Big Death… How the funeral industry is killing us

bigdeathAs it’s been a while since we’ve discussed America’s rapidly consolidating and progressively evil funeral industry, I thought that I’d share this comment, which was left a few days ago on Reddit, in a thread about industry secrets, by an unnamed individual claiming to be a funeral director. [I’ve added several links, but otherwise the following is unedited.]

…I’m a funeral director. Our entire industry is basically a pyramid scheme. It blows my mind how blindly people accept that certain things “have to” be done to the body of their loved one. Think about that for a second: this is the last tangible remnant of someone you loved and you are now going to pay stranger thousands (oftentimes HUNDERDS of thousands) of dollars to (warning: graphic from here on out) systematically mutilate that body.

There is nothing dignified about having one’s mouth wired shut, eyelids forced closed by spiked plastic contact lenses, and ramming a trocar into the abdomen to puncture organs so that they can be suctioned out. After the embalming fluid is introduced, the anus and vagina are stuffed with cotton and other absorbent materials to prevent what we refer to as “purge.” This charming phenomenon can occur any time after death – yes, before or after embalming, at any stage of decomposition – when the fluid created by tissues breaking down is leaked through any nearby orifice, oftentimes the nether regions.

The process creates an enormous environmental problem; using toxic chemicals which are flushed into our sewers along with those pureed livers, hearts, spleens, pancreas’ which then also flow into our sewers. Oh, what’s that? I told you embalming is a legal requirement for public sanitation? That’s utter bullshit. If anything, it creates a sanitation problem if the cemetery you use is anywhere near a municipal water line, which most “commercial” cemeteries are.

In fact, in most states, the law only requires embalming if you are transporting a body across state lines or are not planning to inter for more than 72 hours and/or having a public viewing. It has not a single thing to do with public health. It’s a cash cow, plain and simple. It is barbaric, costly, and does not keep the body from deteriorating. But we’ll tell you just about anything you need to hear to get you to agree to it.

What I’m doing here is incredibly illegal and I know it, but on the slim-to-none-chance that you’re a sharp-minded consumer in the midst of your grief and call my state’s licensing board about it, all I have to do simply tell them you were mistaken. I’ve seen funeral directors force-feed families absolute horseshit – saying anything – to get them to sign a contract. Here’s a hint: don’t sign any pre-printed “form” contracts. Most of the contracts we use are super vague, so we can charge you for just about anything and justify it by pointing to your signature on the dotted line. It is in your best interest to only agree to specific itemized charges – i.e., have the hearse but no limousines. Or have hair/makeup done without any embalming. The law is very specific and on your side, but we count on your ignorance and vulnerability.

Even better, find a trusted friend or family member who is more emotionally stable right now and appoint them as your lawyer/detective. You know that bitchy sister-in-law everyone has who makes major holidays a nightmare? I can spot her a mile away and will do everything I can to keep her out of financial discussions – because I know she will take that obnoxious nagging and throw it at me for every single penny I’m trying to get out of your family. See my co-workers standing around looking somber and respectful? They’re not there to just have a presence of authority, they are studying you. They are watching the family dynamic and will report back to me with any potential angles I can play to manipulate your emotions, which family members are taking it the hardest and will therefore be the easiest prey, and their estimation of your financial well-being. If, by the way, you appear to be less affluent, I’ll tell you to take your business elsewhere. This is not a hospital and I don’t provide a service – this is a business. If you aren’t paying me (in full and up front, generally), all you’re getting is my sympathy.

Do yourself a favor and read the FTC Funeral Rule. It’s very clear and concise in stating what you as the consumer are required to do and what rights you have. Did you know the casket I’m selling you for $5000 is really just a nicely decorated plywood box? If you were smarter, you’d know you don’t have to buy that from me. In fact, the law requires me to allow you to “BYOB.” Costco and Wal-Mart sell very reasonably priced nice caskets on their websites. If you happen to be armed with that tidbit of information, I’ll try to make it a practical issue: it will be easier to use the caskets we already have here. Another line of crap. All of the caskets at the funeral home are demo models (and are actually nice napping spots on slow days). Anything you buy will be delivered to the funeral home via freight the next day, just like the Wal-Mart caskets.

