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What happens when no one decides what to do with the six pounds of cremated remains that are left following the funeral or memorial service? You might be surprised at some of the unusual places where they show up.
For example, let’s just say you buy a swell little red two-seater sports car and drive that baby home. Of course, you are going to give her a good sprucing up. When you get around to cleaning the trunk you find a non-descript little plastic box. Close inspection reveals it’s full of a chunky greyish white substance. On the bottom of the box you notice there is a label and a name! OMG! You have what’s left of someone you never knew in your trunk! Or, you buy a house and it looks like someone left a nice vase in the attic … you get where I am going with this, right? As life moves on sometimes well-meaning people lose track of the box or urn they were looking after.
Thrift stores and Goodwill are often the recipient of cremated remains. And guess what? They don’t want your great uncle Henry.
How can this be? Well, family members are not always comfortable with the scattering plan the deceased requested. It’s hard to dispose of what remains of someone you loved. Perhaps the plan wasn’t even realistic. The sand trap on the seventh hole is really not an easy place to “scatter” six pounds of crushed bone fragments. It’s not sand. All too often, cremated remains find their way back to the funeral home years after the funeral service took place. It’s the boom-a-rang effect, leaving the funeral home with the task of tracking down a living relative.
The moral of this story is simple. When someone you love tells you they “just want to be cremated” ask this question, “And then what shall we do with your ashes?”. If you are thinking about cremation don’t leave your plan partially complete. Talk to your funeral director or advance funeral planner (both can be found at your local funeral home) about your options for after the cremation. Make sure the family members you designate to carry out your final plan are comfortable and able to take care of the final resting place for your ashes.
Finally, if you have a family member’s cremated ashes in the attic, trunk, or somewhere unusual and you need help with a final plan … call the funeral home. They can help you with choices.
It’s fair to state that funerals stick in the mind of a loved one years after a death. It’s important that you get it right. Please don’t put your wishes in the drawer with the rest of your files. Oh, and that thing where you tell the kids what you want. That’s not the best either.
Here’s what often happens:
The funeral plan in the file - It might be part of the estate plan or stuck in with the financial advisor’s paperwork, or just written on some paper. It is highly likely that it will not be found until well after the funeral is over. In the hours following a death there are literally more than a hundred things to do. The list exists and people count this stuff. There is a lot to do over a short period of time when someone dies. Your family will not be going through the files.
They will not know you wanted to wear your blue dress and that you wanted The Wind Beneath My Wings sung at your funeral. They just won’t. So, imagine the anguish when they find your “plan” two weeks after the funeral service is over.
Imagine how they are going to feel when they realize they buried you in the wrong dress and sang the wrong song. Terrible. That’s how they will feel. Sadly, they’ll feel that way for a very long time.
You’ve told your kids what you want - Seems like it will be ok, but maybe not. A woman and her two sisters have not been on speaking terms since their mother died. Seems everyone heard something different from mom regarding what she wanted. The twins heard she didn’t care, just “do what you want”. So, when mom died visiting one of them, a Southern Baptist service was arranged. That service stunned Martha who was raised Catholic and heard mom say she wanted “a service just like the one we did for your dad.”
Call the funeral home, make an appointment and get everything written down and on file at the funeral home. It’s easy and there is no charge for the appointment.
Funerals, like everything from paper towels to cars, come in cheap and expensive. It’s not as easy as you might think to figure out what qualifies as cheap when it comes to funerals. This is due, in part, because we don’t all have the same idea of what a “funeral” is. For some folks, a funeral includes a gathering of friends and family the evening before, a trip to the church with the body, a graveside committal service and a luncheon for all attendees following the burial.
When families begin to talk about the cost of a funeral, they need to include all the hardware (casket and vault) that goes with all these steps and sometimes the real estate (burial plot) as well. For sure, you know that what you choose to eat for lunch is going to make a difference in the price tag. So, the first thing a person needs to do when shopping for cheap funerals is have a talk with the decision makers in the family and decide what you are looking for in a funeral. What does your family want, need, and expect?
