Choices to Be Made
“The funeral ritual is unsurpassed in providing a good beginning for the healthy grieving process.” From the book by Therese Rando: How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies
ARE THERE RELIGIOUS CONSIDERATIONS?
Some religions have specific preferences or requirements. If you don’t know, ask your funeral director or clergy.
MEMBER OF LODGE, FRATERNAL ORGANIZATION, OR MILITARY VETERAN?
Many lodges and fraternal organizations have funeral traditions and rituals that are performed during the visitation or funeral service. If the deceased was a military veteran, he or she is entitled to a U.S. flag and military honors performed by veteran organizations. Your funeral director will explain and arrange such services for you if desired.
IS COST A FACTOR?
Yes, cost is a factor, but all funeral homes have a price list available for your review. It will be easier to discuss arrangements if you have an idea of what you are able to afford. The average funeral in Michigan in 2008, exclusive of cemetery charges, costs about $6,235.
DO YOU WANT A BURIAL OR ENTOMBMENT?
Earth burial is the most common means of disposition in the United States. Costs include a casket, cemetery plot, opening and closing of the grave, a grave liner or vault and a memorial or marker. These costs vary considerably by cemetery and locality.
Entombment is the placement of the casket above ground in a mausoleum. Mausoleum space may be more expensive than a cemetery plot.
Most cemeteries require full payment at the time you buy a plot and make burial arrangements and you should be prepared for this by bringing cash or your checkbook with you. Some will take an assignment of insurance if you can prove that the policy is valid and will pay an amount sufficient to cover the expenses. Government life insurance policies are not assignable.
DO YOU WANT EMBALMING?
As noted earlier, Michigan regulations do require that bodies neither buried or cremated within 48 hours of death should be embalmed for transportation purposes or if the deceased had certain communicable diseases. Further, a funeral home often times requires and has the right to require embalming if a public visitation is planned. Additionally, common carrier regulations usually require embalming as a condition for the transportation of a deceased person. You should also check the embalming laws and regulations of other states if the deceased is to be transported outside of Michigan.
If embalming is desired the amount of time that elapses between death and embalming can make a difference in the personal appearance of the body. Permission for embalming should be granted as soon as possible for best results.
DO YOU WANT A GATHERING FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS?
Visitation, which is also called a “viewing,” “calling hours” or a “wake,” is having the body lie in state with members of the family present so that friends may pay last respects to the deceased. A visitation may vary in length from hours to days. You may prefer a private viewing restricted to the family.
DO YOU WANT A RELIGIOUS SERVICE BEFORE BURIAL?
Arrangements will need to be made with appropriate clergy to set times and types of religious services that can be held in the funeral home chapel or any appropriate place of your choice such as a church, temple, synagogue or hall. These arrangements can be made by the funeral home if you so choose.
DO YOU WANT A GRAVESIDE SERVICE?
When the body or the cremated remains are buried in the ground or entombed in a mausoleum, a service may be held at the gravesite. A graveside service may or may not consist of religious rituals and is usually of shorter duration than a traditional service at a funeral home or church. The times and manner of graveside services may be restricted by cemetery regulations. Arrangements will need to be made with the cemetery to set up the proper facilities. The funeral home will make these arrangements for you.
DO YOU WANT CREMATION?
Cremation is just one form of disposition. The others are ground burial, above-ground entombment, body donations (in which case, the body is eventually cremated) and burial at sea (not permitted in the Great Lakes). The choice of cremation does not limit or dictate the funeral options available. Most cremations are preceded by some type of viewing or funeral service. If the body is viewed, it is usually embalmed. Cremation reduces the body to small bone fragments, which are pulverized, reducing the fragments to the consistency of coarse sand or crushed seashells.
WHAT IS YOUR CHOICE FOR FINAL DISPOSITION OF THE CREMATED REMAINS?
While cremation is considered a final disposition by law, obviously the cremated remains must be cared for and the funeral director must know your plans. Unless you make arrangements with the funeral director, you bear sole responsibility for their disposition and you should collect them upon notice of their availability. The same individuals who possess the legal right to authorize the cremation have the right to possess the cremated remains. They may be buried in the earth, entombed in a mausoleum, placed in a niche in a columbarium, scattered on or over private land with the permission of the owner or remain in the possession of the family, usually in an urn. Scattering of cremated remains must never interfere with the rights of others.
DO YOU WANT A MEMORIAL SERVICE AFTER DISPOSITION?
A memorial service is usually held after a direct cremation or burial. The distinctive feature of a memorial service is that the body is not present. This service can be held in a funeral home, chapel, church, synagogue, home, or any place that is meaningful to the survivors. However, most grief counsellors recommend that it is better to hold services with the body present.
DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE A SERVICE?
Disposition of the body may occur without any service. Expenses will include removal of the body from the place of death, transportation of the body to the burial or cremation site and whatever may be necessary to meet legal requirements and the minimum requirements of the funeral home involved. For some, not having any services may be a form of psychological denial and can cause emotional problems and guilt feelings for family members in the future.
WHAT ABOUT BODY DONATION?
Some persons choose to have their bodies donated to medical teaching facilities either directly or after a service is held. This arrangement with a facility should be made by an individual prior to death. However, many facilities already have more requests on file than their needs warrant.
ARE THERE OTHER OPTIONS YOU WISH TO CONSIDER?
Funeral homes provide other services such as placing obituary and death notices in the newspaper, obtaining death certificates and assisting you in filing for death benefits. They will arrange for transportation of the body to another funeral home in or out of state, transportation to the cemetery, payment of honoraria or gratuities to clergy and musicians. They will order, accept, place and transport all floral wreaths and bouquets. Such services are provided upon request. Some funeral homes will include some or all of these services at their cost without additional fees and some will charge a fee for each service performed. Many funeral homes also provide, without charge, counseling and support group services or referral.