Another well-worn sales tactic is to try to shame you into going along with the exorbitant cost, implying you didn’t really love grandma enough if you spend less than five figures with me. You should know, by the way, that everything you buy from me – a guestbook, prayer cards, even the damn obituary notices – is marked up at least 200%. See the picture I’m painting here, kids? Smoke and mirrors. It hasn’t always been like this, but with the corporatization of the death care industry, the almighty dollar is the only consideration anymore.

Whew, this is getting to be a novel. Sorry, hang with me just a bit longer – we are getting to the major issue here.

Right now – literally right now, August 16, 2013 – the FTC is reviewing a merger between the two largest funeral service corporations in the United States: Stewart and SCI. Stewart has 500-ish locations while SCI has 2000+. This will create a mega-Decepticon-conglomerate that will control at least 40% of all funeral service business transactions in this country – and that, my friends, is what antitrust regulations refer to as a monopoly. We are racing full speed ahead to the genesis of the McFuneralHome and nobody is doing anything about it. The reason? Misdirection. There’s no Stewart Funeral Home or SCI Mortuary in your hometown. They’re operating under the same names they always have, letting you believe that the good people of Bubba & Sons Memorial Chapels would never steer you wrong. Bubba’s been around for 50 years! Bubba’s handled your family’s funerals for generations! Let me tell you something: Bubba cashed out years ago and is pretty much a figurehead at this point. Check his website carefully: at the bottom, you’ll probably see a copyright for either “Dignity Memorials” (SCI) or “STEI” (Stewart).

Every single thing you’ve read in this thread about cutting corners, shoddy work, under-trained and under-paid employees, outsourcing certain processes, covering up mistakesALL OF IT HAPPENS IN THE FUNERAL INDUSTRY. Now, most of us are decent human beings and aren’t interested in getting freaky with dear old granny, but in terms of services performed and their actual value, you trust us WAY, WAY TOO MUCH.

You know how shitty the cell phone service provider market is right now and how worked up everyone gets about that? The funeral industry is worse. And we should all be raising hell, because EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US is going to have to conduct business with the deathcare industry eventually — be an informed consumer and know who you’re really giving your money to.

I know I’ve hyperlinked the shit out of this, but please read the last one from the Funeral Consumers Alliance on how horrifyingly out of control this situation has gotten:

“It’s alarming to think that a company with a long track record of abusing consumers at the worst times of their lives might get even bigger,” said Josh Slocum, FCA’s executive director. “For at least 15 years grieving families around the country have complained to us about the practices at SCI funeral homes and cemeteries. From lying about options in order to boost the funeral bill, to digging up graves to re-sell them to another unsuspecting family, to denying the legal rights of LGBT people to make funeral arrangements for their partners. You name it, we’ve heard it.”

Funeral Consumers Alliance reminds the Federal Trade Commission that funeral purchases are unlike any other in their potential to harm the customer. Families buying funeral and cemetery services are incredibly vulnerable and have been subject to deceitful and egregious conduct.

“This is not a run of the mill merger; this isn’t about whether a $20 retail product will cost consumers $5 more,” Slocum said. “We’re talking real money here. Funeral consumers often make great economic sacrifices to bury their loved ones. The average full-service funeral runs in excess of $7,000 and often for much more at SCI’s Dignity locations. Especially when it has faced less competition, SCI has increased prices and we can expect more of the same if this merger occurs. Given the lack of knowledge about funeral options and the stress of grief, we can’t just say a ‘rational consumer’ will vote with their dollars and choose another funeral home. That’s not how the unique funeral transaction works, and that reality is why the FTC specifically regulates funeral homes.”

[Erika Nelson, if you’re reading this, I’d love to know your thoughts.]

update: Erika Nelson, who I referenced above, just offered up a series of comments in response to this post, and I thought that I’d move them up here, to the front page. Erika, for those of you who don’t know her, is a former Ypsilantian, who, at one point in her life, taught mortuary science and had visions of starting a green funeral business in Michigan. Here’s what she had to say.

