Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dealing with funeral arrangements

I learned the ropes of dealing with death early on and the hassles that come along with planning a funeral.  The expense involved is that of a wedding really.  Funeral homes catch you in a very vulnerable position and take advantage of you to make a profitable sale.  When a loved one has just died and you are in a position to deal with funeral arrangements it is very overwhelming.  You find yourself saying yes to unnecessary funeral expenses just to get the arrangements in place.  At 89 years old, Nonie was recently admitted to the hospital.  As Mom sat with her at the hospital I contacted the funeral home to get arrangements in place.  We did not yet know Nonie's condition, but I figured being proactive with arrangements whether she passed now or in a few more years would benefit everyone.  I called the funeral home ahead of time and informed them of my situation. Funerals can be paid for years in advance.  
I walked into the funeral home.  The woman I spoke to on the phone, a frail, elderly lady greeted me when I walked in.  It smelled musty and  how you would imagine death to smell.  She led me down a narrow hall into another room with a long table with tissues boxes distributed strategically throughout.  A tall woman walked in with a packet in hand and introduced herself as Bridget.  
"It is a pleasure to meet you.  It is very rare that I see someone as young as you being proactive with funeral arrangements," Bridget says as she presents me with a folder. 
"I figured while I had the time, it is better to get this taken care of," I replied.  
She presented me with a folder with package deals listed.  The first at the bargain price of $22,000. 
"I am going to need to see your cheaper options," I told her.  
"Well, once you decide on a package, the price stays the same for years to come," She explained in an attempt to dupe me into the high roller funeral package.  
"I don't expect this to last too many more years," I said as she looked at me with sympathetic eyes. "Can we do this by looking at items individually instead of a prefixed package?  I really just need a funeral home for the services, and a casket." I told her. 
Bridget then leads me into the casket room.  This is not the first time I have been in this room and am quite familiar with the inventory.  She leads me to the most expensive casket encrusted with gold.  I give her a glare.  "I thought I was clear earlier about keeping costs down," I said. It felt like being at a used car lot.
The owner of the funeral home walks in and introduces himself, "It is great that you are doing this at such a young age," he says.  "It will really save you and your family money down the line."  I am amused that this is the second time the same comment has been mentioned.  I'm in my thirties, I'm not that young.  I find myself enjoying the comment thinking I must be looking extra youthful today.  
"There is nobody else to handle this.  It is my responsibility," I reply to the owner thinking to myself that people in their 30's must plan funerals all the time.   I pick out a mid-level casket and Bridget takes me back to the tissue infested room.  She pulls out the summary of costs for the items we discussed.  As I go through the detailed summary, please with the cost going down to $9,000, I notice my name on the top of every page.  
"Shouldn't my Nonie's name be at the top of these pages?" I ask. 
"Oh, I thought we were planning YOUR funeral," She replies. 

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