Advance Funeral Planning ~ Part 2

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.

This entry was posted in caregiver stress, support, and respite, doctors and medical, family issues and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Advance Funeral Planning ~ Part 2

  1. Lesley says:

    Dear Megan,
    I haven’t put much thought towards all this, because I know I am going to come up against challenges and bureaucracy, so I applaud you for looking into it all. This is one of the many areas of life where I wish it could be more simple. I wish you well with getting all of that in place.

    As I hope you will be able to get back to being able to cry when you need/want to. I say “get back” because I think most of us did plenty of that in the beginning, but tend to become more stoic as the years go on. I have concerns about this sometimes, about the veil we might pull over our feelings just to be able to go on day-to-day, and if that doesn’t subdue our entire emotional life as a result, or as you have shared, make it hard to bring those deep feelings to the surface when we wish….no answers, just questions to join yours.

    • Megan says:

      Hi Lesley,

      For some reason your comment didn’t show up for me until much later after you wrote it. Sorry about that.

      I can understand why a lot of people don’t deal with funeral and death planning until there are more imminent reasons.

      Being alone as mom’s sole caregiver and having no family who will be here or travel here when she dies has been the main motivator for me. Though I have a small circle of dear, loyal friends out here, they have their children to worry about and are so understandably busy with all of life, so I don’t know who will end up able to pull through at the time when I need help, if I’m emotionally out of commission, other than my husband. I’m sure it’ll all work out, but I just needed an introduction to all the decisions I’d have to navigate at that time. Getting a small, but thorough chunk of information about local options was helpful enough for now.

      Thanks for writing!

  2. momsbrain says:

    Hi, Megan. I commend you for doing this before you HAVE to. I had to prepay some of Mom’s funeral expenses as part of spending her money before she went on Medicaid. I was really nervous about the meeting with the funeral director, I recall, and I think it was just a manifestation of emotion rather than actual nerves. I knew I was doing what had to be done and I was glad to be getting some of the details settled early. But I also realized that despite being alone to handle much of Mom’s illness, I will need to consult with my siblings about what we do after her death. Yet another complication, ultimately…

    I totally know what you are talking about with regard to suppressing emotions. Just last night, I was watching a documentary about Oregon’s Death with Dignity law, and out of the blue, I just burst into tears. And I was glad to do so. But it probably doesn’t happen enough to give me relief.

    Take care,

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