Showing posts with label funeral. Show all posts
Showing posts with label funeral. Show all posts

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Kiosk of Death at the Mall

The Mall
Now, it seems, you can have it all. One-stop lifetime shopping from baby clothes, to wedding supplies, to tax services, and funeral arrangements.
Earlier this year, a California funeral home, Forest Lawn Memorial Parks & Mortuaries, began placing kiosks in 4 southern California malls. 

Mall Shopping
The cart kiosks are low key, featuring urns, some with themes, to entice folks to stop and talk to the advanced planning representative that staffs the cart. Literature and brochures are also available and may be taken home and perused.

While at first the idea seems a tad unconventional, it’s really just another way of
reaching out to those who might want to pre-plan for death but can’t bring themselves to go to the funeral home or a cemetery.

But Forest Lawn is not the first funeral home to open a mall kiosk about death.  An Indianapolis, Indiana funeral home, Flanner & Buchanan Funeral Centers partnered with two Indianapolis area Simon Malls beginning in 2004 to provide unmanned kiosks to market their cremation services.
Flanner & Buchanan Kiosk

It proved to be very successful, not only in assisting people in making pre-need decisions but also in placing several sets of cremains in area cemeteries.

Cremation is now the fastest growing service for funeral homes, and having the ability to feature urns, photos of eco-green cemeteries, and cremation jewelry at a mall kiosk is an excellent strategy. It seems that most consumers view cremation as an alternative to a funeral. They don’t understand that a funeral service can still be held, and the cremated remains can also be placed in a cemetery plot.

Today, not only are funeral homes stepping out and becoming more visible, they are also starting to engage potential customers online through social media. Since the recession of 2009, funeral homes have seen a decline in the use of their services.

2013 Hearse
1960 Hearse
Not too surprising since the average cost of a “traditional” funeral has gone up about 940% in almost 50 years. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the cost of an adult funeral in 1960 was  $708. In 2009 (the last year figures were available) the cost was $6,560. Add the price of the cemetery vault ($1,195) and a funeral will now run around $7,700.

Donate to Science

New England Burials at Sea
Consumers are now looking for alternative methods to the traditional ‘burying their dead.’ Cremation is just one of these options, along with burial at sea and donating your body to science.

And the cost of cremation is a relative bargain compared to a traditional funeral and burial. The average cost of a direct cremation (no service) is between $700 and $1,000, and that covers the cremation, urn, death certificate and taxes. Adding a funeral service, graveside service, or cemetery plot will cost extra, so plan accordingly.

In 1960 only 3.56% of those who died were cremated. As of 2011, 42% had chosen this alternative. That’s more than double the rate of cremations in 1995, and the Cremation Association of North America predicts that by 2050, over half (51.12%) of those who die will be cremated.

Mall Food Court
While it may seem a bit morbid or morose to some, it is just another opportunity for each of us to consider what we want to happen to our remains after death and provides a way for that conversation to begin; even if it is at the mall, over an Auntie Ann’s pretzel, – it’s still a beginning.

And as the band Semisonic sings in “Closing Time” -
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…”

How prophetic.

~ Joy

Friday, April 19, 2013

Attending a Funeral

Today, I went to a cemetery - for the usual reason people go– bidding farewell to someone.  It has been years since I’ve actually been to one without a camera, and I felt a bit odd to be a part of the event, and not a detached watcher across the way.

On a windy hill in a tiny country cemetery, I stood with others under the bright April sunshine as another soul was remembered. 

And I wondered how many people had stood on that tiny hill, remembering someone dear, while clergy and friends try to console but can only offer a partial understanding of the grief, and an allocation of hope.

A Korean veteran, the deceased was given Military Funeral Honors by local American Legion members.  As the detail leader presented the folded U.S. flag to his wife, he explained what each color stood for; “The blue in the flag represents the sea and sky and stands for justice.  The red in the flag represents valor and the blood shed by American heros who sacrified for our freedom.  The white stripes in the flag symbolize our liberty.”  I have seen this presentation of the flag many times on television, but have never attended a veteran’s funeral and heard what words may be said to the family.

The ‘three volley of musketry’ salute to a fallen comrade, an American military custom, was sharp in the morning air – three shots fired in quick succession.  Then the call “Bugler” came, and I knew I wouldn’t make it through with dry eyes.  The haunting sound of Taps was fitting and filled the air with long sweet notes, played by one man, his weathered face slightly raised toward the sun…

Then came the command to ‘Order arms’ and the seven older veterans soldiered their rifles on their shoulders and began their slow walk back across the hill, and into their normal day.

As various scriptures were read, I remembered the first time I had met Bob.  He and his wife, MaryAnn, close friends of one of my dearest friends, Terry, had attended a play we were in.  It was my first venture into theatre and I had landed a lead against a seasoned actress.

