Wednesday, November 04, 2009

End of life costs...

I just had my will done by an attorney - the hourly fee for all of her work - which included a bit more than a simple will: $275.  I'm not complaining, believe me.  But providing for end of life expenses can add up.
Just like funerals - pre-planning has its advantages I'm sure, but I'm not there yet.  Although I would prefer to be cremated, which is permitted by the Church.  From what I understand, it appears one's body is required for the funeral Mass, and only afterwards may it be cremated, followed by a proper burial in a vault or the ground - and only then in a cemetery.  I have often wondered why however. 
Why does an intact body have to be preserved for the funeral Mass when the ashes are the complete remains anyway?  I've also wondered why one would have to go through all the expense to be embalmed and processed and packaged by a mortician to be ready for church.  After all, it's an added expense, not to mention a burden for the poor. 
I suppose I could allow my intact body to be buried if it didn't have to be embalmed, reviewed, or placed in a box or a concrete vault.  I'm fairly certain one doesn't have to be embalmed, but most people seem to be if they are to make a reviewable event out of their funeral.  And of course funeral directors have to sell coffins, or at least arrange the sale of a vault in the ground - for the remains or cremains, makes no difference in Minnesota.  It seems like insider trading to me - the funeral director, the mortician, the church, and the cemetery - all in cahoots...  I probably shouldn't suggest that though. 
I would prefer to be interred just like the monks of old - a shrouded body lowered into the ground.  Why do secular funerals have to be so elaborate and expensive?  Or do they?
Anyway, the Italian Bishops are coming up with new guidelines - although I doubt the funeral homes and morticians will be disappointed.  K'ching!   Church in Italy to issue clarification on cremation.
Oh well, something else I have to take care of.
Art:  Antoine Joseph Wiertz - The Premature Burial


  1. Are you quite sure that the whole body has to be at the funeral Mass? Where would I find that specification?

    I ask because I was recently at a funeral Mass (of an auxiliary of the Legion of Mary of which I am a part), and it was the first I had ever seen of ashes being interred. There was a little "house" looking wooden box set on a stand out in the aisle, in front of the altar, like where the coffin usually is. And when the entire congregation processed outside, the wooden box was open and the urn with the ashes was taken and walked over to the outdoor mortuary (not sure if that is what you would call it, a stone wall with cubicles inside, each holding an urn, over which a panel with the deceased's name and birth/death dates are enscribed).

    It was a totally new experience for me, but it looked like this was the common way of doing funerals at this parish. It would be good to know for sure whether it was done correctly or not, since this is the parish we now go to.

  2. OH and I also wish I could just be buried in a cloth and put in the ground, as easy as possible. This is the way the Christians and Muslims are buried in India, and they do it very quickly. There *is* a viewing, done immediately, without embalming -- the Christian funeral I saw the body was in a glass box, but the Muslim funerals have the body laid out on a table...and then after prayers, the body is buried as soon as possible.

  3. michael r.6:55 AM

    Perhaps some priests might chime in here. I'm also under the impression that the body does not have to be present for the funeral Mass. I've been to such a Mass, for someone who was close to me, and who I believe to be a real saint. She donated her body to science, and cremated remains were later interred in the family plot, but that was many months after the funeral. I too would like to be dropped into the ground sans casket, like many of the Trappists and Carthusians still do. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem likely. My backup plan is to have someone discretely drop my ashes onto the monastery property. Ha - they won't keep me out!

    I love that painting!

  4. Anonymous8:54 AM

    Another post about a fascinating topic. How do you do it?!

    Anyway, my dad died on 4/16 and WE washed him, dressed him, anointed his body, etc. He died at 0345 and we finally called the funeral home the next afternoon. (Gave his 8 surviving kids and wife plenty of private time to spend with him praying the rosary, just sitting with our memories and looking at him, etc.)

    He was NOT embalmed (seriously. Why? This ain't Michael Jackson here. We'll plant him before next Christmas.).
    He just stayed overnight at the funeral home (trust me when I say we should have gotten him a room at the Peninsula Hotel on the Magnificent Mile and it would have been cheaper. The penthouse. And I told the funeral home guy so.)

    He had the second cheapest coffin (which he picked out himself) which was nearly 5K. I looked at another one, the cheapest one, still 3K or so, and it was so pretty and simple, I loved it. I said, "Ma, what about this one?" and the FH Director interrupted and said, "Oh, you don't want that one. That's what indigents are buried in." As if that should matter a damn. I said, "What the hell do you have against indigents?"
    I was pissed by the time I left, just at the whole system. Would you believe for that one night stay and the rosary in the chapel it was 13K total?
    If we had opened the casket, I'll bet we'd have seen my daddy rolling over from shock.

