March 27, 2015 – They say that the only things for certain in life are death and taxes. How we prepare for each of these certainties is quite different. Many people plan ahead to minimize taxes to hold on to their wealth. At the same time, many people avoid planning for death in hopes of holding on to life.
“Death is a reality of life that we are all going to have to deal with,” says Rev. Jimmie Schwartz, chaplain at Carroll Lutheran Village. “It’s something that we cannot avoid.”
Proactively pre-planning for your funeral can be one of the greatest gifts given to loved ones so they know exactly what you want. “If you pre-plan and tell your family what to do, you’re taking a burden from them and saying ‘Here, this is what I want, this is what you can do for me, and I will be pleased’,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz says no matter how expected or unexpected a death may be, families can be left confused and in distress when they don’t know what the deceased would want. They now have major decisions to make in a short period of time, and often face emotional overload.
Most funeral homes in Maryland will allow you to pre-plan and even pre-pay for final arrangements. Costs vary from one to another, but will be in a comparable range as funeral homes are heavily regulated by the State of Maryland. If you choose to be cremated, a funeral home with an on-site crematorium may be less costly due to reduced transportation expenses. According to Schwartz, the average cost of cremation through a funeral home is about $3,000 vs. $10,000 for a traditional burial with a casket and vault. Inexpensive alternatives include cremation through the Cremation Society of Maryland or donating your body to the Anatomy Board for teaching and research.
If you choose cremation it doesn’t mean your body won’t have a viewing. It is your choice. Schwartz stresses there are times when it is helpful to have a viewing of the body, especially if the loss is unexpected and the survivors have not had a chance to say goodbye. The viewing can be as public or private as you choose.
“Funerals allow for people to express their grief,” said Schwartz. But sometimes unexpected things happen that can delay a service or burial. Weather, especially in the winter, can delay burials. Families spread all over the world can delay services while family members make travel arrangements. Recently, the memorial service for a Carroll Lutheran Village resident was delayed for a month while some family members made travel arrangements. For those who could not make the trip, the Village Skyped the service to Battle Creek, MI and Moscow, Russia, a technology first for the Village.
Weekend burials typically cost more than on a weekday. It is not uncommon, according to Schwartz, for a family to opt for a weekend service and a Monday burial. If burial is to be at Arlington National Cemetery, and to some extent at Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery in Owings Mills, there could be a long wait due to the volume of veterans who are dying and requesting burial there.
There are a number of details to consider when pre-planning your final arrangements, and most details can be customized. Anyone interested in planning in advance can consult with a funeral home of choice to begin.
Making Your Plan
Be sure to carefully consider what you would like your family to know, and what arrangements they should make for you.
- How would you like your body disposed of? Buried? Cremated? Donated to science?
- What funeral home should care for your body?
- What would you like to wear, including jewelry, during a viewing?
- What articles would you like removed from the casket after the viewing?
- What articles would you like placed in the casket for viewing and burial?
- Who would you like to view your body, where and when?
- Who would you like to serve as pall bearers?
- Where would you like to be interred?
- Who would you like to include at the interment?
- Would you like your cremains placed in an urn or scattered, and if so where and by whom?
- Where would you like your funeral service or memorial, what scripture readings and hymns would you like?
- What types of flowers would you like on your casket, or do you prefer no flowers?
- Where should memorial contributions be given (if applicable)?
- Who have you given copies of these instructions to?
- Who would you like to be responsible for carrying out your wishes?
- If there are any unusual circumstances that prevent all of your wishes to be carried out, in what order would you like to prioritize your final requests?
- Any additional requests you may have.
Copyright © 2015 Lisa Albin