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What is a Funeral?
All we need to do is say the word "funeral" and within microseconds, you have an image in your mind of what a funeral looks like. This mental image comes from many sources: the geographical place, culture and society in which we live; our faith; our life experience. Obviously then, a funeral service in Borneo would look very different from one held in Tanzania; there are even significant differences between the funerals held in ethnically and/or geographically diverse regions of North America.
Yet, despite the differences, these funeral services have much in common. We invite you to read further to learn the really simple answer to the question "what is a funeral?" Should you have questions about what you read here, we encourage you to call us. One of our funeral professionals will be delighted to explore the commonalities behind the wide spectrum of funeral ceremonies seen around the world.
What Makes a Funeral?
No matter where it's held, a funeral is a structured ceremony, with a beginning, middle and end. Each is intended to engage the living participants in activities which will transform their status within the community, provide mourners with a collective grieving experience, and celebrate a life lived. It's a socially-acceptable way for members of a community to re-affirm and express their social attachments.
Anthropologists label a funeral as a rite of passage, which affects everyone involved–including the deceased. His or her social status changes dramatically, from a living contributing member of the community to one whose contributions are in the past, and relegated to memory. But the status of each of the survivors– the immediate family most especially– has also changed. In fact, the funeral service can be the start of a defined period of mourning for bereaved family members, marking this transition in a uniquely identifiable way.
It could be said then, the focus of a funeral - no matter where, no matter when - lies in acknowledging change. And without doubt, human beings (as individuals and as a community) have trouble dealing with profound changes like the death of an integral member of the group. When you take this perspective, it becomes easier to understand the importance of ceremonially acknowledging the tear in the social fabric and the symbolic restoration of its integrity.
Funeral Services in Our Area
For families and individuals living in this region (as elsewhere in the nation), a funeral service can mean many things. Some fall back on what is commonly called a "traditional funeral"; others see that same traditional service as an emotionally unfulfilling event. Fortunately, thanks to several unique social forces, there are alternatives. Today, end-of-life commemorative services range from the traditional funeral to a memorial service and the increasingly popular celebrations-of-life. If you have yet to realize the immense value of such a collective acknowledgment of loss, reach out to us. Call us to speak with one of our experienced funeral service professionals.
What does it cost to bury a person in a cemetery?
First is the purchase price of the "right to use" the burial plot (unlike a real estate purchase, where you buy the land and all the structures on it; here you are only purchasing what is called the "interment rights" to the land). In addition, there are fees for the "opening" and "closing" of the gravesite; and any fees required to obtain the necessary permits and to maintain cemetery files and records. In addition, there's the fee for the use of any special equipment (such as a casket-lowering device); as well as the costs for any other services or items purchased. There's also the headstone or grave marker installation fee, and a one-time "perpetual care" (sometimes called "endowment care") fee paid to ensure your loved one's burial site is well-maintained.
Does my loved one have to be embalmed prior to burial?
This is a question we hear a lot. Many funeral homes suggest (and may even go so far as to require) embalming if you're planning a viewing or visitation. That's because they want the experience to be as good as it can be for those in attendance, and proper embalming can ensure the deceased looks as good as possible. But as a general rule, embalming is not necessary or legally required if the body is cared for in a relatively short amount of time. Please contact us for specific state or local requirements.
How much will a casket cost?
The Federal Trade Commission states that average casket costs around $2,000. If you are concerned about casket costs, speak with your funeral director who can advise you on the most appropriate casket for your situation and your budget.
What is a burial vault, and why do I need to buy one?
Today, modern cemetery grounds are well-groomed, with vast expanses of green grass. A burial vault protects this pristine view, ensuring there is no sign of burial plots "settling". Certainly the vault also protects the casket; but the primary role of a burial vault is to protect the beauty of the cemetery environment.
What's involved in a cemetery burial?
