Funeral Merchandise

10 Terrifying Things About Funeral Homes You Didn’t Know: A Response

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© 2006 Derrick Tyson, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Answers.com published an article entitled “10 Terrifying Things About Funeral Homes You Didn’t Know”.  Answers.com tries to provide answers to the random questions of the internet, but what they come up with in this article is something slightly below Buzzfeed fodder.

Although I appreciate attempts to talk about death and funerals, it’s nice when the facts are right.  And many of Answers.com “10 Terrifying Things” are a stretch.

Here’s their “10 Terrifying Things” and my responses.

1.  Death is Big Business:  Pardon the pun, but funeral homes make a killing. The caskets in funeral homes are set up to where the grieving family members see the most expensive caskets. It’s a billion dollar industry, and bigger funeral service providers will attempt to acquire every aspect of the business, such as florists and tombstone engravers.

Paint in broad strokes much?

Some funeral homes are money hungry.  Yes.  I think Jessica Mitford made this point back in the 1970s.   But — something that goes unnoticed by many is that many funeral homes are service oriented.  Some funeral homes make the most expensive caskets most prominent and other funeral homes — like ours — have our least expensive casket set up as the most prominent.  There are incredibly bad funeral homes and incredible good ones (and a whole variety of variations in between).  And the good ones usually don’t make “a killing”.

And yes, the corporate funeral homes are attempting to acquire every aspect of the industry; and as corporations, they have shareholders; and with those shareholders, it’s all about the bottomline.  And when it’s about the bottomline, you and your family become a means to an end.

2.  They Take Advantage:  People in grief are extremely vulnerable, and some funeral service providers are not above taking advantage of that. A funeral director can easily steer families in the direction of more expensive flowers or coffins. At the time, it seems like a showy, elaborate funeral is the only way to honor the deceased.

For those of us funeral directors who are ultimately concerned about service, the idea that we’re “taking advantage” of our customers frankly pisses us off.

It’s like assuming that all Catholic priests are pedophiles.

Or that all Matthew McConaughey movies involve shirt removal (apparently he keeps his shirt on in Interstellar)

Answers.com is making a blanket statement that simply doesn’t cover us all.  In fact, it’s these blanket statements like this that incite some anger in those of us who find joy in helping those in their greatest hour of need and confusion.  For the good funeral directors, our joy is helping you, not exploiting you.

And while I can say that many — if not most — in this industry exist for service, there is the dark side — those few — that do as Answers.com describes.

3.  Are You Dead or Just Happy to See Me?  When the body begins to decompose, certain areas known to have heavy concentrations of bacteria often swell to more than twice their normal size. Undertakers have to work fast to drain the bodies of all fluids, and they pack all of the body’s openings with cotton to prevent leakage.

If you want embalming, then yes, we do train the body’s fluids.  And we usually pack the nose with cotton to keep any liquids from running down the face during a viewing.

4.  Broken Parts: Funeral home employees are masters in the art of restoration. They often have to make a body presentable for viewing, despite how the person died. Sometimes, it’s as simple as using cosmetics to cover minor scrapes or bruises, but other times, morticians have to stitch bodies back together.

Answers.com got this right.  Although I’m not sure this qualifies as “terrifying”.  Bwahahaha.  I’ll put makeup on your face.  Bwahahah.  Let me trim your beard.  Look at me, I’m a master of restoration and I’m TERRIFYING.

5.  Embalming: Everyone knows that embalming is the process of removing all the fluids from a body and replacing them with preservatives. What happens to all those fluids from the body? They go right into the public sewage system. That’s what’s really running through your pipes.

Right again, but when you think about the other things that get poured down the drawn (various chemicals), it’s not entirely terrifying.

6.  The Eyes Have It: A person’s eyes are not usually removed from the body when its embalmed. They do start to flatten out, so morticians usually place a cap underneath the eyelid so that it still looks curved, or they’ll re-fill the eye to its normal size.

ZZZZZzzzzzz.  Eye caps.  Yes, we use eye caps.  No, we don’t remove eyes.

7.  They May Not Be Doing Their Jobs: In 2002, it was discovered that the Tri-State Crematory had been scattering the bodies rather than properly cremating them. Over 300 hundred bodies were discovered on the crematory’s property. It was revealed that the crematory had been giving the families concrete dust instead of ashes. Some of the bodies were never identified due to body decomposition.

Sadly, this one is true.  Tri-State Crematory did do just as they say.

