Before last April. Funeral arrangements weren’t something I bought a lot about. But when my mother passed away unexpectedly, I learned first hand that funerals are expensive.
So, morbid as it may seem, Gabriel and I had several talks about our courses of action should one of pass away, and I highly recommend that you do too, to keep yourself from being blindsided by the various, avoidable expenses, not to mention, the misery and uncertainty of having to make unexpected decisions.
The fact is, it’s expensive to die. The last thing any of us wants to do is saddle our loved ones with the burden of spending mass ammounts of money that they may not even have to burry us.
Personally, I feel like it’s worth while to pay a little money for the things you want, and for me, some of the things I want just happen to be less expensive, so I’m going to give you some of my non-monetarily based opinions in this list too.
- Embalming. Ask yourself, do you need it? Is it necessary to have an open casket (assuming you have to delay the funeral)? Embalming can run several hundred dollars or more, and for me, I don’t like it. Bodies are meant to decompose, and I don’t want to hinder that process. I also don’t want to fill either the body, or the ground with toxic chemicals.
- Caskets. I was shocked with how expensive caskets, and even urns are. It’s important to know that you don’t have to buy them from the funeral home. My personal preference is wood, or another degradable material. I hate that so many caskets are metal. Why? Are you going to dig it up after a few decades? I don’t think so. Softwoods like pine, are usually much cheaper than hardwoods.
Growing up as I did in an Amish community, building a casket for a loved one seems like a perfectly natural option to me, and certainly much cheaper (if you’re a skilled carpenter – which I’m not). Funeral homes don’t like it, which is understandable since they make their living selling things to you, but here at least, it’s not against the law.
- Burial vault. I’m not really sure what the purpose of these are, but they were presented to us as optional, and as with so many funeral related things, are quite expensive, so we chose to skip it. As far as I know, not a single state requires their use.
- Funeral homes. I’m not sure there’s a way around using a funeral home in some capacity, but limiting its use will certainly help keep the bill down. Can you have the funeral at a church, or some other venue?
- Flower and decorations for the casket and burial. You’ve probably never thought about decorating a casket for a funeral have you? Neither had I. Not, at least, until we started going through the funeral home’s check list of things to do. Casket flower arrangments turned out to be insanely expensive, so, knowing our mother’s preferences, we chose to make a spread using wild flowers and greenery, along with a special handmade afghan. It turned out very understatedly pretty and natural, and most importantly to me, un-funeral home-ish.
So many of these decisions are so personal, there’s no one right way to do things. The important thing is that you do talk about them, and to the best of your ability, make decisions ahead of time. No, you don’t need to dwell on it, like it’s a black cloud hanging there above you head. Write your wishes, or your loved one’s wishes down. Make a file for these things. You’ll be glad you did.