Tag Archives: burial

Is planning your own funeral a good idea?

You may not know when you’re going to die, but you know for sure it will happen.

A little advance planning of your own funeral — or that of a loved one — can make that traumatic time when you die a little easier on your loved ones.

Pre-planning funerals is getting more common as many people prefer to decide on the details of the last celebration of their life themselves. If you decide to do this, talk to your parent or spouse or other family and friends about your funeral wishes at an appropriate time, probably not during an argument or over a holiday dinner. Tell your adult children what you’re thinking about.

Here are some things to consider:

1. Are you thinking about a standard viewing and funeral?
2. Do you have a cemetery plot?
3. Would you prefer cremation?
4. Do you have enough money to pay for big event?
5. Do you want your death notice to read like a biography or will you be satisfied with a published statement of your dates of birth and death?
6. Do you want a video or slide show to be shown during visitation hours? Or do you want a photo board to help mourners remember earlier times?
7. Do you want masses of flowers or would prefer that money be donated to a charity instead?
8. Is there something special you want at your funeral – like your grand piano or motorcycle?

All of the above comes at a cost. A funeral varies depending on the services provided. Cremations generally cost about $4,000. A burial the day after a viewing can be as much as $10,000. The cost of cemetery plots today begins at about $900, but can be several thousand dollars in a major metropolitan area. And you can spend $8,000 or more on a casket.

If you decide on cremation, your ashes can be placed in an urn and then in a mausoleum, or stored or disposed of however you wish.

Whatever you decide to do, if you preplan and let your loved ones know your wishes, you know that your last celebration of life will be the way you want it to be.

For more information about funeral planning, go to www.diesmart.com.

Green funerals – Make your last act a “green” one.

Just as people have become more environmentally conscious and have focused on living “green”, many are thinking about a last green act – a green funeral. This is one where the end-of-life ritual does as little harm to the environment as possible.

It can include such simple things as reducing carbon emissions by carpooling to the funeral, encouraging charitable donations instead of cut flowers and selecting a funeral home that has energy efficient methods, recycles and is energy conscious.

Burial can be in a traditional or a green cemetery. If you choose to have a greener burial in a conventional cemetery, you can do so by opting to use a shroud and a simple, biodegradable casket. An eco-friendly casket is usually made of bamboo, sea grass or willow. It can also be made of heavy cardboard or a soft wood such as pine.

May conventional cemeteries require either a vault or a grave liner but there are some conventional cemeteries that are beginning to allow vault-less burial. A compromise is the liner with no bottom, which allows the body or casket to rest directly in the earth.

In a green cemetery, trees or shrubbery is often planted in place of headstones or other traditional markers. This creates a living memorial instead of a “dead” one. A green cemetery is basically a nature preserve that has trails to walk through. There used to be very few of these green cemeteries but the number is growing.

If burial is in a conventional cemetery, choose the smallest headstone allowed and try to find a monument builder who uses indigenous stone to reduce the carbon footprint of production and transportation.

Full body sea burial can also be made greener by not embalming it but merely wrapping the body in a shroud.

If you prefer cremation, there are biodegradable urns that can be used for ground or water burial. They are often made from sustainable, recyclable materials such as Himalayan rock salt and handmade paper. These urns degrade in a matter of days once they are placed in the earth or the sea.

For more information about green funerals, there’s a video from KQED that might be of interest.  You can also check out the information from the Green Burial Council.

Planning a Pet’s Funeral

Many people complain about funeral costs when they are deciding what to do about dear deceased granddad or mom; they think costs are too high and ask for cheaper options. But when it comes to a beloved pet, no one complains about what it costs to bury or cremate it. Cost is rarely even discussed. Rather the pet owner decides what he or she wants and then just pays for it.

National Pet Memorial Day was celebrated in September. According to the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories,  it was a day to “increase awareness of the many options available to memorialize pets”. Less than ten years ago, pet aftercare facilities were almost nonexistent. People just didn’t talk about what to do with their deceased pet. Today, there are more than 700 pet aftercare facilities nationwide and the number is growing. According to Tom Flynn, president of Hillerest-Flynn Pet Funeral Home and Crematory in Hermitage, PA, it’s a rapidly growing business. His profits have increased by 25% every year since he began offering pet burials in 2006.

