No One Gets Out Alive

This, from Twitter, upon author Terry Pratchett’s recent death:

Despite rumor, Death isn’t cruel — merely terribly, terribly good at his job.

Terry Pratchett

Death is good at his job–there’s a 100% mortality rate for humans!  You may never get in a car wreck, but you still put your seatbelt on every time just in case–doesn’t it make sense to take equally simple steps to prepare for something that is guaranteed to eventually happen?

You are going to die. Your loved ones are going to die. I AM going to die.

Why don’t we start the conversations now about what to do once we do?

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Sky Burial

(WARNING:  This post may be disturbing in content)

Sometimes, it’s interesting to find out about other cultures and how they deal with death and burial.    Sometimes, it can challenge the things we believe and accept.

The Zoroastrian practice of Sky Burial is probably one of those challenges for me.

I first read about the practice on Slate.com, and was immediately fascinated.   As this is the internet, one link led to two more, and hours later, I had seen picture after picture, read descriptions and learned way more than I ever imagined about bodies being picked to shreds by vultures (and the accompanying problems that ensue when there are no vultures to do the work!)

The practice is historical, from millenia back, as well as current (practiced in sections of India, specifically Mumbai).   It is carried out on very specifically designed and constructed towers, called Towers of Silence  (see diagram below).    The ‘burial’ pattern, as it were, is very specific–there are sections of the tower for men, for women, and for children.  The tending of the tower is equally mindful, with caretakers and timeframes for curating the bodies.


towerPlanMalabar

Image from The Heritage Institute

Several abandoned Towers exist in Iran, and are open to visitors.  A few active towers remain in India, but are also having to adapt or change, due to a decrease in vulture population, and to encroachment by urban structures and the need for air treatment due to smell.

Is sky burial something you would consider?

Why You SHOULD Use a Funeral Director

Now, if you are around me for long, you’d discover I’m frugal.   (Those who love me might use other words, but we’ll be nice here on my own blog)

When I go, I want it as simple and cheap as possible, which is why my plans are all about direct cremation and scattering.  I’m also a wicked DIY girl, so the idea of a home funeral is very appealing–but since I won’t be here to make it a reality for me, I have less need of demanding that.

And if you avail yourself of my planning services, you’ll learn I rely heavily on the FCA-Central Texas surveys, the price comparison tables they publish every year which tell you the cost of funeral services for each funeral home in the Central Texas area.  I’m always about finding a good deal, trying to make do or do without, and not paying for things when I don’t have to.

Therefore, it might surprise you that I find much to love in Caleb Wilde’s new blog post, 9 Benefits of Hiring a Funeral Director

Having a professional on your side at the time of a death does have many benefits, as Wilde explains in his posting.  I agree most with these of his points with regards to having a funeral director on your side:

  • letting an experienced system handle the paperwork
  • stress relief in having someone not in the storm attend to the logistics
  • having a calm stable presence to help with decision-making in unstable times
  • having an at-hand referral network for your of-the-moment needs

Fortunately, if you coordinate with someone like me, many of these benefits can be yours as well, without the high costs associated with some funeral homes.   You may still wish to have a full-service funeral director, but with my help, you can find the one whose service to you and fees charged are balanced and fair, where you can feel cared for and not taken to the cleaners.

Most funeral directors are in the business because they care about people and want to serve and help (and hug, according to Caleb!).   But also, when you hire a funeral director, you need to always be aware that the person who you are trusting to help you also may stand to benefit from the decisions she’s helping you make–if you pick a certain casket, or flowers, or sandwiches, or what have you, from a funeral home, there’s likely a margin of profit built in for them.  Some funeral homes are corporate owned, so the need/pressure to produce sales figures may be different from other–but everything you choose to do with a funeral director will have a cost associated with it.

This is not to say that all (or even most) funeral homes and directors would gouge you or try to suck money out of you.  As I said, most I’ve met truly have a heart for service, and want to provide as many benefits as possible.

But it’s up to you to protect you.  Which is why, as always, I encourage you to do your research ahead of time.  Know the arrangements you want done.  Discover costs at establishments around you, and get a sense for which directors feel genuine, and which make you uncomfortable (chances are good they’ll give that same feeling to your loved ones when they come in too).  Considering joining your local FCA branch–you’ll always find the current and unbiased information about local funeral homes there, and folks who can give you the information you need to make a strong decision!

Dual Graves (The Downside of Cremation)

If I haven’t told you this before, given the choice, I’m being cremated.   I like the idea of being permanently disposed of.  I love the crazy-good cost savings of cremation, over needing a plot and a casket and all that.  I sleep well with the thought that one day I’ll dissolve into Lake Sutherland and into the Pacific ocean.  All in all, cremation fits who I am and what I do.

But every now and again, something makes me think for a bit about the other options.  Such as this story about ancient Greek skeletons found in an embrace

Remains-of-an-embracing-couple

Which also reminded me of this picture from this story from Caleb Wilde’s highly amusing Confessions of a Funeral Director blog

double coffin

All this thinking and reading reminds me that my plans are just that–plans.  Thankfully, because I practice what I preach, they’re only written safely down and communicated, but not paid for or committed to in any irrevocable fashion.

Perhaps, as I grow older with Mr. P  (20 years together, and I’m still only 29–so maybe I should restate that?!)…as we move toward finishing our lives together, I may feel the need to create something like the above, the chance for us to continue our pairing on the other side, maybe the need to leave a more permanent memorial to our time together, beyond the inherited rings and china our kids and grandkids will get.   Will just mingling our ashes be enough?  Will I need it in stone somewhere?

Stay tuned.