Funeral Home Traditions
Planning a funeral is an extensive process and is often times overwhelming to those involved in making the necessary decisions. It is common for the bereaved to feel confused and overwhelmed by all that goes into planning a funeral. Many people are unfamiliar with the requirements associated with conducting a funeral service. They are aware that they will need some type of interment vessel, that a service must be performed, a final resting place selected, and a headstone chosen. But the writing of eulogies and obituaries, arranging for funeral music floral arrangements, scheduling viewings, planning services and rites, and preparing guest registrars, memorial folders, prayer cards, are just some of the matters that can be easily overlooked during these stressful times. It is for this reason that funeral guidance is offered to families coping with the loss of a loved one. Funeral guidance helps to educate and support families during a time when they are faced with many uncertainties, not the least of which are unfamiliar duties of planning a funeral. Below, we offer a guide filled with information that may be of help.
The first step is to contact a reputable funeral home and arrange to meet with a funeral director. The purpose of funeral homes is to provide proper funeral guidance and necessary information to the family of the deceased. Typically ones’ knowledge of funeral homes is limited to the most basic of information. It isn’t until a loved one passes that they find themselves in a position that necessitates the utilization of a funeral home. It stands to reason that most would be surprised to discover exactly how much preparation, paperwork, and equipment is required to conduct a funeral service. Another service provided by funeral homes is the use of the facilities and equipment necessary to providing the preparation, last rites, and final burial of the deceased. It is not uncommon for the general public to be unaware of the necessary details involved in a funeral service. More often than not this information is brought to their attention at a time of great emotional distress. They do not have the ability to process all the new information being placed in front of them as they would under normal circumstances. It is with this understanding that a funeral director must manage to operate.
Usually a funeral home is chosen for at least one of three reasons: by reputation, by previous use, or by cost. Funeral homes arrange services according to the wants of the surviving family, and seek to provide families assistance in making decisions during a very difficult time. It is to this end that funeral homes offer funeral packages. These packages usually include making funeral arrangements, ordering a casket or urn, and completing the paperwork surrounding the death certificate. Funeral homes will commonly charge a flat rate for these standard services but for an additional fee will provide additional services. Little thought is given to how or when the deceased will be moved from any one location to another, but transporting the body can end up being both time-consuming and costly. The funeral home will arrange for the body of the deceased to be removed from the place of death and taken to the funeral home. Additional arrangements may have to be made to transport the body if the deceased happens to be overseas or being brought in from another state. Funeral homes and other service providers can arrange transportation between cities for the deceased through airline services. However, the cost for these services can be unexpected and burdensome.
If choosing a traditional ground funeral, it is wise to meet with representatives of the selected cemetery. At this time vital decisions can be made in regards to a plot of land, choice of headstone or grave marker, and questions can be answered in regards as to whether there is a limited tenure of time connected to the land. Today many funeral homes include a limited tenure provision in their agreement. This stipulation allows a limited amount of time granted to the occupant as to ensure re-use of the space if necessary. This provision was created due to the limited amount of space available at most cemeteries and the inability of that cemetery to continue once the space was completely filled. Authorities would declare when enough time had transpired so there are no human remains present in an occupied grave, and the space could be re-used. However there is still much debate over this practice. Many think of this act as one of desecration, dishonoring the memory of their loved ones. It is wise to speak with the funeral director in regards to this agreement so that there are no issues later on. The funeral director will be able to guide the family through the process of filing the required paperwork that is associated with a death. Making sure to fill out the necessary paperwork is part of making funeral arrangements. Obtaining a death certificate will ensure that the family is able to close accounts and investments, transfer titles, and to claim social security benefits for surviving family. In the case of a terminal illness the deceased may have had the opportunity to plan ahead for such contingencies. If so, disclosing information regarding accounts, insurance policies, and pass codes to a trusted surviving family member would serve to alleviate later obstacles. Having one’s will in order is something that should be addressed. Although the funeral home will have little to do with this, it is important that it is brought up to date so that there are no lingering issues.
A decision must be made regarding whether to have a traditional ground burial or to have the body cremated. It is very common for the decision to have been made by the deceased prior to their death, but often times the decision is left to the surviving family members. This is not an easy choice to make as it involves how the remains of a loved one will be dealt with physically. Will their remains be placed in the ground and left to decompose over time, or will they be placed in a retort and incinerated? There are many factors to consider when making a decision of this nature.