Nobody really knows what demographic is responsible for the industry boom. Some think it’s baby boomers, who turn to a pet after their spouse has died or their children have left home. Others think it’s people in their 20’s and 30’s who have delayed or opted out of becoming parents and have decided to get a pet instead. Still others think it’s older women who never had children. Or the very wealthy. But, in actuality, Ed Martin, Jr. of Hartsdale, NY Pet Cemetery and Crematory, says they “get everybody: men, women, rich, poor, young, old.”

A pet funeral can be expensive, with a bronze grave marker costing almost $1,800 and a velvet-lined casket in excess of $1,100. Did you know that in addition to pet burials and cremations, you can arrange things like pet blessings and candlelight vigils? Some companies offer even more services than you’d find at a human funeral home.

In addition, there are unconventional options as well. Although it sounds very weird, some people opt for freeze-drying their pet’s body which can cost as much as $3,000. And a company in Elk Grove Village, IL called LifeGem, has a process that uses carbonized ashes from cremated remains to create synthetic diamonds. Prices run from $2,490 to $25,000. The process originally was intended for humans but pet owners started requesting the service for their pets so frequently that it’s now 25% of LifeGem’s business.

If you’re looking for unusual ideas, a place to start might be Peternity, an online store like Target, but for pet grieving.

Whatever you decide when planning what to do with your deceased pet, be like everyone else. Don’t think about price. Just decide what you want and pay whatever it costs.

What will happen to the poor little rich dog’s ashes?

When Leona Helmsley died, she left $12 million in her will allocated to the care of her beloved Maltese lapdog, Trouble. In 2008, after some of Helmsley’s heirs protested, a judge reduced Trouble’s inheritance to a mere $2 million, saying that $12 million exceeded the amount necessary to care for the dog, even when providing her with the highest standard of care.

Helmsley also specified in her will that Trouble ‘s remains were to be buried alongside her own in the family mausoleum which is located in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Westchester County, New York. That request has not been honored and Troubles ashes remain “privately retained.”

Regulations prohibit the interring of nonhuman remains at a human cemetery. However, the Helmsley mausoleum itself is considered private property (even though it is located on the cemetery grounds) and its key is retained by the Helmsley family.

Should the family will skirt the law and bury Trouble’s ashes alongside those of Leona Helmsley? What would you do?

You thought you could be buried with your pet…maybe not in New York.

Many people consider their pet a member of the family and, when it dies, they want to remember that pet by burying it in a special place.

Hartsdale Pet Cemetery and Crematory in Hartsdale, New York claims to be the oldest pet cemetery in the United States and, until recently, it allowed people to have their ashes buried next to those of their pet. After all, some people are closer to their dogs or cats than they are to other members of their family so it makes sense that they would want to be near them after death.

However, last February, the New York Division of Cemeteries announced that this was no longer possible and has since blocked Hartsdale from taking in human ashes. The government claimed that Hartsdale has been violating a law requiring that any cemetery providing burial space for humans must be operated as a not-for-profit corporation. By charging a fee and promoting their human interment service, Hartsdale was violating laws governing not-for-profit corporations.

According to a spokesperson for Hartsdale, it is a private, for profit business and, as such, is not under the jurisdiction of the Division of Cemeteries.

Until the law is clarified and a final decision made, people like Taylor York, a law professor, are out of luck. York’s uncle, Thomas Ryan, died in April and had arranged, and prepaid, to join his wife, Bunny and their two dogs, BJ I and BJ II, who are already buried there. Now Ryan’s ashes sit in a wooden box at his sister’s home because the state’s new rule won’t allow him to be buried at Hartsdale.

What do you think? Pet’s ashes are not allowed to be buried in a human cemetery; should people’s ashes be allowed to be buried with their pets in a pet cemetery?