Thursday, January 3, 2008

Funeral Roulette

First off I have to start this post with an apology. There have been many posts that I have written over the lifespan of this blog which have been responded to by many people in which I have failed to follow up. For that I apologize; no excuses just an apology.

Secondly, please bear with me on this post because it may at times seem like it's all over the page simply because there are some things which I have previously stated which will almost be refuted (by myself!).

You've all heard of "pre-planning" your funeral, you've all heard me mention "pre-need" and on August 11th of last year you may have read my post "There's a way without a will" . Briefly, this post was an attempt to let you know the importance of planning your funeral outside of a will. My advice was to put it on paper and give it to a few people who might be left to carry out your wishes.

Part of a response left by Paisley was "how often are survivors plagued by the death wishes of the dead?? i think this would make for an interesting post...." to which I never responded; actually don't remember reading. Thanks to the current funeral I have been handling, my re-reading my post and Paisleys reply, the post you are now reading was born.

As a rule of thumb, most, and I stress "most", funerals that are pre-planned, whether pre-paid or not are usually followed to the letter. The biggest variance that I see is that if a casket was selected when it was done, there is a very great chance that the exact one may not be available say 20 years later but a casket of "likeness" is usually supplied; not usually a problem or real change in the wishes. There are however times when a family simply disregards the deceased persons wishes and proceeds with their own. Quite honestly, I don't know the legalities involved, especially since the deceased no longer has any recourse, but aside from them if there are any, the family or person legally allowed to arrange a funeral can make the ultimate decisions.

The family I met with yesterday was there to finalize the care of their mother who had spent a good many years bouncing from one nursing facility to another. Back in 1977, the deceased woman had made pre-paid funeral arrangements with a funeral home in Florida which provided for her to be embalmed, a wake, a church service with her casket present and then burial in the cemetery where her husband and other family was buried. She had written down all of her wishes, including songs she wanted played and then went ahead and paid for it all; she even went to the extent of having her name and birth date engraved on the monument in the cemetery that was already there for her husband. I have to assume that this is what she fully expected to happen to her body after death since nothing had ever been changed.

One of the first sentences out of her daughters mouth when we met was "We're not going to be burying her, we want her cremated". So now I reply...."okay, we can cremate her but what about her wishes in her pre arrangement?" The response I received was, "she had Alzheimer's, and my sister is on vacation in New Mexico, and the grand kids are scattered all over the country, she would have preferred cremation if she were here...and...oh...how do we go about getting the money back that isn't used?" So as the words she's saying are being digested by me one phrase at a time I realized that her mothers wishes didn't really mean too much to this daughter. Unfortunately, I also realized that this woman sitting across from me had the last say and there was nothing I could do but now follow her wishes.

Money was not the issue here, perhaps logistics were. There were no choices that were left hanging, there was nothing to have to hem and haw over when it came time to select merchandise or decide locations. It was not up to me to ask why she wanted it this way as opposed to her mothers wishes but it was my obligation to point out what her wishes had been; although her daughter obviously already knew and walked in the door armed with the changes she intended on putting into motion.

Will she be plagued with any type of guilt for not following her mothers wishes? I don't seem to think so. Was the daughter plagued with the fact that her mother wanted something that she herself didn't? Obviously not since she chose to do it her way. Am I plagued by the fact that I had to follow the wishes of someone else rather than the deceased woman's? Honestly, no. If it were my responsibility I would have fought tooth and nail to do it her way but since they are the ones who will have to live with any remorse, all I can do is make suggestions and then do what they ask of me.

So, I guess putting it all down on paper is good, even pre paying for it is good, but here's where I refute my previous statements. Is it guaranteed to be done the way you wanted it especially since you paid for it? No, sadly that's not the case. There are no guarantees at all other than we'll do what you want if your family wants us to honor your wishes. Don't misunderstand, I'm making no judgements here, everyone has different reasons for doing what they do and is entitled to do so. Really, when you think of it, who am I doing this for anyway? Who am I hoping this will help? It's the families that still have to live, not the dead.

14 comments:

Shimmerrings said...

That's pretty sorry of the daughter. Also, I asked a question on your How I Embalm post. Please check it out.

deathsweep said...

Oh my dear shimmerings, it is so sad when the unknowing (not you) attempt to explain something that they no nothing about, or intentionally lie for whatever purpose. NO, emphatically, NO, there is no such device that is used to whirl about, or spin and liquify internal organs prior to their being sucked completely out of the body which is used during the embalming process and if anyone tells you different, please have them contact me. I would be most curious to learn of such a device and it's use. The internal organs are in fact punctured with what we call a trocar and the fluid in those organs is removed. Cavity fluid (a high strength embalming fluid) is then replaced via the same trocar in the attempt to slow decomposition of said organs; they are NEVER sucked out of the body. I agree, I have nothing against these burial spots however if maligning the embalming process is the only way they feel that they can be sold, I think I'd check a little further into what other untruths they were telling me before I purchased anything from them. I hope this helps.

paisley said...

then what the people are planning for and buying for themselves while they are still alive has no precedence over what the family decides???? wow.. that is a new one on me... i understand your position... but it sounds very wrong to me...

and in this case i hope to god no refund was issued,, as i feel like that is what the daughter wanted more than anything.. the money back.....

deathsweep said...

