How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE

Dust to Dust – Part 2

99 Comments


  https://letscutthecrap.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/dust-to-dust/    (previous)

***

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.

morgueFile free photos

morgueFile free photos

“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:

  1. Should you buy life insurance to cover funeral expenses? Will the payout cover the costs in 20, 30 or more years?
  2. Should you pre-pay your funeral? This is money someone else is benefiting from and earning interest on, not you.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. 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.
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Author: Let's CUT the Crap!

I'm getting a little LONG in the tooth and have things to say about---ouch---AGEing. I believe it's certainly a state of mind but sometimes it's nice to hear that you're NORMAL. I enjoy reading by the truckload. I'm a grandma but I don't feel OLD although I'm not so young anymore. My plan is to stick it out as long as I can on this lovely planet and only will leave it kicking and screaming!

99 thoughts on “Dust to Dust – Part 2

  1. It sounds like you have some very serious decisions going on. As far as answering the questions it’s tough based on finances and end of life wishes. Sending positive energy your way as you work though all of it.

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  2. I dealt with a (different) funeral home in Dundas (Ontario) before my father passed away (he was terminal). At the time, I arranged his cremation and made arrangements for my mother’s (at her request). I was treated with dignity, respect, and patience. I prepaid both; when Dad died (less than a year after the arrangements had been made) the cost was fully covered; when Mom passed four years later, costs had gone up BUT the pre-payment meant we didn’t pay any additional amounts. We took the ‘no frills’ cremation option (no casket, no service/viewing – although family could say a final good by, delivery of ashes to our home – in containers WE provided – you can have loved one’s ashes put into anything from a coffee can to a cookie jar to a fancy container – you are NOT required to spend $500 plus for one of their ‘urns’) – total cost was $30,000 for the full funeral ‘experience’ because it made THEM feel ‘better’, but it put them into debt for YEARS and wasn’t necessarily what their loved ones would have wanted – they hadn’t even bothered asking what the person involved expected). It might seem ‘gruesome’ but this is an essential conversation to have (and decision to make) before it’s ‘too late’.

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    • I totally agree with prepayment because the costs do go up. I’m leaving notes for everything: music at the reception, pictures, eulogy etc.
      These people WERE nice and yes, I was well treated. I just thought the funeral director should have been better organized. He put me at ease by which time I didn’t want to waste time.

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  3. My uncle’s recent funeral cost $10,000. The biggest expense by far was the obituary in the New York Times. We had to do that because he had tons of friends in New York and he requested we do one. I wish I had talked him out of it. Cremation is the only way to go. As I said before, you are a smart girl.

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    • My obituary will cost $250. My mother’s cost $800. I’m a conservative person. I was asked if I wanted to include flowers. Nope. If someone, anyone, wants to send / buy flowers, okay by me but I’m not paying for those too. 🙂

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  4. There is a lot to consider when it comes to the end. I wonder why we make such “showy” things of funerals? It is a sad time for those who love the one being said good-bye to but we sure do make it more stressful with all the must do’s.

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    • The wonderful part is the funeral home do take care of a lot of details and the remaining family won’t have to worry about.
      The trouble is, Patricia, funerals are a business but I do this for my family. Nothing showy, just enough so they can say I wasn’t swept under the carpet (no pun intended hee hee).

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  5. We are doing the no frills. Naked, in a cardboard box, ashes in a cardboard box. memorial service at our churches (we attend different churches). I’m taking a cue from the memorial of my friend’s father. she had a low table draped with a quilt her grandmother made. On an easel, she had an inexpensive corkboard and pictures pinned to it. On the table she had his hat, walking stick, his dogtags, and a few sprays of Rosemary tied with a lavender ribbon. A bouguet of various red, white, and blue flowers. I liked it. the cost for me, alone – $1100, pre-paid, guaranteed. An invoice ready and waiting for me and one for my husband. $1100 for him. The free announcement of services, time, and location listed on the crematorium’s website. I did service plans and left in the care of my lawyer – songs, everyone to wear red and white (Japanese colors of celebration) scriptures, the asking of people to speak and a short eulogy in case everybody I know is dead. A stipulated amount of money to the church holding the service. Our church does a reception after the service – people in the church volunteer to bring food and set up tables and beverages. There ya go.

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    • I’ll have all that covered (I have a binder) with pictures, my eulogy, my favorite things, the music I want etc. There will be a reception afterwards. The money put aside for that, if not used, will be returned to my daughter. The announcement will be at the funeral home site anyway but who will know to look there? I ‘m having a basic newspaper announcement for those who might still remember me.
      This is more for my daughter and my grandchildren anyway and I don’t mind.