If your loved one has not made previous arrangements for their burial, leaving you to pick the location of their interment, the first thing you'll need to do involves the selection of the cemetery and burial location within the grounds. You'll also choose the most suitable casket and burial vault, and provide us with the clothing you'd like your loved one to wear (and any 'special items' you'd like us to place in the casket) . Once payment is made, the date and time of interment is agreed upon. At that time, the cemetery grounds keepers will take care of the "opening" and "closing" of the grave and the proper placement of the casket in the burial vault.
Do I have to buy a headstone or grave marker?
The cemetery will put a temporary identification marker on your loved one's grave, but it is only intended as a placeholder until a permanent headstone or grave marker is set in place. Without one, your loved one's burial site will, when this temporary marker becomes illegible or is somehow removed, appear "unmarked".
Where do I purchase a headstone or grave marker?
We, and the cemetery where your loved one will be interred, have strong working relationships with trusted monument companies. When you are ready to order a granite headstone or bronze grave marker, we will come together to orchestrate its selection, manufacture and placement. Speak with your funeral director to get the details.
What is "direct burial"?
When we make arrangements for the direct burial of an individual, we are expediting their interment. There will be no funeral, memorial service or celebration-of-life; instead, we provide the physical care of the deceased (perhaps embalming their body, but certainly dressing and casketing) and then escort the casket to the cemetery for immediate burial.
Is direct burial right for our situation?
It's very hard to know without having the opportunity to speak with you. Direct burial works well when there are few mourners or if your loved one's wishes were for a simple interment. It's done quickly and professionally, without ceremony of any kind. With that said, what do you think? Does direct burial feel like the right course of action for you? Speak with a funeral professional to further explore the idea.
What services do you provide when I choose direct burial?
Your funeral director will complete and file the death certificate, obtain signatures on any required permits or authorizations, helps you select a cemetery in which to inter your loved one, as well as a casket and burial vault. He or she will oversee the physical care of the deceased: they will be dressed in clothes you've provided (or purchased from us), casketed, and then escorted to the cemetery for immediate burial. This same individual will witness the burial and provide you with copies of all pertinent papers for safekeeping.
What is a graveside service?
Rather than having a service in a church or funeral home chapel, and then adjourning to the cemetery for the burial; some families choose to gather solely at the cemetery. There, they are led through a ceremony prepared by a clergy person or celebrant and witness the in-ground committal of their loved one's casket. If the idea of a graveside service appeals to you, speak with your funeral director about your options.
What "extra" fees or charges will I need to pay?
Some of the things you'll discuss with your funeral director involve purchases made from outside vendors, and you will be asked to pay for those items at the time of the arrangement conference. One of the most common is the fee charged by a newspaper to print your loved one's obituary. Another cash advance charge could be for clergy or musician's fees, floral arrangements, reception necessities, such as food/beverage or facility rental. Your funeral director will provide you with a detailed invoice for all cash advance items.
When do I pay for a funeral service?
The exact answer to this question largely depends upon the services, products and cemetery you've selected; but a good rule of thumb is to expect to pay at the time the service contract is signed (at the time of the arrangement conference, or soon afterwards). Speak with your funeral director to learn more.
Who will write my loved one's obituary?
We're tempted to answer this with another question: who would you like to write it? Perhaps you'd like to ask a friend or family member to do so; maybe you're thinking it's something you would like to do. Or perhaps you'd rather turn the duty over to your funeral director. He or she is experienced in obituary writing, and would be delighted to relieve you of the task; so don't hesitate to ask them to craft a suitable obituary.
Should we request memorial donations instead of flowers?
We don't like to use the word "should" when we speak to families about this issue. So the question becomes one of assessing your heart's desire: what do you really want? Then there's the question of your deceased loved one's wishes; exactly what would he or she think or feel? Most commonly we advise families to offer their community as many caring options as possible; some will send flowers, some will send donations; and some will even do both.
Huntington, Richard and Peter Metcalf, Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual, Cambridge University Press, 1979.