How to Plan a Funeral

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This is
a guest post from Nick Welch, a pastor who has worked in a funeral
home doing removals (picking up the deceased from the place of death),
assisting in embalming, preparing the deceased for burial and cremation,
as well as meeting with families to make final arrangements for
their loved one’s funeral.

“In
this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
~ Benjamin Franklin

There are many
challenges that men of all backgrounds relish. Some are extreme:
going on safari, a climbing expedition, or building a house. And
some are a little more mundane: paying the mortgage, splitting
and stacking a cord of wood, or winning a great hand of poker. All
of these obstacles, however, have a satisfaction in their completion
that gives a man a sense of accomplishment and joy. But one of the
biggest challenges any man will ever face, the responsibility of
making funeral arrangements for a loved one, often brings more pain
and frustration than satisfaction. Making these arrangements carries
quite a bit of stigma and not a little bit of confusion. But by
making a few preparations, you can greatly mitigate the stress faced
by you and your loved ones when dealing with this inevitable event.

“There
is in the act of preparing, the moment you start caring.”
~ Winston Churchill

Planning
Your Own Funeral

One of the
reasons making funeral arrangements is so difficult is that we rarely
take time to discuss with those closest to us what their wishes
are. No one likes talking about the day they’ll be gone, but
if we don’t, we leave some of the most important decisions
that will need to be made in life (or death) to chance and unnecessarily
burden our loved ones. So set the example by taking the initiative,
planning your own funeral and sharing your plans with those closest
to you. Here’s what you need to know to get started planning
your funeral:

1. Visit
Your Friendly Neighborhood Funeral Director

The internet
is great for vast amounts of information, but it can’t empathize
with you or have a cup of coffee with you. Make an appointment with
a service counselor, funeral director or pre-arrangement specialist
to talk about funeral options face to face. It will be a huge help
in the decision making process. There are basically two types of
funeral establishments: locally owned mom and pop shops or nationally
owned, locally managed funeral homes. Which one to choose is a matter
of personal opinion based on your own impressions. I know a lot
of people in the death care industry who differ on which is better,
but it all comes down to what you think. But a few of the things
that you want to look for are these:

  • An independent
    insurance holder instead of the funeral home “holding”
    the money for you. This basically means that there is a guarantee
    that the money will be there when you need it.
  • Your pre-arrangements
    are transferable. This means that if you move from California
    to Florida or just a few hours away your arrangements move with
    you.
  • Finally,
    but probably most importantly, make sure when all is said and
    done you feel like the people you choose to use for your final
    arrangements are people that you genuinely trust. Sometimes it
    just comes down to a gut feeling.

2. Don’t
Commit…Just Yet

There’s
no need to make a decision on the spot. Take the info, price lists,
and service catalogues that you picked up at the funeral homes you
visited to your wife, and if it’s appropriate, maybe even your
kids. Set aside some time to talk about the different options, ask
questions about the “what-ifs,” and come to a decision
that seems the best to your family. You don’t need to put it
off too long, maybe just a couple of weeks, but long enough to flesh
it out, talk it out, and make a decision.

3. Speak
Up

This is not
a time to be reserved. Make sure those closest to you know exactly
what plans you have made. In fact, most pre-arrangements you make
with a funeral home will come with legal documents as well as a
packet of info meant to be shared with those closest to you. Of
course every family is unique in its comfort level with these kind
of issues but come on, is there ever really a good time to talk
about when dad dies? There’s no time like the present to take
some of the sting out of the inevitable by putting it all on the
table and talking about your plans. While it may be awkward to talk
about now, knowing your wishes ahead of time will lighten your loved
ones’ load when you pass on.

Bruce Preston,
a family service counselor who spends his days helping people prepare
for their death, says pre-arrangement takes care of the two biggest
questions people have when a loved one passes away. “Did I
do what my loved one wanted and did I do the right thing?”
Guys, make sure you do the hard work of making these decisions easier
for your wife and kids. The difference between doing it and not
could mean thousands of dollars, hours spent filling out paperwork
and a boatload of uncertainty and guilt. To wrap up the discussion
on planning ahead, I’ll leave you with three reasons to pre-arrange
according to Bruce Preston:

  • It financially
    freezes the cost.

  • It prevents
    emotional overspending.
  • It takes
    the burden off of your loved ones.

Planning
Someone Else’s Funeral

“Everyone
has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth.” ~
Mike Tyson

But what if
you’re not the one who dies? What if you’re the one who
has to make the arrangements for someone who hasn’t made them
for themselves? Or worse yet, what if you thought the arrangements
were all made only to have the rug pulled out from under you? Well,
I’m glad you asked. First of all, don’t panic. No one
expects you to have all the answers, but as a man you will be expected
to get the answers. Here are some of the answers you’ll need.

Depending on
the manner of death, you will likely be dealing with many different
professionals who have specific duties. Long gone are the days of
the undertaker on Main St. who measured your suit, built your box,
and put you in it. In the case of an unexpected death you will be
expected to contact the police who will contact the coroners. This
isn’t because they think you did something wrong; it’s
just procedure. Depending on what the coroner decides they will
then release the body to the funeral home of your choice. It’s
important to know that just because the body has been released to
Bob’s funeral home doesn’t mean you have to use their
services. If you choose to go down the street to Jim’s funeral
emporium then you have every right to do so. Don’t be pressured
into a situation you aren’t comfortable with. The funeral home’s
primary responsibility is to care for your loved one with dignity
and to treat you with compassion and honesty. If you doubt either
of those things for any reason just explain that you will be going
elsewhere to make the arrangements and would like to know what paperwork
you need to fill out in order to make that happen.

Read
the rest of the article

May
8, 2010

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