I ran into a friend the other day at Costco. We caught up for a bit, and soon enough I was telling her about this advocacy voice inside me, about the passion I have for helping people through the process of planning for and working through final arrangements.
She, like so so many others, had her story to tell–most everyone does. Hers began, as many do, with, “Oh, I really needed someone like you last summer!”.
Sadly, her mother had recently passed away–young and unexpectedly–so no planning or forethought had been done. My friend was left to make the arrangements from scratch. She told me of the pain of having to start thinking through decisions while the shock of her mom’s death was still fresh, how it was disorienting but still something she needed to do and did.
Curiously, she then followed up with an apology of sorts, a sheepish admission–”I felt so guilty calling around to the funeral homes, getting prices. I had a little chart that I wrote down prices and details on….”
As if asking prices for a funeral purchase was shameful. As if she should be embarrassed for even wanting to know, not wanting to waste money or to spend more than she needed to, as she made the decisions. It just somehow feels wrong, disrespectful, to be concerned with costs when it’s death, right? At the end of life, shouldn’t all that matters be expressing how much you loved the person?
But my friend’s right to be concerned. Funeral costs can vary tremendously from funeral home to funeral home, even in the same town. Picking a location blindly could be a $3000 error, for the same services, for the same exact event. Wouldn’t you research cars before you bought one, especially if it could mean thousands of dollars difference to your wallet? Don’t you look up hotels before you book them?
Why shouldn’t funerals be the same? Why are we shy or ashamed to talk about prices, to shop around for end-of-life arrangements?
It’s time to open up the funeral and end of life discussion in our families. It’s ALWAYS time to do so. There’s no other event on earth that is guaranteed to happen to every single one of us–we all need to have thought this through.
Talk about what you want now, openly. If you need help, contact an advocate (like me) for ideas, or look online or at your local booksellers for any number of planning books. Go tour a funeral home or two close by, just to get the feel of the business (you don’t have to preplan there, just meet the staff and see what it’s like). Get the pricing lists from some funeral homes and talk it through with your family–are there things on there that you would hate to spend money on? Do you have other ideas about your end-of-life–say body donation or home funeral?
Now is the time. Now is the time to talk it all through. NOW.