8.  Please Wait Outside: When funeral directors have to go into someone’s home to retrieve a body, they are often in a hurry. The grieving family naturally wants time to say goodbye, but family members can hinder the work of funeral directors.

If you EVER feel any type of pressure from a funeral home or funeral director FIRE THEM!  Seriously, just fire them.  The fact is that your mind is already clouded by grief and the last thing you need in your life is someone trying to push you around.  You just experienced a death in your life.  You need people who will give you the time and space you need, NOT people who want to push you around.

9.  Drops Happen: Sometimes, dropping the body is unavoidable. Removing bodies of overweight people from five-story buildings, for example, can prove to be quite tricky. Hopefully if it happens, it doesn’t occur in the eyes of the family.

Yes, drops do happen.  I’ve handled a few thousand deceased persons and I’ve never dropped one.  But, it might happen.  I hope it doesn’t.

10.  Caskets Don’t Have to Be Expensive: Caskets are where funeral homes make a lot of their money — the average price of a casket is over $1000. However, a nice casket can be bought between $400 – 600. You just have to shop around. A decent service for your loved one doesn’t have to put you in debt.

Casket’s don’t have to be expensive and many funeral homes do mark up their caskets, BUT I’m not sure a “nice” casket can be bought between $400 to $600.

You can buy a pine box for $500 HERE.  But you have to put it together youself.

Walmart actually sells a pretty nice casket for $759.  You can buy it HERE.

Do Funeral Homes Charge too Much? 10 Thoughts on the Cost of Funerals

Do you think funeral homes charge too much for their merchandise and services?

I asked this question on my Facebook page yesterday.  Over 200 people answered.  And the discussion became pretty heated.  Being that I like hot topics, I thought I’d take a stab at the question.

Let me preface this article by saying that I am not an economist, nor am I an exceptional business man.  The following are ten observations that are a combination of experience in the funeral industry and my heart felt intention to meet the needs of the people I serve – needs that often include an economical funeral.


One.  Yes, there are bad guys (and bad corporations) in the funeral industry.  Legit racketeers.

Two.  Yes, there are good guys. 

Funeral directors who are more concerned with helping you through the funeral process than with making money.  There’s probably more good guys than bad guys.  We’re out there.  Find us.

Three.  Shifting Cultural Attitude towards Death 

The industrialization of dying has removed the dying of our loved ones from home care.  The institutionalization of dying means that you will probably die in an institutional setting (hospitals, nursing homes), where “professionals” treat the body while (often) ignoring social and spiritual aspects of dying.  In fact, three out of four deaths in the United States occur in a hospital or nursing home, outside of our home surrounding and outside of the comfort of our family.

The professionalization of death has removed death from home and family.  The Amish hire the funeral director to embalm the body and produce the legal paper work, but they do the rest.  They dress the body, they casket the body, they have the funeral at their home and they direct the funeral service.  There’s something to be said about one’s caretakers in life also being one’s caretakers in death.

With the industrialization and professionalization of death and dying, we have had the responsibility taken away from the community, and without that responsibility, without that personal investment in dying and death, we no longer see the full value of funeralization.   

Four.  Jessica Mitford and the Public Perception. 

“You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty”, said Mitford.  In Stephen Colbert-esque fashion, Mitford’s “The American Way of Death” wittingly embarrassed the abuses of the funeral industry in the 1960s and paved the way for the “Funeral Rule” in the early 1980s.

The “Funeral Rule” is meant “to protect consumers by requiring that they receive adequate information concerning the goods and services they may purchase from a funeral provider.”[1]  And while some of the abuses in the funeral industry have been quelled by the Funeral Rule, the depiction of funeral directors as “oleaginous salesman pushing me to buy a mink-lined steel casket with an Eternal Memory Foam pillow fringed in Flemish crepe and gently scented with lilac”[2] has – to one degree or another – remained in the public perception.

On the one hand, it’s important to recognize that Mitford’s criticisms were – and, in some cases, are — warranted; on the other hand, it’s important to recognize that Mitford viewed the funeral industry through the lens of economics and class.  She seemed to believe that the funeral industry was based on a desire to assert one’s standing in society.  Why else would you spend a couple grand on a funeral, unless you were attempting to distinguish yourself from others?  And funeral directors capitalized on this desire to brag in death.  In your moment of intense weakness, we play on your pride and reach into your wallet.  So, of course we are overcharging … at least, that’s part of the public perception.

