There has been a lot of talking lately regarding funeral prices and how funeral homes operate regarding pricing structure and how they deal with their clients. There is no doubt that funerals are expensive and for some unaffordable. But that does not mean that you can’t give a family the best funeral that their money could buy.
Large funeral firms that have shareholders do have rigid pricing structures that cannot be moved. This has created bad feeling among smaller firms and the general public. The media have jumped on this and in the process have demonised the entire industry. This is grossly unfair and completely unacceptable.
What they haven’t touched on is the disbursement costs. These are the items that can dramatically bump up a funeral price. These include crematorium fees, burial fees, church fees, flowers and newspaper announcements. Some of these fees have to be paid. Some can be either dropped completely or made cheaper by cutting back.
The media seemed to have tarred everyone with the same brush and now the public think that all funeral directors are out to rip them off. This is not the case at all. Granted there are probably some out there that would exploit a vulnerable and grieving family for personal gain. But these are very, very rare! The vast majority of funeral directors both big and small are there to help their clients not hinder them.
It is very important that funeral homes be transparent in their practices and most are. Remember most funeral homes will work closely with a family put together a funeral that is both affordable and meaningful to the person who has died and the family. I don’t know if any funeral home that will turn a family away on financial grounds. Most will work with a family and come up with either a payment plan to spread the cost over however long. Or a compromise on the type of service they want and the type they can afford.
Please do not let the media frighten and scare you into thinking that funeral directors are money grabbing charlatans, because they are not. Bigger companies are more rigid in their pricing structure and that can be difficult. Smaller independent companies are more likely to tailor the cost to meet the clients needs. But both want what is best for the family in their care. It is so important to remember that.
So I often get asked what are my thoughts on the afterlife? Have I ever seen a ghost or experienced paranormal activity. So here’s what I think. Yes I absolutely believe in an afterlife. A spirit world beyond ours that is waiting for us when we die. What that is though I am unsure. Is it heaven? Is it hell? Or is it just another type of existence? I think it could be all three of those things? We will never know for sure what it is until we get there. And I’m in no rush to make that journey so I’ll just wait my turn thank you very much.
I do believe in a higher power who created all that we see, hear, touch, taste and smell. For many that being is God, for some he or she takes another form. I believe that there is only one creator or higher power, but it takes many different forms! Have I ever seen a ghost or a spirit? I wish I could say I have but I haven’t. But I have had what I would call paranormal experiences. One funeral home I was working in used to have a resident spirit I’m sure of it. In the middle of the day doors to the chapels would open and close on their own and I’d often hear footsteps in the corridors and workshop when there was no one there except myself.
One night when I was in bed I felt a physical slap in my face. I woke up and there was no one in the room with me. There was no one on the landing all the doors where shut to the other rooms and downstairs was in complete darkness. One night club I was in was an old pole dancing club. Downstairs was really warm. We got our drinks and went upstairs where I immediately felt very strange and uneasy. It was icy cold even though the radiators where on full and red hot! Suddenly after about 10 minutes my drink literally exploded sending shards of glass flying everywhere. I told the barmaid what happens and she just laughed and thigh I was crackers!! Spooky or what??
Working in the trade that I do I often hear the phrase “Oh I couldn’t do your job!” Now for most people that’s fairly acceptable. But when I hear it from the mouths of carers and nurses I get quite bemused?
They do an outstanding job with the living and I couldn’t do their job not for all the money in the world. But why is it some can care for the elderly and the gravely ill for many years often doing things you would not willingly agree to without fuss or question. But when they die it gets wired for them!
The sight of a dead body creeps them out even though they have looked after that person for so long! What is it about death and the dead body that would turn the most hardened nurse and caregiver to a squeamish mess when it comes to the person dying? It also puzzles me how when we are alive we are always referred to by our names and titles. As soon as we die we become “the body, the corpse, the cadaver etc..... It’s almost like our pride and dignity has gone out the window and we become objects rather than people. Have we become that detached from death and the dying process that we turn it into a macabre soap opera that only others deal with?
I often get asked what are my thoughts on donating your body to medical science and other institutions? And also what are my thoughts on organ donation. There are many ways in which we can leave our dead bodies to different organisations such as medical schools, scientific research facilities and mortuary schools for the purposes of embalming education. But you can also leave you body to a friend like in the case of the homeless man known as Diogenes and his flamboyant and eccentric artist friend Robert Lenkiewicz.
Lenkiewicz painted and drew Diogenes for many years and even took him in giving him a home. Diogenes agreed that Lenkiewicz could have his body. When he died in a Plymouth hospital Robert took the body and had it embalmed. He then kept the body until his own death in 2002 when’re it was discovered in his extensive library in his home and art studio.
Personally my view is this. Once your dead your dead. Your body is no use to you anymore so it might as well be used to someone else. If not your whole body then at least your organs. I myself am an organ donor and upon my death my family have been instructed to allow my organs to be donated if they are of any use to anyone at the time? There’s no point in having a corpse full of useful organs rotting away when they can be doing someone some good somewhere. I have done a YouTube video to accompany this blog post which is up and running now.
As most of you know being an undertaker means that you have to spend time on call. That means that you may have to conduct out of hours chapel visits or viewings including at weekends. I found myself doing this last weekend while I was on call myself.
Chapel visits are basically exactly what they say. Families will come into the funeral home to spemd time with their loved ones before the funeral takes place. These visits can happen anytime. The funeral business is a 24 hour business so we have to be availible to our clients whenever they need us? However out of hours chapel visits are by strict appointment only. Funeral homes operate over five days a week Monday to Friday, between the hours of 9am to 5pm. After the home closes the satff go home to their own families. So if one of our 'funeral families' wants to come out of those stated hours then an appointment has to be made. Theres nothing worse than when a family member turns up out of the blue and wants to be let in especially when you are a few miles away!
I also took the opportunity to explain in one of my YouTube vlogs the process of how a call out works when a sudden death occurs. In the U.K. anyone who dies unexpectedly in either a car accident, murder, drug overdose, suicide or any other unexplainable circumstances then the death is automatically referred to the coroner. Also if a person had not seen an doctor in the last fourteen days prior to death then the case is referred to the coroner. As far as the funeral directors are concerned they are subcontracted by the coroner to remove the deceased to a mortuary. In a sudden death situation the coroner will contact the police who will take control of the death scene until the body has been removed. Once the body is at the mortuary the coroner will then determine of an autopsy is required.