I read it and aside from a few details that were a little over the top, this person pretty much hits the nail on the head. For example, in Ann Arbor, Muehlig Funeral Home is not the historic business it appears. It is a “Dignity Memorial” (Service Corporation International) funeral home, which is based out of Dallas, TX. I always recommended Generations Funeral Service, which is a “simple service provider” meaning that they do a lot of cremation and direct burial without viewings. Just for a cost comparison, when I checked prices a couple years ago, Muehlig’s direct cremation was $3000 and Generations was $700. Same exact services provided (no use of the hearses, rental of the viewing rooms or anything else like that – just literally disposition of the body and cremation & paperwork costs).

The owner of Generations is a reasonable guy and he allowed me to use his facility license when I did some historically traditional home funerals (no embalming, laid out at home by family with my assistance) in the Ann Arbor / Metro Detroit area. The funeral homes in Ypsi are locally owned (Janowiak & Stark, plus a couple other smaller ones that serve mainly only African American clients).

I am friends with Josh Slocum and some other folks at Funeral Consumers Alliance. They get it. I purposely distanced myself from the industry a few years ago out of utter frustration and depression. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that no one that I love will ever be embalmed (it is an invasive procedure and unnecessary for the types of services that I would want for my loved ones, especially when refrigeration is a perfectly reasonable alternative).

All I can say is that it is fortunate that most of will only have to deal with this industry a few times in our lifetimes, and we can choose to avoid most of it by choosing simple services. I’d be happy to try to answer any more specific questions that you or anyone else has…

(There is an) excellent film on the subject (of natural burials), and it’s available on Netflix. (It’s called A Family Undertaking.)

There is a cemetery in Waterford called All Saints that offers “green burial”, although it is basically just a small section of a conventional Catholic cemetery, so it isn’t the most ideal setting. There are cemeteries that will allow burial without a vault (outer burial container that the casket goes into) and simple wood or cardboard caskets are available. If you skip embalming and metal/plastics/concretes in the burial containers, that’s basically a green burial. And there is always cremation as an option (not as green because of the energy needed, but not terrible either). Hint: “cremation societies” are just side businesses of funeral homes, since cremation must be overseen by a funeral director working at a funeral home, so you might actually pay more to a “society” than you would to a simple service funeral home.

If natural burial or services without embalming are desired, it is always best to start forming a relationship with a local funeral director and getting your wishes in writing with them – but don’t pre-pay for services, unless you must for securing medicaid by locking money up in the contract to remove it from asset counts.

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32 Comments

  1. Erika Nelson
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    I read it and aside from a few details that were a little over the top, this person pretty much hits the nail on the head. For example, in Ann Arbor, Muehlig Funeral Home is not the historic business it appears. It is a “Dignity Memorial” (Service Corporation International) funeral home, which is based out of Dallas, TX. I always recommended Generations Funeral Service, which is a “simple service provider” meaning that they do a lot of cremation and direct burial without viewings. Just for a cost comparison, when I checked prices a couple years ago, Muehlig’s direct cremation was $3000 and Generations was $700. Same exact services provided (no use of the hearses, rental of the viewing rooms or anything else like that – just literally disposition of the body and cremation & paperwork costs).

    The owner of Generations is a reasonable guy and he allowed me to use his facility license when I did some historically traditional home funerals (no embalming, laid out at home by family with my assistance) in the Ann Arbor / Metro Detroit area. The funeral homes in Ypsi are locally owned (Janowiak & Stark, plus a couple other smaller ones that serve mainly only African American clients).

    I am friends with Josh Slocum and some other folks at FCA. They get it. I purposely distanced myself from the industry a few years ago out of utter frustration and depression. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that no one that I love will ever be embalmed (it is an invasive procedure and unnecessary for the types of services that I would want for my loved ones, especially when refrigeration is a perfectly reasonable alternative).

    All I can say is that it is fortunate that most of will only have to deal with this industry a few times in our lifetimes, and we can choose to avoid most of it by choosing simple services. I’d be happy to try to answer any more specific questions that you or anyone else has.

  2. Jim
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting this, Mark, and thank you, Erika, for your comments.

    Do you have any experience with green or natural burials, or any suggestions for pursuing this option in Southeast Michigan?