That done, you gotta know cheap is cheap. Think about those paper towels. You don’t have the same experience with the cheap paper towels as you do with ones that cost a bit more. If you are paying significantly less, you should expect less. Less staff with less education, less time spent with you and your family, less support. You should expect less to be included in the cost you were quoted and more to cost extra, over and above the cost you were quoted. So, in the end cheap funerals, like cheap paper towels (where you end up using twice as much), can cost MORE.
That does not mean that you can’t find a good value. Talk to your local funeral director. Instead of calling on the phone and asking, “How much does a funeral cost?”, call and ask for a meeting. Go in prepared with what you want in a funeral, share your budget. Be honest and clear about what you want and need. Also bear in mind, you aren’t really looking for cheap funerals - plural. You are looking for a one-time experience (one funeral) to honor the life of someone close to you. Look for value not cheap. If you are looking for a cheap funeral for yourself remember the funeral is for the living, the family and friends. The burial itself is the only part that is for the individual who died.
Are you considering going to a funeral? Will you be a guest or, are you the survivor in charge and deciding if there will even be a funeral? Either way, before you just skip the funeral perhaps you should consider how elephants behave when one of their species dies. Perhaps we have something to learn from Dumbo.
First of all, elephants are very busy mammals. Just like us, they have to work hard to keep life together. An elephant needs to spend nearly 20 hours per day looking for and eating food. However, they do take time to honor their dead. It is rare to see an elephant in the wild stand still. However, when they happen upon the remains of an elephant, they seem to understand they need to stop and take a minute to pay homage.
Elephants have a natural curiosity about death. They seem to understand that somehow death is connected to their own existence. They use their trunks to fondle the bones of the deceased. They are still and strangely quiet. They raise one foot and paw the air, they are gentle, and they shed tears.
Elephants, like humans, have very strong social bonds. They help one another. A funeral is an opportunity for people to gather and be still. It is our opportunity to pay homage to our human existence. It’s a safe place to shed a tear, give a hug, or tell a story. A funeral, in any one of many forms, is an opportunity to reach out to our fellow man and give or receive help and comfort.
There is still a lot of debate regarding whether or not elephants feel emotion. Some think yes and others are equally convinced emotion is exclusive to humans. So maybe we humans should embrace our emotion and just feel it? Having a funeral doesn’t make you sad. You are sad because someone has died. That sad emotion won’t go away just because you skip the funeral. The funeral is actually the first step in the long journey to feeling better.
To say one “feels lonely” after losing their life partner is an understatement, especially if you have been happily married for many years. In time, however, you may find yourself at a crossroads. On one hand you can’t imagine life with another partner while on the other you hand you can’t bear this loneliness. You want a partner again.
Where your adult children are concerned, good preparation can literally keep your family from falling apart. Hard as it may be, talk to them and share how you feel and what you are missing. As much as you love your family and as much as they love you, their love cannot satisfy what you need. Help your children understand that you are not trying to replace their mom or dad, but that you may want to have someone to eat dinner with or a bridge partner again.
As soon as the thought of dating enters your mind, before you bring the thought to life with a real person, think about how a new relationship will land with your adult children. Consider both the emotional impact and the financial concerns that might be raised. Make an appointment with your attorney and talk about how a second marriage would impact your estate. Family concerns about money or the inheritance will only make things more difficult if you begin to date. We’ve all heard stories, so get your affairs in order BEFORE there is a person you care about and share any changes you make to your estate with your children.
If possible, consider your pace. If you slow down just a little bit and really enjoy the dating part of a relationship, it will give your children some time to get used to the idea of you dating again. It can help everyone adjust to the changing family dynamic that occurs when a new person is added to the mix. Just as the family dynamic changed when your children dated and/or married, it will change again if you start dating.
Communicate, talk about how you feel, and if you decide to date, go slow. Take care of those money matters early on so that any changes will not be seen as the fault of the new person in your life.