As we stood in front of the stage after the performance, meeting and greeting those who had attended, Bob had shaken my hand and said, “You two have a sort of magic up on that stage – You play well off of each other – You can make people laugh.  What a wonderful gift.”

Terry and I have gone on to star opposite each other in numerous shows, and each time Bob and MaryAnn were in attendance, until his health became too bad for them to continue.

But every time, before I step onto that stage in front of an audience, I think of those words… – "You can make people laugh. What a wonderful gift."   Indeed, it is. And what a wonderful, touching compliment for an actor to hear.

As the service drew to a close, a lone bagpiper stood on the crest of the hill, stately in his jacket and kilt.  The plume on his hat swayed in the breeze.  As the final prayer died away, ever so gently, he began to play - Amazing Grace.

With each sonorous note, it seemed as if he were drawing the sound up from the earth, releasing it with the bellows he controlled under his arm. I turned toward him, the only one in the small gathering, to watch. And in that moment, I understood just how important a cemetery really is – It not just as a place to bury our dead, to memorialize them, to go and remember in; it is also a place where we separate and say goodbye, where bonds are broken, where we must let go and release them, in order to grasp the parting of ways.

Lost in the moment, I realized the music had changed; the sound was starting to recede.  When I looked up, the bagpiper was walking away, slowly, toward the sun, head held high, kilt and red plume blowing in the prairie wind. And in that moment, I could picture Bob walking beside him, following the music to see where it would lead.
The bagpiper crested the hill and was lost from view – but the final notes hung on the air for a moment, before being whipped skyward in a mixture of finality, and tumultuous expectation….

~ Joy

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Cost of Dying – Traditional Funeral Services & Burial

A Wedding
We love to plan and prepare for the major events in our lives; graduations, weddings, births, anniversaries, reunions, but when it comes to planning our death – that seems to flummox us like nothing else.  Yet, it is a major life event, and it does need our attention and planning.  Maybe now more than ever!

Invoice Example
Death is a $12 to $15-billion industry in the United States. As we continue to die, rates continue to climb.  Expenses for a funeral service can vary dramatically, depending on what type of funeral you decide on and where you are located.  According to the 2010 Funeral Price Survey by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), Americans spent, on average, $7,775.00 for an adult funeral in 2009, based on the elements of a regular, traditional funeral.

Grave monument
Opening a Grave
This does not include the cemetery costs which include the gravesite, vault, opening and closing of the grave, or the grave marker.  These charges can run another $2,000 to $3,000 for interment in  ‘regular’ cemeteries.  (Remember, the larger, more popular or exclusive a cemetery is, the higher the cost to get admitted.)  And the price of a grave marker or monument depends on what you choose.

Traditional Funeral
So what elements make up a traditional funeral?  What are you paying $7,775.00 on average, for?  Note: a funeral service involves a body being present, it occurs soon after death, and usually includes a viewing of the body.  If there is no body present – it is called a memorial service, does not require a funeral director to be involved and may be held at any time.

To begin the funeral process, you will need to pay for copies of the death certificate.  Then there’s a transportation charge to take the deceased to the funeral home of your choice. 
Studies have found that people make the decision on the funeral home based on these criteria:

Location – usually it’s the funeral home closest to them, or to where the deceased lived.

Family history – they continue to go to the funeral home the family has always used.

Personal recommendations – these are based on suggestions from friends and family. 

Funeral Planning
The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) encourages customers (And yes, that is what you are,) to ask questions about anything you do not understand. If plans were not already in place and you are feeling stressed and emotional, ask a trusted friend to assist you in getting the funeral arrangements decided on.  A clearer head can be an asset to you and the funeral director when planning a funeral in a time of grief.  You do not necessarily have to accept the pre-bundled funeral services offered by funeral homes, although it may be easier to do so in certain circumstances .  You can pick and choose from the options available to find those that best suit your intentions and finances.

Itemized Statement
Once you have decided on the arrangements you want, the funeral home will present you with an itemized statement of the services and merchandise you have selected.  This includes an estimate of all cash advance fees paid on your behalf to third parties, such as the cemetery, organist, florist, clergy, etc.

A Funeral Cost Breakdown:

Offering Professional Services
Professional Services involve the services provided by the funeral director regarding advice, support, and dealing with third parties, external cleansing of the body, burial arrangements made with the cemetery, and securing all necessary certificates and permits.

Use of Funeral Home
Funeral Cars
Supplemental or Optional charges include transporting the deceased to the funeral home, use of the funeral home, the services of the funeral home attendants for custodial care and arranging the funeral, embalming, cosmetology, charges for the casket or urn, burial vault, obituary notices, flowers, music, prayer cards, memorial cards, acknowledgement cards, providing the hearse, and limousine or funeral cars for transportation to the cemetery for the interment.

