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There is a woman who once thought that she’d like to have a hologram made of her wearing an Obi-Wan Kenobi robe for her funeral. Her four sons grew up during the Star Wars era and similar to Obi-Wan, she would love to pass along the wisdom she acquired over her lifetime to those she loves. And yes, she would also like to have the last word! So who should this woman see to discuss and share her wishes? Should she talk to an attorney? Her financial planner? Or a funeral director?
Both her attorney and financial planner suggested they could help but she wasn’t convinced based on her past experience. When her parents died the funeral was over before she even started to work on the finances and the estate. And there was so much attention paid to the final, final part…burial or cremation. She decided to contact her family funeral home and she met with Sue, the advance funeral planner. As it turns out, helping people get their funeral plans in place is Sue’s only job at the funeral home. And help this woman Sue did!
They talked about what this woman thought she wanted for her funeral plans. They talked a lot about her family – her husband, her four grown up sons, their wives and their children. Sue helped this woman see that although her sons would appreciate the Obi Wan idea, her husband would need something a little more traditional with a spiritual element. They talked about the cost and how she could keep that under control. They also talked about the burial and cremation options. Sue explained to the woman that if she wasn’t ready, she didn’t need to make a decision about burial or cremation. The woman ended up talking to her family about it and she was able to get her wishes recorded at the funeral home and she decided to use a payment plan. With her plan in place, she can go in and change her plans at any time (e.g. if she decides she wants to be cremated at a later date) and Sue will help her with that.
Sue also suggested the woman begin gathering those words of wisdom that she wants to share at her funeral and bring them to Sue so she can put them in the file. On the day of the woman’s funeral, the funeral directors will print these words of wisdom and hand them out to those attending the funeral. As it turns out, holograms aren’t available just yet, but Sue thinks they may be prior to this woman’s death.
In the end, leaving the finances to the financial planner, the will & estate planning to the attorney, and the funeral planning to the funeral home made the most sense for this woman.
For most of us, one of the first questions think of when we think we need a funeral home soon is, “How much will it cost?” It’s understandable that everyone wants a simple answer to this question. Unfortunately, there is no one simple answer.
Think of the last time you bought a pair of shoes. It’s not really helpful to know that the average cost of a pair of shoes is $75.00. So, what does an “average” pair of shoes look like? Shoes come in many different sizes, colors and styles. You wouldn’t expect to call the shoe store and ask, “How much does a pair of shoes cost?” Everyone needs some help finding the right fit for his or her feet. You also understand that you’ll need to share more information about the kind of shoe you are seeking before you find the cost.
It’s the same with funerals. The funeral you choose will need to fit your family’s needs as well as your budget. The funeral director will help you with both. You will be pleased to know funeral homes are required to have standardized prices for everything they do. This price list must be printed and available for you. You should also take comfort in knowing there will be a range of prices associated with the choices you will be making. The funeral director wants you to be satisfied with both the service you select and with the costs associated with those services.
As soon as you are able, it is a good idea to call the funeral home and ask to set up a time to meet with a funeral director to review your options and prices. There should be no cost for this meeting. This is the best way to assure that you understand what is involved with the various services so that you can get the best value for your dollar. You can schedule this kind of meeting with as many funeral homes as you desire.
At first, this may seem like a lot of work. The reality is, however, that you’ll obtain far more information by meeting with the funeral director versus searching online or making phone calls. You’ll save time, too. Don’t wait to set up that meeting if you think you’ll need a funeral home soon.
These days we’re hearing a lot about life celebrations. A funeral is a ceremony for someone who has died and the survivors. A celebration of life is a funeral with a celebratory feel and it may or may not have a faith-based component. Celebrating the life of the accomplished, the kind, and the generous feels natural. It feels like something we should do.
On the other hand, what do we do about the “broken” people? The bullies, the addicted, the angry, or those who just never got it all together. What do we do when they die? Most of us have one or more imperfect people in our immediate circle.
