So, while I'm not exactly ancient, in years, it's time that I put aside the nonsense of living as if I'm immortal. That was fine when I was young, but planning for that most difficult expense is simply the mature thing to do, now.
Yes, I'm talking about planning our (husband and myself) funeral/burial expenses.
I won't go into what a frugal person should choose -- a pine box vs cremation, or plots with a view (who are we kidding -- whose view?) or remains scattered at sea (a lovely touch is to bring rose petals, and drop those along with the remains). But where I am in the planning process, right now, is getting used to the idea, and determining our wishes, on this.
My dad passed away in 2002. My brother, sister and I had to hastily make arrangements within a few days time. His passing came on very short notice -- diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of the month and gone by the third week of that same month. We didn't have a chance to talk about what he wanted, with him. We loved our father, so, of course, we wanted the very best of everything for his burial and memorial service. Isn't that how this plays out in most families? You want the best, so you spare no expense.
By talking about this now, and doing local research, I can let my children (they're all adults, so not talking to school-age kids about my end of life) know just what matters to me and how I want to be remembered. I'll tell you, this isn't something you can marathon your way through. I've had to do research, in small bits at a time, to prepare my mind for all of these details. But it's best to do this now, and not let the unspoken continue until the time for planning is too late.
Things that I've thought about . . .
. . . that I wish to be buried and not cremated
. . . but I do not want a viewing or embalming (which means I don't want someone putting makeup on my face for burial), and I'll wear my own clothing, thank you
. . . that I want a wooden casket and not a metal one (my box does not have to last forever)
. . . simple flowers, I don't need a large elaborate spray of flowers
. . . that I do want to be buried near our family home, so my kids can visit as they need, in the early years
. . . that I want a weekday burial service
. . . and a weekend memorial in our church (more friends and family could attend if they wish to)
. . . some music that was meaningful to me
. . . a small home reception, in the family home, perhaps using a grocery delivery service to provide deli catering trays
. . . that I'd like to help write my own obituary, now, with the possibility for updates by my children, later. I'll keep my obit with a copy of our trust documents.
And that's about as far as I've gotten on this.
What I learned in doing my research, besides caskets coming in a large range of price points . . .
. . . that there is such as thing as a cardboard casket -- who knew? And families will decorate these caskets to reflect the life of the passed family member.
. . . a large spray of flowers for the casket can cost a couple hundred dollars -- yikes! that is so not my style. I am honestly fine if my kids go to the grocery store the evening before the burial, and pick up a few bouquets to lay neatly, on the top of the casket, themselves.
. . . you can pay up to $10,000 for a plot in some memorial parks (and yes, that seems to be the industry name for cemeteries, these days -- memorial park sounds much lovelier), and a family garden (with room for several family members, a bench and maybe a small tree) goes for $150,000 in a swanky memorial park that I'm familiar with. But our local memorial park has comparatively reasonable rates of one to two thousand per plot.
. . . that Saturday burials often come with a surcharge
. . . that you can buy burial clothing through the mortuary. Um, just weird, to me. Something from my closet will do.
. . . that you can rent a casket. That sounds laughable, right? But seriously, if you plan to be cremated, you can rent a casket, for a viewing, prior to cremation, if that's your wish.
. . . and that there may be lower-priced caskets whose models are NOT on display. You need to ask about these, specifically.
. . . embalming is not necessarily required. It's pricey. You can spend close to $1000, for embalming and body prep work. The alternative is refrigeration. Minimal cost, average seems to be about $50/day.
. . . that there are lists, online, of popular music used at memorial services, and you can even find lists of the music played for the services of a few famous people (like JFK, Princess Diana). Ditto for poems and sayings/quotes.
. . . that there seems to be a charge for every single detail from death to final rest. Transportation of the body, death certificate copies, storage of the body before burial, a sealed casket (presumably to keep the elements out -- and, but why? I ask).
What I learned from my experience with my siblings, when our dad passed . . .
. . . there were so many decisions, large and small, to be made in such a short span of time.
. . . we each had our own ideas of what we thought should be done. Fortunately, the 3 of us are very good at compromise. But if we had known what my dad would have wanted, we could have saved a lot of time and energy.
. . . it was very easy to get swept away in the spending, with a thought process like "well, it's Dad's money after all, might as well go for the very best". And while the 3 of us get along very well, we have different spending/saving personalities.
. . . that while the funeral director is required to provide a list of all of the services with a breakdown of fees, we weren't in the right frame of mind right then, to take our time going over that list and find alternatives or do without some line items.
There's a huge benefit to beginning these talks now, while I'm still in good health. This difficult conversation is not charged with emotion the way it would be if I were seriously ill. And financially, planning for this right now, and talking about this with my children, will allow me time to budget and set aside money to specifically cover this expense, so my kids won't feel the financial burden when I pass.
This isn't morose. It's loving, to want to take care of my kids one last time in my life. Okay, someone hand me a tissue, please.