Embalming is Optional

You do not have to have the deceased embalmed.  Embalming is never required for the first 24 hours after death. Also, you have a set amount of time to bury a body before embalming may be required according to your state law. There are several religions in the United States that do not allow a body to be embalmed.

Embalming Table
According to Funeral Consumers Alliance,  There is no public health purpose served by embalming.” However, the Federal Trade Commission does allow funeral homes to require embalming for public viewing.

Embalming does not preserve the body nor does it not stop decomposition.  It only slows it down for a period of time.

One of the largest expenses of a funeral is the casket. Caskets come in all makes and models.  There are very basic caskets - the unadorned pine box, - usually running $500 to  $1,000. 

14K Gold Casket

Bronze Casket
  More detailed caskets with gaskets, seals and liners can cost up to several thousands of dollars, depending on what extras you select.  Up to $10,000 can buy a bronze casket. $40,000 or more will buy you one adorned with gold or jewels!

Here is a break down of funeral costs, provided by the National Funeral Directors Association for 2010.

Average Funeral Service Costs:

Professional Services                               $1,800
Transfer of Remains to Funeral Home       $250
Casket (Metal)                                       $2,295
Embalming                                            $628
Cosmetology                                          $200
Use of facilities/staff for viewing               $395
Use of facilities/staff for Funeral Service    $450
Use of Hearse for funeral                         $275
Use of Limo                                            $125
Service Van                                            $125
Basic Memorial Cards                               $125
Graveside Service                                    $405
Average Funeral Service Costs                $7073.00
This does not show average cost for flowers, death certificate, refrigeration fee (when embalming is not selected,) publishing obituaries, organist, clergy, etc.

Cemetery Burial Costs:
Digging a Grave by Hand
The first cost for a traditional interment is the price of the burial.  The charges associated with this include the grave opening and closing.  (Formerly known as digging the grave and filling it in.)  And there may be a charge for annual or perpetual care, (also known as grounds and grave maintenance.)

Installing a Vault
Concrete Vault
Most cemeteries also charge for a vault.  Known as the outer burial container or a grave-liner, these vaults may be made of concrete, steel or fiberglass.  Their purpose is to keep the ground from sinking in as the casket deteriorates over time.  This also makes it easier to use heavy equipment in the cemetery when needed.  Just as caskets do not prevent the body from decomposing, neither do vaults.  No state requires a vault be installed, but most cemeteries do.  Vault prices range from $1,200 to $2,000.  The price of installing the vault may be included with the vault price.  If not, figure another $300 on average.
Family Mausoleum

Stacked Mausoleum
Other burial options instead of in-ground burials include mausoleums and columbariums.  Mausoleums are above ground structures where the casket is placed in a drawer-like space.  Mausoleums may be private or public.  Private mausoleums were especially popular during the late 1800’s through the 1920’s, mainly for well-to-do individuals and families.  Private or family mausoleums have regained some popularity, but look less like small buildings and more like stacked drawers.
Public mausoleum
Some cemeteries also offer public mausoleums.  This consists of a large public building where hundreds, even thousands of people are entombed.  Many public mausoleums offer the advantage of visiting in a quiet, comfortable place, regardless of the weather.
Columbariums are smaller versions of mausoleums, offering a niche for urns to be placed.  The urns are the receptacles for cremated remains.  Plaques attached to the niches bear the name and information about the deceased.

Rules on Decorations

Cemetery Information
As with funeral homes, cemeteries should provide you with an itemized price list before you buy.  Be sure to read and get a copy of the cemetery’s rules and regulations.  Information on stone size and requirements will be listed here.  Also find out the rules on grave decorations and plantings, and become familiar with the cemetery’s hours for visitation.  Public cemeteries may cost more than not-for-profit cemeteries, especially when considering their location and popularity.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, cemetery charges for 2010 average as follows.

 Average Cemetery Burial Costs:

Cemetery Charges                                    $1,400
Vault                                                       $1,195
Average Burial Costs                                 $2,595
(Perpetual Care is usually between 5 to 15% of the total sale.)
This number does not include the cost of a gravestone, monument, urn, or space in a mausoleum or columbarium.   These costs vary greatly depending on what you have selected and where the cemetery is.

Total Cost for Average Funeral & Interment       $9,668
(Not including third party charges as listed after funeral service costs and cemetery burial costs.)

Graveside Service
Direct Burial
You also have the right to select direct burial.  This means there is no embalming, no public viewing of the body; no funeral home services need to be performed. You will need to get a death certificate and set up burial with the cemetery.  You also have the option of holding a graveside service at the time of burial and or/a memorial service at a later date. 

All told, for a basic, traditional funeral with viewing, hearse and burial, expect to spend around $10,000 to $15,000 dollars.  As my grandfather used to say, "Death is not for the faint-of-heart!"
~ Joy