The loss of one of these folks is real and it hurts. Because they are gone, our lives will not be the same. We may be relieved of a burden, but we are also without hope. The hope that we will get a hug or a kind word is gone. The hope that a child will get sober and realize the potential you knew was there is gone. The hope that we will hear “I’m sorry” or understand the reason behind the addiction, the anger, or the hatred is now gone. It’s painful. Someone we love has died. Having a funeral will help.
It can be hard to know just what to do when “celebration” doesn’t feel right. This may be especially true if a faith-based service does not feel like the right fit. Ask your funeral director for help. There are funeral celebrants who are not attached to a church who can help you find the right fit. Your funeral director can help you find the right person.
Funerals are always for the survivors. Regardless of how the deceased spent their time on this earth, survivors need to gather with each other and their friends. Everyone needs to share in a safe place. All survivors grieve. We all need the opportunity to begin our grief journey in a healthy way. A funeral, a ceremony for someone who has died, is the beginning of that journey.
How does Advance funeral Planning affect the first hours before a funeral and the days and weeks that follow?
CALLING THE FUNERAL HOME / MORTUARY
Funeral preplan already in place: When a funeral preplan is already in place and on file at the funeral home, there is no question as to who to call. The deceased has left a clear message. The stunned, tired, grief-stricken family just makes the call and the funeral home takes your loved one into their care.
No funeral preplan in place: When a death occurs and no funeral preplan has been recorded at a funeral home, the first order of business is deciding which funeral home to call. The stunned, tired, grief stricken family must agree upon who they will trust to guide them through this difficult time. They must determine the funeral establishment that will help honor their loved one in a way that satisfies all their needs and fits their budget.
THE EVENING BEFORE THE FUNERAL ARRANGEMENT CONFERENCE
Funeral preplan already in place: When a funeral preplan is in place, the family can take this time to comfort each other. They can share memories, go through pictures or just rest. Tomorrow they will meet with the funeral director and review the funeral plan their family member put together with them in mind.
No funeral preplan in place: For the family with no funeral preplan in place, tomorrow will bring many questions and decisions. Tonight, they will be weighing in on one big question – burial or cremation. They’ll be figuring out how much to spend and who will pay for the funeral. They will need to decide which of them will participate in the arrangement conference. They will need to consider and agree upon how to honor their loved one’s life.
DAYS AND WEEKS AFTER THE FUNERAL
Funeral preplan already in place: The family with the funeral preplan has no doubts, no second-guessing, and no regrets. They know they did the “right” thing. They know they spent the right amount of money. They miss the one they lost but they have no regrets about the service that honored their loved one’s life.
No funeral preplan in place: Sadly not all families are able to pull together following the loss of a family member. Some are pulled apart because they disagree about decisions great and small. The days and weeks following a death are emotional and tense. It can be a very difficult time to be making group decisions.
To: Funeral Director
From: Dad with no plan
Subject: A question about funeral preplanning
Before I get to my question, I have to tell you the background.
Friday after Thanksgiving I took my wife (who cooked for a week for that dinner) and my kids (who came from west coast, east coast, and the middle) and the grandkids (who only ate rolls for Thanksgiving) out for pizza.
Sounds nice, right? OMG! It took us forever to order, no one could agree! We ended up with one cheese pizza for the picky grandkids, a large with ¼ meat lovers, ¼ with anchovies, and ½ supreme. We also ordered a medium white with gluten free crust. Still they were all picking stuff off, making faces, and huffing and puffing. OMG again!
So, my question…and I need your opinion here…how are they going to do when the time comes for them to meet with you to plan my funeral? Do you think maybe the wife and I should do one of those funeral preplans or advance funeral plans?
To: Dad with no plan
From: Funeral Director
Subject: Re: A question about funeral preplanning
OMG yes, you and your wife need a plan. Your family sounds perfectly normal! They’ll get over the pizza … but I’ve seen too many families break apart over disagreements about how to honor their parent’s life. Decisions such as burial or cremation or who is going to pay can be tough when families are grieving. A funeral plan is an easy fix. I‘d be happy to help. When do you want to meet with me? At the funeral home or your house?