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How to Save Thousands When You or a Loved One Dies


Mary ConleyDear friends,

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Since tax time is coming up, I rather like what Margaret Mitchell wrote in her book, "Gone With the Wind," "Death, taxes, and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them.” Well said, but I’m actually wanting to chat about what we used to call a funeral, but now often refer to as “the celebration of life.” I think you know that this is going to be one costly celebration unless we embrace the emerging way to go out without a bang.

Nothing stays the same in this world, and just as the small bookstore and the family hardware business, it is my opinion that the traditional funeral home may also be on the way out. Here is what I’m hearing that people are doing or plan on doing to escape the funeral home’s exorbitant costs. In a nutshell, to save the most money, be cremated and scattered.

Now I will be more compassionate. There are all kinds of changes you can make to that brief statement to fit your desires and still save money. I’ll try to write about as many as I’ve heard about and thought through. The main thing, though, is to bypass the funeral home.

The gathering: You can do this in your place of worship for little or no cost, or perhaps at a lodge or town hall. These choices may be more conducive to visiting and reminiscing. You can still have photos displayed, slides shown, and your eulogy or exciting life history read. Since my parents, aunts and uncles, and four out of five of my brothers have already passed (bowing of head), I would like mine to be in my own home with perhaps an open visitation one day, and a private family funeral the following day. Unless, or course, my residing place has been a nursing home.

The burial: I’m sure you have already heard of myriad places someone’s ashes have been strewn. They can be buried, too, but this adds to the cost. We already have plots my father gave us in a beautiful well-kept cemetery in our home town of Washta, Iowa. We will pay for a headstone, but the bonus to cremation is that our bodies can easily be transferred to that site without charge. And if (ha, ha), our children ever visit us there, they will find graves of our extended family from both sides. I can just about see them excitedly calling out to one another as they find one family tombstone after another. I heard recently, that in some places, you can even have a family member dig the grave to save money. I guess that might happen if they are hard up for a little more inheritance. Or, you used up all your savings in a nursing home and left them nothing for such things.

The coffin: Forget it. Years ago, we went to the gravesite service for one of Larry’s brother’s and there sat a little wooden box about the size of a large jewelry box. At least that is how I remember it. Cremation was new to us, and when I saw that little box, I don’t know what came over me, but I got the giggles and almost had an aneurysm burst right there trying to contain myself! Our friends recently went to a funeral where the woman, who loved to fish, had her ashes put in a large colorful bobber! The point is, you can be put in anything you want to be buried in, thrown out to sea, or to stir up a little conversation at your visitation! Maybe we should go choose something right now while we’re thinking about it. You know, like some people choose their favorite suit or dress ahead of time.

So, is there anything left to pay for besides that fiery furnace? Maybe the death certificate if it didn’t come with the cremation, I’m told, but you will save thousands. As usual, you can find all that information on the web, or leave it for your family to do; that and cleaning out the years and years of stuff accumulated in your house! Its payback time!

On a lighter note: My sweet friend, Roxy, wants her ashes scattered out among their trees. I told her that if I’m still alive, I will spread wild flower seeds around her. Isn’t that a happy thought?

Quotes I hear my husband, Larry, saying:

– Every day above ground is a good day!

– Don’t take life too serious. You aren’t going to get out of it alive anyway!

– Larry also sometimes honestly mistakes the word funeral in place of wedding. When corrected, he says, “They’re the same thing!”

– Lately, he has been fond of repeating a Woody Allen quote: “It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens.” He thinks that is so funny!