  3. Erika Nelson
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    This is an excellent film on the subject, and is available on Netflix: http://www.pbs.org/pov/afamilyundertaking/

  4. Erika Nelson
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    There is a cemetery in Waterford called All Saints that offers “green burial”, although it is basically just a small section of a conventional Catholic cemetery, so it isn’t the most ideal setting. There are cemeteries that will allow burial without a vault (outer burial container that the casket goes into) and simple wood or cardboard caskets are available. If you skip embalming and metal/plastics/concretes in the burial containers, that’s basically a green burial. And there is always cremation as an option (not as green because of the energy needed, but not terrible either). Hint: “cremation societies” are just side businesses of funeral homes, since cremation must be overseen by a funeral director working at a funeral home, so you might actually pay more to a “society” than you would to a simple service funeral home.

    If natural burial or services without embalming are desired, it is always best to start forming a relationship with a local funeral director and getting your wishes in writing with them – but don’t pre-pay for services, unless you must for securing medicaid by locking money up in the contract to remove it from asset counts.

  5. Posted August 21, 2013 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Erika. This is awesome… I’m moving it up to the front page.

  6. donna
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    How does donating your body to science work? Do I still have to have my loved ones deal with a sketchy funeral director?

  7. AndyC
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m hoping Promession catches on here soon myself.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Promession

  8. Elviscostello
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Mark,

    I’ve read the piece and comments, and wanted to weigh in.

    After retiring from my career, I worked in the funeral home business for the last couple of years, with two locally owned firms.

    I worked funerals, went to homes and nursing care facilities and hospices to transfer loved ones into our care, I assisted with dressing those who died for presentation, as well as cleaning buildings, cars, etc…

    I will say outright that the Ypsi family-owned firm were the kindest, most ethical and generous business people you will ever know, I know this from working with them and using them over the years for our needs. The services they discounted, or outright wrote off were amazing. They worked with each family and I can tell you one of the first things a family was told was, “you only spend what you can afford. The size of your funeral is not representative of the love you had for your…” They would steer folks to more inexpensive caskets. I was proud to work for them and grateful to have them to call on.

    Now, what people don’t understand is that closure is important, when it comes to death. One of the owners who has a Counseling degree talked about the need for humans to see the reality of the loss. I remember how one family’s last memory would have been the aftermath of the life support methods used in the hospital, and how grateful they were to see their family member look at peace, or the father who’s child died in a car accident and was afraid of how they would look. In my own case, I found my father after his gun related suicide, and the care they took to make him look like himself was nothing short of miraculous for my mom and family.

    All that being said, I have chosen cremation for myself. I want to be dropped by my loved ones in the place I’ve had the best times with them. I have pre-planned, but not prepaid for a small memorial service. Anyone can do that, and in fact, I’d encourage people to do so. When there’s a death, it is the worst time to try and make decisions logically. If you have an unethical, or unscrupulous funeral director, they would be able to play on your vulnerability. I can tell you, I never saw that happen where I worked.

  9. Posted August 22, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    I’ve never understood why anyone would choose anything but cremation.

  10. John Galt
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    You will all no doubt enjoy the mass graves that Obama is planning. No ceremony. No freedom juice (embalming fluid). You’re just thrown in a hole when you stop being productive, and you’re composted. Michele Obama plants organic kale on top of you, and that’s it.

  11. Brett
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    My mom donated her body to Wayne State but died at U-M 30 years ago. At that time, the universities handled everything, including taking her body to WSU. A couple of months later, WSU sent notice of a group cremation and multi-denominational service, which I guess they do periodically. The donation process was seamless then, (I think I signed a paper) but I don’t know if it’s become more complicated. I hope not, because it was so efficient and exactly what she wanted.

  12. Jim
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Peter, there are some downsides to cremation, including significant air pollution. I can’t remember the details, but Mary Roach discusses this in _Stiff_.

  13. Edward
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    I can see how what the author has to say would be frowned on by the industry, but what does he mean when he says, “What I’m doing here is incredibly illegal and I know it”? How is it illegal for him to tell how the industry functions?

