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Cremation or burial … is that the question?

Published: July 19, 2019

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When a family member dies or when a person is planning their own funeral in advance, one of the first questions that will be asked is, “Do you want burial or cremation?”. The burial or cremation question is a starting point for a number of choices that must be made. It’s a place to start. But it is absolutely not the entire story.

So, how do you decide? 

Approximately 50 percent of people choose burial, so that means the other half choose to be cremated. The numbers vary vastly in different parts of the country, from small towns to big cities, from one faith base to another, from one family to another. The most important things to remember when you are the decision maker is let go of what you think burial is, let go of what you think cremation is because either can be just about anything you want or believe will provide the most comfort for your family. So, yes, cremation can include faith, gathering, visitation, a funeral and burial. And, yes, burial can include a celebration of life, music, and pictures in addition to visitation, faith, and funeral. Woo Hoo! Who knew you can have it your way!

Here are a few things to consider when deciding between cremation or burial. What is your family tradition? Do you want to continue with that tradition, or do you want to change things up? Do you and your family share a faith base? Where does your faith stand on the cremation or burial question? Where do you live? Does your family live near you? Will someone be around to tend or visit your burial place? Will your family be disappointed if there is no grave to visit? What is your budget? What will your family be able to do? Will they put together a video, sing a song, tell a story, host the gathering?  What can they do and where will they appreciate help?

If the choice is to bury, a cemetery will need to be selected and then a location within that cemetery. The burial site provides a place for family members to visit and remember. They can bring flowers or flags to decorate the grave site during the course of the year. These are all actions that many families find help them with the grieving process. 

If the choice is to cremate, then a final location for cremated remains will need to be selected. Sadly, this final and very important decision is often overlooked. There are many options. Cremated remains can be buried, placed in a niche, scattered, or retained by a family member. Careful consideration of those left with the ashes should be made before deciding on a final resting place for cremated remains.

It is a lot. Fortunately help is available. A funeral director or advance funeral planner can help, all you need to do is call the funeral home and arrange for an appointment. There is usually no cost for an arrangement appointment.

Why Plan Your Funeral in Advance?

Published: July 12, 2019

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The story below illustrates the benefits of preplanning your funeral. Also known as an “advance funeral plan”, “preneed”, or a “preplanned funeral”, it is one of the few things in life where you can pay today’s prices for a product and service you may not need for many years down the road, thus saving you money.

We buried my dad last week. My dad’s funeral would have been just a little more $8,000 not counting the luncheon or cemetery space. However, thanks to his pre-need funeral plan that he prepared 18 years ago at the funeral home, we got it for $5,000 and some change. Saving money wasn’t necessarily what motivated him to make the plan in advance. But, let me tell you, my mom was pretty pleased to know she didn't have to write that check. 

Now, I should clarify something here. My mom is more than okay financially. Paying, even the full $8,000, for the funeral would not have been a financial issue. It was an emotional thing. She knew the death of my dad was going to change her life. She just didn’t know how it would change. So, everything, every action and especially spending money, increased her anxiety. We didn’t need that. Thank you, dad, for taking care of the plan and its cost well before it was needed.  

What motivated my father to pre-plan was the fact we are a blended family. It’s not the we don’t all get along, we do (most of the time). But, we don’t all have the same taste. My sister, his oldest daughter, likes the earth tones. Our mom, his wife, on the other hand, likes the jewel tones. My dad picked a black casket and even said he wanted to be buried in his navy suit. Seems like small stuff, but it probably saved us all some angst. There was no fuss, no brown suit and no hurt feelings. 

If my dad would have asked us 18 years ago if he should pre-plan and pre-pay for his funeral, I feel certain all five of us would have said, “Don’t worry about that. We can take care of it when we have to.” I am so grateful that he did not ask and that he did not think just about the money portion of an advance funeral plan. Dad, thank you for being smarter than us and knowing that we would need your emotional support even in death.

We All Love in Very Different Ways: Preserving the Family Relationship While Planning a Funeral

Published: July 5, 2019

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You are with someone with whom you share some history. Maybe it’s a brother, sister, or a childhood friend. You are talking about an event from the “old days” and you suddenly realize you all remember the event a little differently. Most of us have had this experience. Our relationships work in a similar fashion. The way we love, like the way we remember, is unique to each of us.   

A man’s children know him as Dad. Each child knows and loves a slightly different Dad. His wife knows and loves him in yet a different way. A wife may know fears, strengths, hopes, and dreams children never saw. They all love, but in such different ways. Though not a bad thing, it can add to the stress a family experiences during a death and subsequence funeral planning. 

So how do you preserve your family relationship and plan a funeral that provides comfort for each family member?  

  1. Establish a common goal. For example: “We want a funeral that reflects Mom’s life, her love for us and our love for her.”  
  2. Understand someone has the final say. This is usually the person who is financially and legally responsible. 
  3. Agree to listen to each other. REALLY listen with purpose. Listen to understand a point of view, not with the singular intent of getting to the good part where you get to say what you want. 
  4. Seek input from a variety of close family members or friends. Don’t forget the little ones. Ask them about grandma. What did they love to do with her? Do they have a special memory or story? 
  5. Let go. Realize everything is not going to be as you would choose. Give a little or maybe even a lot.  
  6. Ask for a time out when you need it. Your first reaction to someone’s idea may be tempered with a little time and thought. 
  7. Use your questions: Tell me more about that? Why is ______ important to you? 
  8. Take the advice of Stephen Covey from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand and then be understood.” 

Emotions are raw when families are mourning a death. Tread lightly and be kind.  Remember you may want to have Thanksgiving dinner with these people in a few months!

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