Paisley, I created a form some years ago that I urge people to complete that specifically states that their wishes cannot be changed when the plans are paid for; it's signed by the planner as well as the funeral director as a witness but I'm not sure if it would hold up in a court of law plus, this is not a state wide or recognized form, only something I created. If they don't pre pay there is absolutely nothing that can be done. I tell people of the possibilities and the need for the forms but not all opt to sign them. Most of the time people who request cremation are more than willing to sign but not all. As I mentioned, this was done in 1977 in Florida and there was no way that I could present that form to the family because it didn't exist. I have never had a problem once the form was shown to a family. As far as a refund goes, legally I had to refund, simply because the services that were paid for were not performed. They did however pay todays prices as opposed to 1977 since the contract was broken.

Matty said...

I really don't think that daughter had her mom's wishes in mind at all. Seems to me if the mother pre-paid then her wishes should have been followed...not the daughters. But I do understand your position. You're there to please.

deathsweep said...

Matty, I wish I could have just told the daughter, "I'm sorry, but this is what we intend to do since your mother planned it this way" but I have no control over WHO they choose to help them. They could just as easily turn around and walk out the door and have it handled somewhere else. As you know this is a business dependant on people calling on us, and if I didn't do it, a competitor would have gladly done so. This is something that needs to be addressed at a higher level and the responses from both you and paisley have put a bug in my ear. I have to find out what needs to be done to make sure that this CAN'T happen even if it involves speaking to a politician! Thank you!

Shimmerrings said...

Deathsweep, thanks for the info. I would like to think that the person who gave me this information had simply misunderstood what the folks at the natural burial place actually said. This information was about to be blurted out to my mom, who just buried my dad in April, and I stopped them from doing so. It's good to know that this is not a procedure, and I will certainly pass the information along. Can you give a link to the posting you mention regarding cremation? I searched and searched, but I guess it might help if I knew the actual title. Again, thanks!

Catherine said...

My mouth dropped open as I read your post and then I had conflicting thoughts. On one hand the daughter should do what her mother wanted and shame on her, and then another thought that the woman was dead and did she even care that her daughter did not do as she wanted? Once you are dead you don't need the body anymore and in my opinion, I could care less what happens to mine. Well..I could care less, EXCEPT I don't want to be in the BodyWorlds exhibit. (OMG, did you ever see that??)

It would have been difficult for me to do as the daughter wanted. I would have fought for the mother, which is why I'm not in your business. I just couldn't do it. I'm so glad that someone as wonderful as you can.

deathsweep said...

Shimmerings, I have written many posts that refer to cremation and rather than my deciding which ones you might be interested in, if you type in the word cremation in the search box at the top of my blog you will pull up every post that mentions cremation and you could then select the one/ones that you're interested in...By the way, I'm glad your mother was spared this misinformation and I'm sorry about your dad. Hope this helps.

deathsweep said...

Hi Catherine, you have no idea how hard I wanted to fight for this woman but just couldn't. I always try to place myself in their shoes when I talk to them...would I have wanted, would you have wanted, would anyone for that matter have wanted a funeral director, a stranger, someone who you went to for help to tell you that "you're doing the wrong thing"..."I think you're after the money"...of course not but I certainly think it!

MedStudentWife said...

I don't think you have contradicted anything you have said DS - I think this post is just highlighting the perils that is inherent in long term planning AND unscrupulous people,even if they are family.

The kicker is the daughter's request for a refund.... I wonder howmany nights she sat awake wondering how to maximize the return from the pre-payment.

CresceNet said...

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Catherine said...

I LOVE your new picture heading!!!! How have you been?

Miladysa said...

My father who was very opinionated in life simply said "hang me out to dry" whenever asked about what kind of funeral he would like. Sometimes he would say "Please yourselves it make no difference to me."

As he was an athiest my sister and I thought we would get one of his close friends to speak about him rather than a minister of any kind.

He always told us to give him the cheapest funeral possible as it was a waste of money. When it came down to it though, cheap somehow = unloved in the mind of my sister and I.

I remember we were looking at the coffins and had decided that we would go for something middle of the road price wise. Just then the door of the funeral parlour began to rattle and we changed our minds and selected the next to the cheapest!

I think his wishes were met.