    So I found Abbey Caskets, who make BEAUTIFUL simple caskets for not much money, they pray for each deceased, they do child caskets for free, etc.
    They are a marvelous order and that's who I'm prebuying through.
    You can google them and see their beautiful work.

    The FTC has something called the "Funeral Rule" - you can also look it up and read it. It basically protects the family from FH scams - states explicitly that a FH cannot require you to buy THEIR caskets, must accept a shipped casket, etc. No one knows about it, but it's so important to know about it before you're grieving.

    It's permitted to have ashes at the funeral but that's an INDULT for special circumstances. The church still recommends the ENTIRE BODY at church, and recommends burial of the body. Kind of like Communion in the hand is an INDULT, and not meant to be the norm. (Not to start THAT discussion. Just stating a fact.)

    [backs away slowly.]


  5. Anonymous9:04 AM

    Here's the link to abbey caskets.
    These are the prettiest caskets I've ever seen, esp. the "Monastic" caskets.

  6. Gette - That is what I have heard from the pulpit - I'll have to investigate further.

    Michael - we like the same things.

    Cathy - Thanks for your great comment and information... I think I read someplace where people were having home funerals - no mortuary - and then off to church and finally the cemetery - I'll have to check that out. In the old days it used to be like that.

  7. Is that the Michael who had brain surgery? If it is, I hope you're feeling better.

    I want the cheapest casket, etc, when I die. A plain wood box would be just fine or no box. What does it matter? :>

  8. michael r.11:36 AM

    Yes, SF, it is the same Michael. Thank you, & everyone, for the prayers and good wishes. I seem to be doing fine. I am about to begin daily radiation treatments for 5 1/2 weeks. My spirit is way up for much more fight!

  9. michael r: I offered Holy Mass for you. Glad to see your posts.

    Terry: You are spot-on about the whole "funeral business" thing.

    The increasing popularity of cremation causes me some real difficulties...not in and of itself.
    But if we believe the the body is/was the Temple of the Holy Spirit, shouldn't this be somehow signified in our funeral/burial customs?

    If you want to refer to TOB, this has real impact. The reverent treatment of the human body after death is a consequence of a correct understanding of the TOB (and not Tango, I might snarkily add:<)!!)

    The reverent and simple customs you mention (a very modest casket, for instance) and the emphasis upon the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the center, as well as prayers during the Vigil, witness to the belief that "life has changed, not ended" and that we are saved by the Precious Blood of Jesus.

    These are just some meandering thoughts...cremation is allowed by the Church and there are rites that include this.

    I just am wondering if this is the best way to show our faith/our beliefs.

  10. And one more thing: I do not think that ashes are considered the "intact body". I could be wrong about this. But the cremation process renders the body into something else; they are not the same as the body.
    I can stand corrected on this.

  11. Heck...I was hoping after my Mass to do this from an old folk song:

    Just one favor of you, my love
    If I should die today
    Take me down to where the hills
    Meet the sea on a stormy day
    Ride a ridge on a snow white horse
    And throw my ashes away
    To the wind and the sand
    Where my song began

  12. Yea, Michael! I'll remember you as you start this next phase!

  13. What an interesting discussion! Nowhere else but on a Catholic blog, and even those are rare to find discussion on the best prices on caskets! :-P

    Did you know that Costco sells coffins as well? They have them for under a thousand dollars. That's better than Abby Caskets, though maybe not as beautiful, but traditional with cushy lining and all that. and click on "funeral" --that's right after "furniture", LOL

    And may the souls of the Faithful Departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

  14. Anonymous5:36 PM

    Re: the comfy linings:
    We were laughing so hard at my dad's cushy coffin interior.

    "Comfy in there, Dad?"

    "Good. You want me to adjust the pillow?"

    Laughter through tears - my favorite emotion.



  15. My grandpa was cremated, 30 years ago, because he wanted to be; when my mom called the church, the priest referred her to the associate, who was more likely to be okay with cremation. And he was.

    My grandparents were divorced so my grandma couldn't do anything about it, but at some point later, she joked to my mom that they could bury him with her, there'd be room between her feet and she could kick him for eternity.

    The priest at the parish from which she was buried thought it was important for ashes to be buried, so was okay with that; she was buried with stout walking shoes on...

  16. Our Lady of Guadalupe-adorned caskets can also be purchased on Inexpensive and beautiful:

  17. Anonymous8:01 AM

    Dear Terry,

    My Dad died three years ago on the Ides of March. We buried him on the Feast of St. Joseph. We had a wake, rosary and viewing of him on Sunday. Overnight he was cremated so we had the Funeral Mass with his remains. My Dad wanted to be cremated. I did not agree but because we had talk years before his death I was reconciled to my parent's wishes. This was all done at St. A's in Frogtown with the wonderful Father W as the celebrant. Just some "food for thought."

    Have a blessed day.



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