Having buried my Dad in October 2000, I picked up some experience arranging a funeral and home burial. I had the invaluable help of a mentor, who gave me a list of things to consider ahead of time; the pastor of my Dad’s church, who was compassionate and flexible; and a funeral director who was likeable and eager to please. These things helped make the arrangements relatively pleasant and smooth. (Thank you Ralph Bramucci, Jim Blades and Shawn Elliott.)
I suspect most people do not have the benefit of such help and without it, a death in the family is likely to hit them like a ton of bricks. No matter how much you plan ahead, there are certain tasks that must be done after death and before burial, usually in the short space of a few days. Add a little emotion to the picture and you have an event only less tense and hectic than a wedding.
It is my endeavor to pass on the facts of death while they are all fresh in my memory so that my friends may benefit from my experience.
1. Where is the service to be held? Church, Chapel, Mortuary?
If you belong to a church then perhaps there is little to consider on this matter. If you don’t, having a service in a church can be a challenge. Understandably, the pastor of a church or priest of a parish is devoted to the regular attendees. They see their job as attending to the spiritual needs of their followers. A good pastor or priest will attempt to handle a death as an opportunity to start a relationship with the survivors, if they are not members of a church body ahead of time. His or her concern and objective will be to attend to the spiritual needs of the survivors, to become their spiritual adviser, a resource. If you approach such a person with the simple interest of holding a service for a loved one in a pretty place with some good music and a short, soothing speech, they are likely to be miffed with your shallow aims.
If the whole church thing is not your style, or the former style of the deceased, an independent chapel or a mortuary is the next most obvious option. The plethora of mortuaries you will find in your community attests to their strategic value in our society.
Consider ambiance. If you don’t want any unpleasant surprises, visit the facilities yourself before you make a decision. I visited six mortuaries and found only two I liked. Several were run-down and one was absolutely filthy! They all cost about the same for services, so why accept anything less than what you like?
Who will speak?
Plan for family members to say a few words if they feel like it
Leave it open for a few impromptu speakers
Reflective part of the ceremony
readings from the Bible
poems or short essays
Loss, bereavement aspects
You are trying to address this issues with an upbeat tone.
set the spiritual tone
reflect the person’s spiritual core
what was their spiritual connection?
How religious do you want it to be?
Do you want prayer?
Consider that prayer doesn’t have to be formal. It can be as simple as a moment of silent reflection.
How do we make a wholesome good-bye, symbolic good-bye, a parting?
What are you to do with all those people?
Consider a reception immediate following the ceremony, at the same site. This way you make it easy for all to attend and there is one less separate arrangement to make. You lose less people this way too. If you want a smaller gathering of family and intimates, this can be done after a larger reception.
If the body is to be interred, then there needs to be a graveside ceremony.
If the body is to be cremated, there is not usually a ceremony.
Concrete box $450
Plastic vault $795
Steel vault $895
Caskets start at $600 and go up to $57,000. They have a showroom of caskets available.
Graveside service only or “immediate burial” $1545 plus casket
Present at church service and transportation to gravesite $3000 plus casket
Grave digging (with or without vault) $450