Five.  Value.

And this leads us to the value of a funeral.  In a capitalist market, value is determined by the market … by you.  If you value it, you’ll pay for it. And seeing value in a funeral is the real question.  It’s not, “Do funeral homes charge too much?”; rather, its, “Is there real value in funerals?”  Once we answer the value question, then we can answer the cost question.

If you don’t see value in what a funeral home is offering you, find one that offers you the product and services that you do value.

If you don’t see value in the products that the industry is offering you, demand different products and service.

If we do indeed charge too much, it’s because the market doesn’t see value in what we’re offering.

Six. Trust. 

The funeral home that is geographically closest to us charges roughly two grand more per funeral than our funeral home.  We know some of the people they bury and – because it’s generally known that our funeral home is rather inexpensive – I often wonder, “Why do they go to Such-and-such Funeral Home when we’re less expensive?”  My conclusion?  Trust.  They have a better relationship with that funeral director than they do with us.

Because we recognize that death has altered our reasoning, when someone dies and we have to make arrangements, we want to go to somebody we trust … and, if possible, someone we already know.  In our transient society, there’s situations where we have not connections to funeral directors / funeral homes.

But, when there is trust with a funeral director, when there is a relationship with a funeral director, especially during times of death, money isn’t as much of a consideration.  The value of trust usually outweighs the cost.

Seven.  Non-profit vs. for profit.

I think there’s an expectation for us to be a non-profit organization.  To be a ministry.  But, if we were a non-profit ministry, there’d simply be less consumer options.  It would be governed by a board, the products would be determined by donors and the service might be even more cookie cutter than it already is.

1587Eight.  Options. 

There are options.  You should be able to find a funeral home that offers a direct cremation for under $2,000.  You don’t have to be embalmed.  There are cemeteries that don’t require vaults.  There are inexpensive caskets.

You can die at home.  You can be more involved in the death process.  In 1996 Jessica Mitford was buried for $533.31.  With inflation rates factored in, you can purchase the equivalent of Mitford’s funeral today.

Nine.  Prepaying / Insurance Policies.

It’s always much more difficult to handle the expenses of a funeral when you have to pay it all at once.  Think buying a car with cash.  Not all of us can do it.

If you plan ahead, or buy an insurance policy, you can pay in increments and when the time comes it’s not as much of a shock.

Ten.  Pre-planning: Now is the Time to Think about Death.  

We plan for weddings.  We plan for births.  Think about your dying and death now.  Think about what you want.  Think about how you want your funeral to look.  Find a funeral director who can meet your needs

 

 


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funeral_Rule

[2] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godandthemachine/2013/06/finaljourney/

Funeral Options

Today’s guest post is written by Patricia Fitchett.

*****

The funeral home that I work for is a big proponent of personalization. We even have the word “Options” right in our title. I have found from working in the funeral business for over 13 years that no funeral is exactly the same as another. Even if you use the same location, or the same officiant or the same prayers or readings, each person who is being honored/memorialized is a huge influence on the proceedings.

The best comment we get to hear is “It was exactly what he or she would have wanted!” (except of course in those situations where the LAST thing he or she would have wanted was to be dead.) It is a real pleasure to be able to help families make choices that make the service for their family member special and unique. That being said, we are often called upon to be the “bad taste police”; pointing out when an idea may not have the intended effect.

Let me give you an example. We’ve all heard Sarah McLachlan’s “In The Arms Of The Angels” song on the commercial where sad shelter dogs with their piteous eyes beg for a loving home. The song is beautiful and haunting and I have had people request it at funerals. From the snippet that you hear in the commercial, it sounds like it would be the perfect choice. But if you look a little farther into the lyrics you find phrases like this one: “everywhere you turn, there’s vultures and thieves at your back, and the storm keeps on twisting, you keep on building the lies that you make up for all that you lack”. Not really the heartwarming option that it seemed originally.

Another example is the song “Stairway To Heaven”. Although people of a certain age love this tune and it holds a special place in our hearts and minds, it is an exceedingly bad choice for a memorial service. Not only will your grandmother hate it, but she will hate it for about seven minutes (an eternity in “sitting in silence at a funeral while recorded music plays” time). The lyrics themselves do nothing to ameliorate the eternity spent listening to the uncut version and unless your loved one was actually killed by “finding a bustle in his or her hedgerow and becoming alarmed”, do not make this tune one of your options.