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  6. Correction! My earlier post was somehow ‘truncated’ by WordPress. It should have read (five lines from the bottom) ‘- total cost was around $2,500 each (vs. what friends paid: they put out >$30,000 for the ‘full funeral experience’ …) My (basic) point was that you don’t need to spend a lot of money – but you DO have to make sure YOU get what YOU want!

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  7. I have a burial plot in GA, but it is only for one. Now that I have married, we are thinking cremation, nothing fancy, nothing showy.

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  8. I like Sueslaght’s comment. It speaks for me as well. Hugs and wishing you a happy weekend. Stay warm. 🙂

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  9. This is fascinating information even if a bit macabre. I’ve never thought of preparation like this, but it makes sense to do so, especially if one doesn’t want to leave loved ones with the cost. $30,000? That’s crazy. Thanks for introducing us to this world.

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  10. Yikes! I had no idea this stuff was so expensive. It’ll only get worse, too. Cremation and no burial–scatter me to the winds. Maybe that’ll keep the cost down.

    Gee, Tess. How’s this happen?

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  11. There is so much to consider, and also the cost.

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  12. It’s not lost on me…that we have so much to think about and process to LIVE every day….and on top of that we have to plan for our deaths when we aren’t here. Things have sure conspired to make things more difficult!

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  13. I’m down south of you in the US. From what I have seen and read, funeral expenses are even close too as high as what you stated for your friend’s mother. Of course, most people here don’t buy a headstone and opt for the plaque instead. Cremation is getting to be the norm here too and can cost as little as $6000. It still sounds like an awful lot to me.

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    • Let’s face it, death is a business. Why has the cost doubled every ten years for the past 30?

      I wish I had thought of prepaying years ago at prices charged back when. Still in 30 or 40 years what I am paying now will be a bargain. Yes? 😀

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  14. With all the replies it sounds like ones funeral is no different to supermarket shopping, we must ‘shop’ around for a good deal. You have done a great service bringing all this out into the open for us to at least think about it at best do something. Life and death go hand in hand. To me, I couldn’t choose the way I came into this world but I can choose how I go out and mine will be the cheapest and the most fun celebrating my life not the sadness of my death. Thank you for sharing and making us think. Good luck in your endeavours.

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    • Thank you, Rose for reading and commenting. I would have chosen the least expensive cremation possible but some of this is for my daughter’s sake, not mine.
      A story: An elderly widow and widower married but only for a year or two. When he died, she bought the most beautiful casket, white and had all the frills money could buy. Why? Not practical to me.

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  15. I think more than a hygienic method of disposing of the dead, cremation somehow enables lovers and comrades to be mingled together for eternity…

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  16. To randomrose, death is not what it used to be. I have the same feeling you point. http://damantigui.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/we-no-longer-die-well-en

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  17. Very interesting subject. Glad you’re set. Proactive and smart.

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  18. The high cost of dying…I agree with LenLeather, it is good to be pro-active and get the ‘details’ over with. Then, get back to focusing on enjoying life to the fullest on this side, for now. Interesting post Tess.

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  19. You are taking the necessary steps and way to go girl. Not many think ahead nor want to. My parents are both pre-paid. We are beginning to have more “Green Funerals” over here – cardboard caskets/coffins that can be painted by grandchildren or left bare. Some homes also do not use coffins, but the deceased is wrapped in a shroud for the burial or cremation. I don’t know how this works if a Service is held as I can’t imagine conducting a Service with actually having the body wrapped up next to me. When I go in to commence a Service and if the family are having a viewing prior to the Service starting, I go up and say ‘hello’ to the person I have written about.. helps me connect more when I read. This is an interesting post Tess and I am glad that you are thinking ahead. Cremation is becoming more popular, adequate room in Cemeteries is getting scarce and also when my ‘penguins’ leave the earthly coil, I want to be able to have them with me – on a dresser – on the TV, so I can chat to them whenever I want. 🙂 x

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  20. Is that $30k in Canadian or American $? Sheesh!

    Thank you for this miniseries, Ms. Tess – as I try to take care of my dear mother’s needs in her advanced stages of dementia. I am looking at all these things, and I don’t have time for sweet talk over coffee with the young chap who entertained you so nicely!

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  21. Cremation is definitely the way to go … for us! Shopping can bring the price down and once paid, no more worries about leaving loved ones with the expense. Took care of my Mother’s final arrangements ahead of time, she has five kids, and we all agreed (actually her decision when she was alert). So when the day comes, it just comes, already dealt with the grim stuff.

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  22. Hi Tess: Brilliant blog. I believe our generation is perhaps the first one to seriously pre-plan our funerals. My mother told my dad what she wanted to be buried in but all of the other decisions were still to be made. Where I grew up and all of my family still lives, being cremated is about as acceptable as being tossed over a creek bank. With that being said, Tom and I are opting for cremation. By law we are both entitled to burial by the military including the service, plot,casket et.al. We’ve said no thanks.
    In case anyone ever ask, mortuaries are required to keep a minimum cost casket that is still water tight. It’s nice looking for the viewing and service and in the states are around $600.

