After months of not following up on my intended goal to get informed about the funeral home process, which I felt more motivated to do back at the time of my first post on this subject, I took a few small steps this morning. I called two funeral homes to discuss Mom’s wish- simple cremation- and the costs, procedures, and options that go along with that.
I’m glad I called two, rather than stopping with the nearby business that had been recommended. That first place was a traditional and well-established funeral home. I received straightforward answers to all my questions, but nothing more. The minimum fee for a cremation and no services or burial came to about $3,000.
We’d prefer to have a gathering after Mom’s death at our home, and then probably another gathering out east where her friends are. It wouldn’t make sense to ask them all to travel to the Midwest. And Mom has said we should have a party instead of a funeral home service, so who knows what will happen – we’ll probably see what feels right in the moment.
The second business I called refers to themselves as an “alternative” funeral home. Their fees for a simple cremation were about half the cost, and the woman I spoke with offered a lot of helpful extra information about what was included and what else might be involved.
Because of her manner, I felt really comfortable asking her almost all my little nagging and embarrassing questions, like:
~ how long most places will (and can legally) let us sit with Mom’s body before calling the funeral home (usually 2-10 hours, depending on where the death takes place)
~ if we can witness the cremation (yes, for a $350 fee)
~ if we can take her remains home with us (yes, this is common and no extra fee)
~ what happens if she dies at the hospital and we want time to sit with her before her body is taken (usually you can make arrangements if you’re very clear about your wishes)
I was relieved to hear that her business was comfortable with almost any scenario, including waiting up to about 10 hours (the legal limit here) before we would call the funeral home to take her body.
I didn’t like hearing that most funeral homes cannot legally or logistically do the cremation quickly, so her body would sit with them in a room for 4-5 days. I know people in my area who were able to keep their loved one’s body during that waiting period, but it took a lot of string-pulling, and they had to claim it as “religious beliefs”.
I can see many good reasons why you might not want to have the body at home for days. I also don’t like the idea of Mom’s body shut up for four days in that room one bit.
Modern Americans tend to say and believe that after death the spirit is set free and it doesn’t matter how you treat the body afterwards, but our earlier ancestors in this culture and around the world have always thought otherwise, and as far as I’m concerned, there’s some wisdom there, if only ceremonial, and if only for the living. I feel drawn toward more meaningful and caring treatment of a body up until the burial or cremation, like still happens over a period of several days or longer in lots of other countries and cultures.
Since I need to talk regularly and candidly about Mom’s health, her terminal disease, her Do Not Resuscitate Order, and the possibility that she may die at any time with all kinds of people, it surprised me how tearful I got when I was discussing these matters this morning with the funeral directors. It’s a whole different thing to talk about death very concretely, when you need to clearly visualize the person’s body and its transition after death.
Now I wish I had hung up and let myself cry for a while. Lately I’ve been feeling like I really need to. In so many situations when I’m trying to get through the day doing things for Mom I repress that urge in order while I’m “doing business”, so it becomes hard to let it happen once I’m alone. I’ve blocked that channel of release so much that it’s not always there when I need it now.