The funeral home that I work for is known for holding funeral services in places that are not a funeral home. For a lot of people it is their church. Some people don’t want a church at all, and we have been able to find several lovely options (most notably the KemperCenter) where people can be comfortable holding a memorable, elegant, personal service.


Some folks though are looking for an even more personal option. For some of these families, we have to think way outside the box. We have held services around a favorite tree in someone’s back yard. We have scattered cremated remains at Lake Michigan and on the 13th hole of a golf course where the deceased made a hole in one. (I will never tell which golf course though. I don’t think they really like that. Let’s just say that the sand trap may contain a cup of something that is not sand.)

As far as location “don’ts” go, I would tell people who want to hold services at a tavern to have the speaking part take place sooner rather than later in relation to the drinking part. Enough said…..

By far the most interesting location was chosen by a family we served last year. The gentleman had gone into the hospital while renovations were being made on the shed attached to the barn at his beloved farm. The man died before he could see the work finished. His family held his funeral (complete with casket) in the family’s barn.

The man’s family cleaned the barn and decorated it with all sort of wild flowers and plants from the property. Only his immediate family was in attendance. His children and grandchildren spoke and I sang his favorite hymns. It was a beautiful service and there was an unmistakable rightness to the location that I wouldn’t have thought was possible.

Options? Ask for them by name.

*****

923

Patti Fitchett is an Apprentice Funeral Director with Casey Family Options Funerals and Cremations of Racine Wisconsin. Patti came to the funeral business as a lay minister and found an affinity for being of service to the families of Southeastern Wisconsin.

Do Funeral Homes Charge Too Much for Their Services?

Do Funeral Homes Charge Too Much for Their Services?

I asked this question on my Facebook page over the weekend.  Over 330 people answered.  And the discussion became pretty heated.  Being that I like hot topics, I thought I’d take a stab at the question.

Let me preface this article by saying that I am not an economist, nor am I an exceptional business man.  The following are ten observations that are a combination of experience in the funeral industry and my heart felt intention to meet the needs of the people I serve – needs that often include an economical funeral.


One.  Yes, there are bad guys (and bad corporations) in the funeral industry.  Legit racketeers.

Two.  Yes, there are good guys. 

Funeral directors who are more concerned with helping you through the funeral process than with making money.  There’s probably more good guys than bad guys.  We’re out there.  Find us.

Three.  Shifting Cultural Attitude towards Death 

The industrialization of dying has removed the dying of our loved ones from home care.  The institutionalization of dying means that you will probably die in an institutional setting (hospitals, nursing homes), where “professionals” treat the body while (often) ignoring social and spiritual aspects of dying.  In fact, three out of four deaths in the United States occur in a hospital or nursing home, outside of our home surrounding and outside of the comfort of our family.

The professionalization of death has removed death from home and family.  The Amish hire the funeral director to embalm the body and produce the legal paper work, but they do the rest.  They dress the body, they casket the body, they have the funeral at their home and they direct the funeral service.  There’s something to be said about one’s caretakers in life also being one’s caretakers in death.

With the industrialization and professionalization of death and dying, we have had the responsibility taken away from the community, and without that responsibility, without that personal investment in dying and death, we no longer see the full value of funeralization.   

Four.  Jessica Mitford and the Public Perception. 

“You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty”, said Mitford.  In Stephen Colbert-esque fashion, Mitford’s “The American Way of Death” wittingly embarrassed the abuses of the funeral industry in the 1960s and paved the way for the “Funeral Rule” in the early 1980s.

The “Funeral Rule” is meant “to protect consumers by requiring that they receive adequate information concerning the goods and services they may purchase from a funeral provider.”[1]  And while some of the abuses in the funeral industry have been quelled by the Funeral Rule, the depiction of funeral directors as “oleaginous salesman pushing me to buy a mink-lined steel casket with an Eternal Memory Foam pillow fringed in Flemish crepe and gently scented with lilac”[2] has – to one degree or another – remained in the public perception.

On the one hand, it’s important to recognize that Mitford’s criticisms were – and, in some cases, are — warranted; on the other hand, it’s important to recognize that Mitford viewed the funeral industry through the lens of economics and class.  She seemed to believe that the funeral industry was based on a desire to assert one’s standing in society.  Why else would you spend a couple grand on a funeral, unless you were attempting to distinguish yourself from others?  And funeral directors capitalized on this desire to brag in death.  In your moment of intense weakness, we play on your pride and reach into your wallet.  So, of course we are overcharging … at least, that’s part of the public perception.