Cremation was once considered to be a way to pay homage to those who had passed and those who had lost their lives in battle. Burning the bodies of fallen soldiers was also a way to prevent the enemy from ravaging the dead. Over time, certain events served to alter how society perceived cremation. The resurrection of Jesus Christ glorified the act of burial. Many considered burial a form of honoring Jesus Christ, and continued the tradition on through the centuries. Another event that further led away from the practice of cremation was the Holocaust. During that time cremation was affixed with the negative stigma that accompanied the Nazi regime. However despite these deterrents cremation is still widely used today. This could be attributed to that the fact that the cost of cremation is markedly less than that of a traditional ground burial. On average it costs 1/5 the amount of a ground burial. Another reason may be that more and more people are becoming aware of the limited space we have available to us, and are making a conscious effort to help to alleviate this issue. Cremation allows the option of scattering the ashes as well. Today services for scattering ashes include land scatterings, water scatterings, and even aerial scatterings. The cost of these committal services are very reasonable, and can be performed almost anywhere.
If the family of the deceased chooses to have their loved one cremated it is important to discuss the details of the process with the funeral director. Understanding each step of the cremation process will help to reassure the family and to remove any fears they may have concerning this procedure. The funeral director will then make arrangements for the body to be transported to the crematorium where it will be prepared. When choosing to cremate the deceased there is no need to have the body embalmed. The body can be transported directly to the crematorium. Very often a viewing will be held, followed by a funeral service at a church or chapel, and then a grave site committal service. However if the family wishes to have a viewing or to conduct formal funeral services prior to cremation it is necessary to proceed with the embalming. The purpose of embalming is sanitation, presentation, and preservation. Its main purpose is to delay decomposition and allow time for viewing of the body. Embalming is not necessary if the deceased will be taken directly to the crematorium for cremation. The body will then be placed in a retort, or furnace, until the soft tissues are incinerated. The remains are then placed in another machine to further minimize remainder of the body. The family is then able to have the ashes placed in an urn for any further committal services.
Though cremation has become a widely accepted method of interment, ground burials are still the most common form of funeral service. When planning a funeral time is the most crucial factor. It is essential that the wishes of the deceased be addressed, and at the same time, that the family’s wishes for the deceased are recognized as well. A funeral director will be versed in assisting in the numerous decisions that must be made, and in tailoring a funeral service to suit each family’s needs and wishes.
When it comes to the expenses associated with funeral homes there are many issues easily overlooked by the general public. When cemetery plots are purchased a flat fee is charged to maintain that piece of land for an extended period of time. What is commonly overlooked is the long term costs associated with maintaining that plot of land. There is great difficulty involved in the upkeep of a cemetery. Traditional mowers normally used to handle acres of land cannot maneuver between headstones and monuments. Using machinery such as string trimmers can cause damage to headstones and grave markers. Another issue associated with the necessity for constant overall maintenance of the grounds is the inconvenience it is to the visiting mourners. People will come to visit their loved ones at any given time, and will not be pleased to have to compete with machinery. They feel they are due a few moments of peace and solitude, and do not appreciate these types of distractions.
In addition to maintaining the normal requirements of the grounds, funeral homes must deal with any type of vandalizing that may occur. It is not uncommon for people to steal copper vases from grave markers and crypts, then to resell them to dealers for the value of the metal. This places the cemetery in the position of either prohibiting the use of these pieces or increasing security. The first option would displease visitors and the second increases the overhead for the cemetery.
There has always been confusion concerning these additional fees and services. As mentioned, a funeral home may offer a discount package to encourage families to purchase a funeral casket from their funeral home. The funeral home may extend this discount on the condition that the funeral home does not reduce the price of its basic service fee when it calculated the amount of the discount it offers with the package. It is wise when choosing a funeral home to inquire about whether the home is privately owned or corporately owned, as a smaller, private firm generally has more flexibility in offering lower costs and more options.
A funeral home can be of great assistance during this overwhelming time. Support and guidance are essential in maneuvering through an incredibly difficult event. The guidance offered by funeral homes can be a constant support to the bereaved, so it is important to communicate with the funeral director and his/her staff. Communicating the needs and wishes of the family is crucial when in comes to being able to have a proper service for the departed. Though the loss of a loved one can be unbearable, the burden of death can be eased with support and consideration.