smooth talking funeral director can easily talk a grieving family member into spending a great deal of money. Many of the large firms train their funeral directors or cemetery workers to play on the emotions of the family in order to drastically inflate the amount of money the family pays for a final disposition.
9. Preplanning is different from prepaying. Preplanning is the preparation that a person or a couple makes in the anticipation that death is coming. Planning booklets are normally provided or available free or little cost. These booklets allow you to put down your final wishes so that your family is not struggling to deal with their grief as well as having to make decisions about which is the best casket for dad or mom.
Prepaying involves a payment plan. This can be insurance based or an endowment where money is paid by a family or individual to cover (prepay) for final expenses. However, many unscrupulous firms do not stress that these plans do not freeze prices for the future. So, for example, if a pre-paid plan was paid for over 5 years back in the 1980’s or 1990’s, that funeral or cemetery policy may actually only cover a small fraction of today’s costs.
10. Nobody should feel required to pay for an expensive funeral. Again, while we will look at cost breakdowns in another article, the average funeral costs in America are between $7,000 to $10,000! These costs can quickly escalate if you or your family are NOT prepared to handle what you will face as you walk through the doors of a funeral home on the worst day of your life.
Stay tuned for more helpful information on the costs associated with funerals and cemeteries.
Definition of sympathy — “Feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.”
Definition of empathy — “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
Until November 1995, I thought of empathy and sympathy as being synonymous words. Earlier that year, I had started a career in the cemetery/funeral industry.
Often I prided myself that I felt and expressed pity and sorrow for those who lost a loved one in death. Through the almost eight years in the industry, culminating my career as a funeral director, I realized that most of my colleagues showed sympathy.
Yet, many of those colleagues had an edge or bluntness to their mannerisms that did not evoke a good rapport with the families who came in to see us on what was probably the worst day of their lives. Very quickly after starting this career, I realized many things.
Three points, in particular, stand out.
1) Many who enter the business of caring for the deceased do so because they have learned that it can be a lucrative business.
2) It is impossible to understand and express empathy to others when you have never experienced what they have.
3) Not everyone handles grief the same way.
At a later date, I intend on writing on points one and three, but this post is about point number 2.
November 1995 changed my perspective. For the first time in my life, I experienced the loss of a loved one — a close loved one. In fact, the person that I lost was my brother, John. He was 4 ½ years younger than me, but we were best friends.
Before November 1995, I had no problem expressing sympathy for those I helped to bury a family member or a friend. This was true whether it was a funeral for a baby, a child, a teenager, or an adult of any age.
However, when the winter of death approached the door of our family, it was like a switch turned on inside of me.
I was able to not only sympathize, but I could empathize. In other words, I not only had feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune, but I also now had “the ability to understand AND SHARE the feelings of another.”
Do not misunderstand what I am saying here. My words are not meant to imply that unless a person has experienced a loss that they are not able to show true feelings of sorrow or grief at a funeral. Everybody expresses grief in different manners.
Mypost is meant to share where I was at in my life. I was almost 30 years old and had to learn the hard way what it meant for me to show empathy, not just sympathy.
This really resonated with me, when I was called to serve a military family. Their eight-year-old child had gone with a friend to a nearby lake and had accidentally drowned when their little canoe overturned. When the family arrived at the funeral, I sympathized with them over their loss.
However, one of the family members resonated with my heart. It was the older brother, who was 17 and getting ready to leave for Basic Military Training. After the funeral, the family stood at the cemetery and I felt impressed to walk up to the young man. Asking permission to speak freely, they granted it and I briefly in just a few short sentences shared what I had just gone through no more than about 2 or 3 months earlier.
The older brother kept nodding his head as I shared. When I finished, he stood up and walked over to me.
Giving me a hug, this tall, young man thanked me profusely for being willing to share. He told me that he had never experienced a death in his family and that my account helped him to realize that there were others who shared in similar feelings.
When all was concluded at the cemetery and the family left, I spent time walking through between the cold gravestones and wept again for the loss of my brother and because of what I was feeling for this family I had just finished serving.
On the worst day of a person’s life, they need to know that there are others who are there for them. Some need to be made aware that the shoulder they can cry on is one that has been bowed low under the weight of a loss as well.
The average family experiences a loss of a close loved one about once every 7 years. My family was not average before November 1995, and after that date, we have had several pass away with sad regularity.
One truth I seek to share is the difference between sympathy and empathy. When I express grief or sorrow with another individual, it is because I have also been there. I know what it is like to lose a 22-year-old brother to a massive heart attack, several family members to different types of cancer, the loss of a miscarried baby, and the loss of a grandbaby.
This does not make my family or I special. Death is part of life.
However, these sessions of pain, grief, and sorrow allow me to better express care for those who are in need today because of what I experienced yesterday, and because of what we all experience tomorrow.