Five.  Value.

And this leads us to the value of a funeral.  In a capitalist market, value is determined by the market … by you.  If you value it, you’ll pay for it. And seeing value in a funeral is the real question.  It’s not, “Do funeral homes charge too much?”; rather, its, “Is there real value in funerals?”  Once we answer the value question, then we can answer the cost question.

If you don’t see value in what a funeral home is offering you, find one that offers you the product and services that you do value.

If you don’t see value in the products that the industry is offering you, demand different products and service.

If we do indeed charge too much, it’s because the market doesn’t see value in what we’re offering.

Six. Trust. 

The funeral home that is geographically closest to us charges roughly two grand more per funeral than our funeral home.  We know some of the people they bury and – because it’s generally known that our funeral home is rather inexpensive – I often wonder, “Why do they go to Such-and-such Funeral Home when we’re less expensive?”  My conclusion?  Trust.  They have a better relationship with that funeral director than they do with us.

Because we recognize that death has altered our reasoning, when someone dies and we have to make arrangements, we want to go to somebody we trust … and, if possible, someone we already know.  In our transient society, there’s situations where we have not connections to funeral directors / funeral homes.

But, when there is trust with a funeral director, when there is a relationship with a funeral director, especially during times of death, money isn’t as much of a consideration.  The value of trust usually outweighs the cost.

Seven.  Non-profit vs. for profit.

I think there’s an expectation for us to be a non-profit organization.  To be a ministry.  But, if we were a non-profit ministry, there’d simply be less consumer options.  It would be governed by a board, the products would be determined by donors and the service might be even more cookie cutter than it already is.

Eight.  Options. 

There are options.  You should be able to find a funeral home that offers a direct cremation for under $2,000.  You don’t have to be embalmed.  There are cemeteries that don’t require vaults.  There are inexpensive caskets.

You can die at home.  You can be more involved in the death process.  In 1996 Jessica Mitford was buried for $533.31.  With inflation rates factored in, you can purchase the equivalent of Mitford’s funeral today.

Nine.  Prepaying / Insurance Policies.

It’s always much more difficult to handle the expenses of a funeral when you have to pay it all at once.  Think buying a car with cash.  Not all of us can do it.

If you plan ahead, or buy an insurance policy, you can pay in increments and when the time comes it’s not as much of a shock.

Ten.  Pre-planning: Now is the Time to Think about Death.  

We plan for weddings.  We plan for births.  Think about your dying and death now.  Think about what you want.  Think about how you want your funeral to look.  Find a funeral director who can meet your needs

 



[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funeral_Rule

[2] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godandthemachine/2013/06/finaljourney/

5 Tips for Creating a Personal Sendoff

Today’s guest post is from Elizabeth Meyer.  Elizabeth is an expert in planning personalized funeral services, and hopes to make funeral planning a less taboo, more approachable subject. After planning a unique funeral for her own father in 2006, she joined Frank E. Campbell funeral home in New York City as Family Services Liaison, where she served Campbell’s and Riverside Memorial Chapel helping families create exceptional services. She earned an MBA from Cass Business School in London and a BA from New York University. She is currently the Funeral Guru at Everplans.com

All the highlighted words in the following article are live links that allow you to further explore each topic at Everplans’ website.

*****

When I tell people that I work in the funeral industry, most become speechless. Looking at me questioningly, they’ll mange to ask, “But…why?” I tell them about the funeral I planned for my father 6 years ago. It was the most emotionally challenging thing I’ve ever done, but it was also the most rewarding. I understand the power that a meaningful funeral or memorial service has in the emotional processing, grieving, and healing after a death. And so I use what I learned from my own experience to guide and empower others to create meaningful sendoffs for their loved ones. I deeply understand the power that a meaningful funeral or memorial service has in the emotional processing, grieving, and healing after a death.  I hope that by helping people create personalized services I am alleviating some pain for these families.

Obviously, I can’t tell you what specifically will be meaningful to you or loved ones. I can, however, share the lessons I learned from planning my dad’s funeral and the dozens of special funeral and memorial services I’ve helped other families plan. So without further ado, here are my top 5 things to consider when creating a personalized sendoff:

1. Religion

Religion is an important factor in funeral plans, and religious rites and traditions can dictate everything from whether the body should be buried or cremated, to where and when the service should be held, to what foods should be eaten afterward. If you’ll be following any religious rituals, get a sense of the traditions before you make any solid plans; the specific rituals you’ll follow may override any other desires you might have.