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  23. Tess, you’ve done an excellent yeoman’s service for yourself, your loved ones, and us. I’m beginning to get the feeling that bloggers are the heavy lifters of the Universe. Great points you made for consideration at the end. Can you breathe again?

    Best ~ HuntMode

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  24. Mother passed year and a half ago. Today she would have been 90. I have a daughter and her kids here no extended family. So no service, no funeral. My son happened to be in town so it was just him, father and me. Ashes over tiny wooden bridge over stream that winds into the Atlantic. Father and I hope to be at same place in that park. It has to be done clandestinely as laws against it. Quiet, simple, private and silent with none of the trappings of worldly things just 3 red roses. Everyone does it differently but this is how it worked for father and me. Since I am only child it has pretty much been just us three in this life and so it will remain in death. We are sure mother would abhor all the expenses rather to leave a very modest something behind for the living. I do not think family members should feel guilty not having to go broke or in debt for these things unless very wealthy and so inclined. I did not feel we needed a clergyman to “say words”. I am her son. I said the words.

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  25. I think it’s incredibly wise of you to plan these things while you still have control. It demonstrate great presence of mind. I guess the answers to the issues you raise is that it all depends on the individual’s circumstances but few of us really think about it until it’s too late. I can’t imagine a funeral director (as we call ’em here) going bust, though. Like hairdressing, there’s always demand.

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  26. Holy crap Tess. Hopefully there is peace in eternity and no more bills and taxes. They have to get us one more time before making our exits! 🙂

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  27. You’ve opened a lot of eyes by writing about this, and I’m sure it was difficult for you. It is a hard topic to bring up and do the details on. I applaud your following through.

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  28. My godmother and godfather died within years of each other. They were cremated and the wake was in the backyard. We had a pool party. Only costs were for the cremation and the hotdogs. 🙂
    Sometimes going simple is better.

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  29. The fact that you remain willing to write and discuss about “what comes after” shows an intrinsic positivity you hold. I would acknowledge you for that.

    Shakti

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  30. The funeral biz is a complicated, ghoulish affair. My heart goes out to you.
    I’ve been there with many family members and it never gets any easier although I am used to the whole process. And you’re right, if you don’t have the funds it can be a nightmare.
    Hang in there.

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  31. I really think it’s great that you are planning. I know not many people want to. You’ve given me much to ponder.

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  32. Wow, a lot to think about! I’m pretty sure it’s not that bad here in Switzerland, but maybe I should check. At least this is behind you now, nothing more to think about so just let go and enjoy the rest of your long life. 🙂

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  33. Pingback: Dust to Dust – Part 3 | How the Cookie Crumbles

  34. I’m a bit behind here, just caught up on number 2, now off to read number 3! …

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  35. Oh Tess, what a decision! Who knew? So much to think about. Here in the UK, cremation is by far the most common choice and obviously the cheapest. Even cheaper, you can now get cremated in coffins made of willow!

    When my first husband died (he was 21 and I am writing about all of this in my memoir) I remember sitting in a funeral home and discussing the cost of his funeral with his family. They knew that I had been left some life insurance (he was in the military and I was his widow so I got it rather than his mother) and so they all agreed that I should pay for it. It was 1981 and even then it cost me $4,000 because ‘they’ picked out the most expensive, lead-lined, pale blue casket. I was 21. What the hell did I know? I was just glad that my husband was out of pain and at peace.

    So it’s great that you are taking care of this now and I greatly admire you for doing so because a very unpleasant experience from start to finish, fascinating read though I do have to say. Off to part three now…

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  36. Here they have funeral insurance available – but I work for a charitable organisation representing older people, and we advise people not to take it, as it ends up costing far more than the funeral would have. I don’t know the details of this though. I think if it were my funeral I’d go for the totally no frills version – after all, you’re dead.

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  37. These are such important choices, That you are doing this is wonderfully compassionate, I am glad ultimately I didn’t miss it.

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  38. Good for you on going through with it.
    No Frills sound interesting.

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  39. Tess,
    Thanks for sharing. Wow. I need to go back and re-read all of this. The kind of thing you don’t want to think about. But good information.
    wow. Times like these I wish there were just appreciation buttons to click!
    xoxo

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    • You’re most generous. I wrote what I learned. I’ve always been in the dark and cannot understand why this part of our lives is kept such a mystery.
      Wouldn’t it be nice if costs of this sort were easily accessible, say uniform across the board. Wouldn’t we all be more comfortable approaching this as another part of living? 🙂

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Some things in life are complicated. Let's keep it simple.

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