  14. Erika Nelson
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Re: body donation: A funeral home will still be involved because the medical school needs to have the body transported to their facilities and have paperwork from the funeral director. Even in a case where someone dies at U of M, for example, and donates to U of M’s medical school, on the same campus, a funeral director needs to come pick up the body from one area and take it to the other. A funeral home will usually just charge their “basic service charge” for this service. That can be as low as $500 or as high as $3000 depending on the business. It is important to know that the body may not be suitable or accepted by the medical school if there have been recent surgeries, or if the body is too large or too emaciated, so you will need a back up plan if it is not accepted. http://www.med.umich.edu/anatomy/donors/

    Re: the need to find closure in seeing the body: I absolutely agree with Elvis Costello’s statement that when someone dies in such a manner that the body has experienced trauma, or if there were loved ones who did not participate in the dying process and hadn’t seen the person as they declined, embalming in order to restore the appearance of the body is a reasonable decision. Most restoration cannot be performed without embalming.

    On the other hand, I firmly believe that the funeral industry overstates the necessity of embalming 1) because they have been taught to believe that it is of utmost importance and 2) because it is the only aspect of funeral service that truly warrants specialized education & licensing and it is what allows the industry to distinguish itself.

    If we are supposed to get closure by seeing the reality of death, that someone has actually died, I don’t believe that seeing them “sleeping/at peace/in repose” covered in make-up etc is actually what is most emotionally healthy. I think that in most cases of natural death, 1) many of the closest loved ones have been there during the dying process and seen the reality of the situation 2) the body is obviously dead, but it isn’t shocking or horrific to see or anything, especially with some minimal washing/care. I liken it to seeing a newborn baby. The baby isn’t looking his/her best, but the parents still want to see and spend time with the baby regardless of whether he/she looks perfect or not.

    I also agree with Elvis Costello that many/most independent funeral homes are run by decent enough people, and even the chains have decent people working there. There are some very kind, gentle people who got into the business for all the right reasons. My personal experience, however, also showed me some of the worst aspects of the industry. The sales tactics (it is a business, after all) were one thing, but what bothered me most was good ol’ boy, conservative, paternalistic attitude. I knew lots of directors, trade-embalmers and directors-to-be, and many of them were homophobic, sexist, etc. They knew how to appear professional and provide the service, but they were pretty wrapped up in their own mystique and rigid about being in charge. A common tactic used when the consumer wants to skip embalming, or buying the vault, for example, is to say that they must because “it is state law”. That bothered me so much because it usually wasn’t state law. Michigan has some of the most restrictive, cumbersome mortuary related laws in the nation (which creates a barrier to entry for new businesses) but even Michigan doesn’t require embalming or burial vaults.

  15. Erika Nelson
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Re: cremation and air pollution: Now that most people’s teeth are no longer being filled with mercury amalgam, and since crematories do actually have to meet EPA clean air act guidelines, the pollution isn’t much of an issue. The energy required to reach level of heat required is problematic, but in the grand scheme of things, I wouldn’t let it dissuade anyone from considering cremation.

    Re: Brett’s experience with donation: It used to be much more simple, but new laws were enacted in recent years that require a funeral director’s involvement. If a medical school has a funeral director on staff to act as liaison, they may not need an outside funeral home, although even that funeral director is not allowed to use his/her license unless it is out of “a licensed mortuary facility” so unless they have that license as well, you still need the outside director.

    Re; “illegal” Yeah, I don’t know why he/she chose that word. I think he/she was just referring to the feeling of being outside of the norm of the industry in revealing the secrets of the industry. When I was in mortuary school, we were repeatedly told to never tell the details of embalming to people (for good reason, because if someone’s loved one does need to be embalmed for restoration purposes or due to the amount of time between death and viewing, etc, you don’t want them to have to know what actually happened to the loved one). I usually just say “it is a physically invasive procedure involving a lot of harsh chemicals and is not really necessary most of the time.”

  16. Mr. X
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing the other perspective, Elvis. Also, for what it’s worth, I’ve very sorry to hear of your father’s death.

  17. Mr. X
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    To hell with Promession, Andy. How about Sky Burial?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnISAAZa3Ys

  18. roots
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    The PBS piece Erika recommends is excellent indeed. Having attended multiple grandparent’s funerals, I am certain I want to avoid embalming.