For example, you might want an ornate casket for your loved one and a lot of flowers at the service. But if you’ll be following Jewish customs, you’ll want to purchase a plain pine casket and forgo flowers, which are not traditional. Or, if you’ll be following Catholic customs, you’ll want to have people deliver eulogies and other speeches at a wake before the funeral service, since the service will be a Mass.

My father was raised Jewish, but was much more frequently found in church with my Catholic mother than in synagogue. While this meant that we were not constrained byto any religious norms at his funeral, it also meant that we were left custom-less, working with a blank canvas. If you’re like us, then the next four issues can be really important, since you’ll basically be traveling without a map.

2. Venue: 

When my father died, hundreds of friends wanted to support us; we needed a venue that could accommodate everyone. It was most practical to hold the funeral in the large non-denominational chapel at the funeral home. But we had other options, too: we could have held the funeral in a large church or synagogue, at an event space, or even a restaurant if we’d wanted.

Some funerals are quite large and others are very intimate; finding a venue that can cater to the number of guests is what matters most. (Remember: a funeral isn’t a popularity contest.) If you have a large number of guests, you’ll want to be able to fit everyone in the space. On the other hand, if there will be only a handful of guests, you’ll want to choose a smaller venue and create an intimate environment where everyone is comfortable.

So whether you choose a funeral home chapel, a church, mosque, or even your own living room, consider the number of people who will be in attendance, and think about where you’d be most comfortable remembering your loved one.

3. Music

When my father died in the prime of his life, my family and I were beyond distraught. But I didn’t want my dad’s funeral to be overwhelmingly morbid. Rather than concentrate on my family’s loss, I focused on making the event a celebration of my father’s incredible life. And one of the ways I made sure the funeral was a celebration was through music.

We had jazz playing as the guests entered. I chose songs that dad always played at home, and I was comforted listening to Miles Davis and feeling like he was there. At the end of the service, guests were caught off guard when Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” come blasting out of the speakers. By the time the Rolling Stones came on, everyone was dancing in the aisles as they wiped the tears from their eyes. Dad would have loved this!

Having a pianist or organ would not have been appropriate for my dad; he just wasn’t that kind of guy. But that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be perfect for your loved one. To figure out the right music for your situation, ask yourself: What were his or her favorite songs? What songs do you associate with him or her? What songs do you think he or she would like people to hear as they say goodbye? By choosing meaningful music you’ll feel like you are giving them a fitting sendoff—and it’s likely that the songs will elicit warm memories, too.

4. Speeches, Eulogies, and Readings

At my dad’s funeral, I selected speakers who knew my dad from different walks of life. My brother and I were the first speakers, and we shared our heartfelt and entertaining memories of our father. Dad’s cousin spoke about growing up with my dad; his, business partner spoke about what an amazing attorney and colleague my dad was; and a couple of friends also spoke about who he was as a man and a friend. By having all the speakers from different times and areas of his life, they were able to jointly create the most beautiful and complete image of my dad.

If possible, I would try to replicate have people deliver that same variety of speeches on a variety of topics.  In addition, No matter how entertaining the deceased was, repetitive stories are never fun! Also, it can be nice to consider incorporating readings into the service.  These can range from religious passages, hymns, and to poems from either the reader or the deceased favorite poets.

5. Flowers

I knew when I planned my dad’s funeral that flower choice was crucial. My dad was not particularly passionate about flowers—but flowers are so important to my mother, and I knew that she would be consoled by seeing flowers ones flowers that reminded her of dad.  So I opted for peonies, the flowers he always brought home to my mom.

Moreover, I opted to cover dad’s casket in a blanket of flowers. I knew it would be too difficult for my mom to walk in and see a casket at the front of the room; this way she was distracted and only saw her favorite flowers.

Flowers can remind us of the person we loved or distract us from our pain. Flowers can be in the colors of the person’s favorite sports team or in the shape of a heart, a cross, or even a golf club. They help set the mood, and they help make a funeral feel like a celebration.

These are my broad guidelines for creating a meaningful funeral. But please, get creative! Have a memorial service on a golf course or in a restaurant. Send ashes into outter space or out to sea. The only solid advice I can give is to honor the person who died with a fitting sendoff. I know it made me feel good about the final gift I gave my dad.

*****

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