Your No-Nonsense, Money-Saving Guide to Planning for the Inevitable
Excerpt from CHAPTER FIVE IT'S MY PARTY......
behind their hands, the ladies walked through the room, their black dresses
swishing against their legs. One of them paused for a moment and, bending down,
switched off the television. I opened my mouth to protest and a white-gloved
hand closed on my shoulder, stopped my words and gently pulled me up from my
spot on the sofa. Aunt Sudie needed to lie down. She needed to be quiet. The
heat and emotion of the day were proving too much for her to bear.
crunched in the driveway and there was a stir in the house. Women gathered up
paper fans and the men unwillingly shrugged into their suit coats. The children
stayed behind, watching as dust followed the cars out onto the road. The adults
were going somewhere private, to a place where they cried, a place they wouldn't talk about, a place that made Aunt Sudie pass out on the sofa before she even
got there. A funeral!
foreboding, spoken about only in whispers, those are my childhood memories of
funerals. The thought of going to one of those scared me half to death. I didn't want to wind up on the sofa like poor Aunt Sudie.
some thirty odd years. I'm sitting in Kathie's house, sucking down my third gin
and tonic, roaring with laughter over stories about my friend whom we had just
buried. Rock-n-roll is blasting through the speakers, Randy is getting ready to
read his tribute to Robert, champagne is being poured for the toast and if
there is any passing out on the sofa, it sure won't be done by Aunt Sudie.
Why a Celebration
drinking margaritas at someone's home or singing hymns at a High Episcopal
service, you are participating in a celebration of a person's life, a ritual
that is not only proper, it is necessary. Don't look at me that way. A celebration
is too necessary and you are going to use this chapter to plan your own so your
family and friends won't go berserk trying to figure out what you would have
it for a moment. Here is your final - pun intended - chance to get the last word
in. You can tell everyone how much they meant to you, you can ask them to please
donate to your favorite cause, you can let everyone and God know that you
harbored a secret love for your cousin, you can even come out of the closet
posthumously. What ever would Aunt Sudie say? Personally, I intend to let
everyone know that, despite my parents' threats to cut off my tuition and their
subsequent forty years of bragging that I caved in to their demands, I really did
march on Washington D.C. to protest the Vietnam War.
See? That's not so bad. Planning can be a good thing. You can do this and you should. Not
only to leave a game plan for those left behind holding the bag, but for
closure. And closure is very important. A service can help your friends and
family reach that final, important stage of acceptance where they can get on
with their lives. What? Did you want them to hang around forever mourning you? People
only do that in Shakespeare. Let's get going and figure out what you want for
your final hurrah.
celebration ceremony you will have depends on several things:
type of service you want: funeral, memorial, committal, or alternative.
format of the service: religious, nonreligious, family gathering, private.
disposition of your body you have chosen: body bequeathing, direct disposition,
self-service, or traditional care by a funeral home.
The type of cemetery you have chosen:
national, public, nonprofit, religious, commercial, green, or family.
type of burial you have chosen in Chapters Two or Three: full body, cremation,
in-ground, green, sea, at home, alternative, scattering of ashes.
considerations such as location.
want to be remembered.
The choices you have made using the information in
previous chapters will indicate what type of celebration might be appropriate.
You might read this chapter, decide on just the right celebration and have to
go back and change your other choices. That's why pencils were invented. This can be mix and match so let's get started figuring it out.
Type of Service
four basic types of services are funeral, memorial, committal, and alternative.
Your service should reflect how you see yourself and how you want to be
remembered. If you are traditional in style and form, then by all means, plan
the traditional funeral. If you have been a bit of a rebel, then a memorial
service held in your favorite bar before opening time (or after closing time) might
be just the thing. If you are a nature lover and an environmentalist, then a
service out in the woods with people being asked to donate money to one of your
causes would be fine. You might be like Paul Newman who said, " The trick to
living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster." A
small service would suit. Me? I'm choosing champagne on the beach.
Traditional Funeral Service
traditional service is the full-tilt-boogie ceremony, the time-honored event you
always see in the movies, and the type we remember from our childhoods.
Characteristics of a traditional funeral:
is a formal viewing and/or visitation in the funeral home a day or two before
type of ceremony is usually held with either a standard cemetery burial or
The service itself is usually lengthy
and presided over by clergy.
body is present in a casket or the cremation urn is present.
are one or two eulogies and a formal reading or two.
casket or urn is transported to the cemetery for burial or the casket is
transported to the crematorium after the service.
you are a member of a church or have another religious affiliation, the type of
ceremony may be dictated by this affiliation.
Location of Service
can choose anyplace that will suit the logistics. The ceremony is usually held
in a church or funeral home.
you use a funeral director, he will likely want a say about this.
Type of Cemetery
is usually in a traditional cemetery.
Pros & Cons
you or your loved ones enjoy long-established rituals, this is the way to go.
is an always acceptable choice that will offend the fewest people.
provides closure for your loved ones.
can be a very expensive choice to make.
Two lists costs associated with a full body, in-ground burial and traditional
funeral service. The Cremation Association of North America and the National
Funeral Directors Association projects that the average cost of an adult
funeral will soon be $7,323. The national median cost for calendar year 2006
was $6,195. And that does not include costs for the plot, marker, flowers or
obituary. This is about thirteen percent of the median American family's annual
Good to Know
if the service is going to be traditional, you can add personal touches that
make it speak of how you want to be remembered. You might not be able to have
Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and Stevie Wonder sing Amazing Grace like they
did for Stevie Ray Vaughn, but you can include a personal music selection,
flower arrangement, and items for the memorial table.
music choices include Handel's Dead March, Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor
and Chopin's Funeral March.
Death For Beginners Your No-Nonsense, Money-Saving Guide to Planning for the Inevitable