Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The business of death

Although I have been to many, many funerals, the majority of them being for family, I have not been heavily involved in most of the details concerning the actual event. Even with my parents I tended to let my older siblings make the decisions. My mother specifically already had things laid out the way she wanted it. She had completely pre-arranged everything.

With the passing of my brother, I became caught up in the business of a funeral and the accompanying events necessary to get things done. Now as a rule, death is unexpected and things need to get taken care of quickly, all the while trying to satisfy the whims of those who are grieving. There are many decisions to make, and thankfully a good funeral home and director is there to guide you through everything so nothing is left behind. The grieving have a lot on their minds and connecting the dots all in a row isn't one of them.

Some of what I encountered was unexpected, although not shocking, I was rather taken-aback at times. Death does not come on a schedule, however grave diggers apparently are. I hope you don't want to be buried on a Saturday because many cemeteries do not inter after noon. Otherwise it will cost you time-and-a-half (or more). I would think it was the nature of the business. Nope, grave diggers are a union. Gotta follow the union rules.

Ever wonder how much it costs to run a small section of print in a large newspaper for an obituary? I was shocked at the cost of a two day run. It was in the hundreds and hundreds of dollars (think even higher). I know newspapers have fallen on hard times but the cost was thoroughly ridiculous.

I was surprised at the total overall cost. Yes, I understand costs go up and there are things that need tended to, however nothing that happened was remotely extravagant in nature as that is not the way of my family. The funeral home and its staff did an outstanding job in catering to my our needs. Yes it is their function and they performed well but the business of death, how shall I say it, is one of opportunity. Unfortunately even here, it all comes down to sales.


  1. I was a funeral escort for a while during my time in the Army and I got a look at the funeral industry that appalled me. While some were very professional, there were others who were so greedy that they would put a shady used car salesman to shame.

    I also owned several small town newspapers over the years and we never charged for obits. Apparently that is a new trend, or is a big city thing.

  2. My father died last year and lived in a small town in Iowa. The newspaper offer free 2 line death notice but obituary which only included time of visitation and funeral, list of survivors, and a short paragraph about his life, was about $400.(ran one day) Since Dad did not have insurance and nursing home costs took all other monies, the funeral was very expensive. Tho, we were very happy with the funeral home staff and they tried to make it as easy as possible.
    I believe newspapers will have to come up with new ideas to keep afloat instead of charging for everything. Otherwise they are on their way out.
    Our funeral home had a beautiful obituary on their website (along with a lot of pictures) that was included in the cost along with an area where people were able to make wonderful comments about Dad. We picked the most cost-effective (cheapest) burial possible.