Thursday, December 19, 10:00 a.m.
I’ve thought of nothing else for the past two days and expect to conclude my business at The Funeral Home today. Rick has called after our last meeting and left a message about all the numbers he’d worked out. I’m sure he’s made some horrible mistake and plan to go over the itemized list with care.
I arrive a couple of moments early. This time the parking lot is empty except for two other cars, unlike my last visit when the lot was half-full and an attendant opened the door when I arrived. My guess is no-one is in residence or there are no services this morning. Why am I thinking about these details? Don’t think. Finish your business and get the hell out of here.
I am about to drop into a comfy chair when Rick comes around the corner. “Come in. Come in,” he says as if this is a social visit and we are old friends.
No sooner do I take a seat at the table in the same meeting room as last time when a lady arrives and hands me a steaming cup of coffee. “Thank you.” I’m startled and a little floored by today’s efficiency. I can’t help wonder if today is a busy day and they want to push me through or, and I can’t help myself—that’s the way my brain works—they want to hustle me through before I change my mind. Well, business is business, right? A cartoon cloud hovers overhead of a skillful and seasoned used-car salesman: keep talking and don’t let them think till the dotted line is signed.
We begin with small talk which soon irritates me because we’ve already been there last time. I don’t want to be friends; I have something important on my mind. I’ll never see you again, I hope, and not even then.
“I’d like to see a breakdown of the numbers you quoted over the phone.”
“I haven’t printed up the invoice yet in case you have some adjustments to make.”
I shake my head. “I want the cremation, but don’t understand why the cost is so high for a pine box, a shroud and a small service. I’ve decided I don’t want the DVD, which should cut out another $500.00.”
“That’s been removed. I’ll print out the breakdown. Excuse me a minute. How’s your coffee?”
“Great and I’m fine, thank you.” How I’ve mellowed. This is a business transaction after all. Think numbers and negotiate, accept or reject.
I sit and wait. And wait. What’s taking Rick so long? What’s happened to the ‘Slam- bang-thank-you-ma’am’ service when I arrived?
Good thing I’d brought a book to pass the time. Rick returns. I’m anxious to close this chapter and go home. If I close my eyes I know I’ll slide off the chair and into an exhausted sleep. He’s all business. Is it because my impatience is evident or is it because I look the wreck I feel?
We go over the numbers. I’m flabbergasted. Everything I’d agreed to is in black and white. Each service and every single person has his or hand out for a piece of the pie. I think of vultures.
Next week I’ll go through the breakdown of expenses. I’m told years ago an invoice showed one figure: the total. The breakdown may shake you up somewhat as it did me. As well, funeral expenses have doubled every ten years over the past 30 years. Some points I want to leave with you to ponder:
- Should you buy life insurance to cover funeral expenses? Will the payout cover the costs in 20, 30 or more years?
- Should you pre-pay your funeral? This is money someone else is benefiting from and earning interest on, not you.
- In Canada, pre-payments do not go to the funeral home but to a trust company. This protects clients in the event the funeral home goes bust. Why / how do they go bust? Hanky-panky / mismanagement just as in any other business.
- Did you know, depending on your age, you can make payments over many years? Keep in mind, interest is tied to making payments and is over and above your initial contract cost.
- Cremation is fast becoming the service of choice. A friend of mine paid for her mother’s funeral a few years ago, nothing fancy, and the cost was $30,000.00
- Have you heard of No Frills cremation? I didn’t until after I’d made all my arrangements, but I I’m going ahead with the contract I signed.