  19. Anne
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I would love to see a conservation cemetery such as this one located in Gainesville, FL, http://conservationburialinc.org/, here in Michigan. My parents live near this one and already expressed their wishes to be buried here if they are still in the area at that time. The fees paid for burial ($2,000) go towards maintaining the land as well as an endowment to purchase and protect other land. No embalming is allowed only simple natural wood caskets or biodegradable burial shrouds and no tombstones. I haven’t been to the cemetery land itself only the surrounding state preserve land which is wonderful. I can’t imagine a more peaceful and comforting way to send off a loved one.

  20. Erika Nelson
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    If we stay in the Carolinas, this would be my preferred final resting place, in western South Carolina: http://www.memorialecosystems.com/

  21. Elviscostello
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Mr. X,
    Thanks for the kind thoughts. It happened a long time ago, and close to 20 years, lots of therapy, and grief counseling by a person who specialized in suicide survivors and families, we’ve made it through. The hard thing about suicide is the stigma, and the distancing of friends. Because its so taboo, you really find out who is there for you. You also suddenly realize how many folks you know who have been touched by suicide. Eventually, they will tell you about an uncle, parent, friend, etc..who did the same thing. It really is a silent epidemic.

  22. Posted August 22, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Erika, thank you for your information, especially regarding Muehling.

    Elviscostello, please accept my condolences as well (no matter when it happened, it is still a loss). Suicide runs in my family too and I so I have some understanding of the stigma, the covering up, etc. Silent epidemic sums it up about perfectly.

  23. Erika Nelson
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Suicide really is a silent epidemic. Generations handled my grandfather-in-law’s cremation after he died of suicide after shooting himself in the head. Since he survived the wound for a few hours, we were all able to see him in the hospital before the machines were turned off and the need for closure was fulfilled during that time. A few months later, I called on them to come out to the house to handle my father-in-law’s body after a death from cancer, following a brief family viewing/gathering at the house.

  24. Elviscostello
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    I was hesitant to name the local funeral home, but since Erika mentioned her happiness with Generations, let me tell you that Janowiak on Washington Street are the folks we have always used, and that I worked for. Chris, Sandy and Scott Beard, the directors, are some of the kindest people I know. Sandy is the compassionate heart that beats for all the suffering families that pass through the doors.

  25. Eric
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    We like others tried finding “A Family Undertakinf” on Netflix instant and Amazon. It is available in full on YouTube. http://youtu.be/cKxDGdq1u7w

  26. Eric
    Posted August 22, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Except the audio track stops meshing with the video about ten minutes in. So smoke while you watch.

  27. KT
    Posted August 23, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I want to drift around in space, my clothes slowly unwinding from my body.

  28. Ypsiosaurus Rex
    Posted August 23, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Great comments… My father recently passed and was cremated. I plan on doing the same. Our family has used Generations in the past – good customer service at a good price.

    For what it’s worth I signed up for cremation after reading “Stiff” by Mary Roach. Hilar and very informative.

    I understand the social and emotional need for some people to have a viewing and funeral for loved ones but in this day and age it does seem very costly and kinda old school.

  29. Elviscostello
    Posted August 23, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Oh yeah, just one other thought, considering that I want cremation and my ashes scattered in the Hawaiian Islands. About 10 years ago I took my Grandmother back to Alabama and we ended up in a small cemetery on a hill off a two track road. I was able to stand at the graves of my ancestors from the late 1700s. I have to say it was pretty amazing to be there and get a sense of where you came from. I felt kind of the same feeling when I visited Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, and saw graves of Presidents, civil war soldiers, etc…I was struck by a memorial to the Jewish Confederate Soldiers who died in the war, and it made me think about why those guys, as “oppressed peoples”, could have fought for enslavement of others. Cemeteries have their place as well, I conclude.

  30. Jim
    Posted August 24, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Thanks again, Erika–I’m going to have to reconsider cremation once I’ve had all my mercury fillings replaced!

  31. Cassandra
    Posted September 11, 2013 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the information. I believed that certain procedures were mandatory. Now I know!

  32. Posted August 9, 2016 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    Wow. This post is old but I did find it! Amazing, and not surprising.

    I’m wondering if you would take a moment to reach out to me for some research needs. I’m a suspense novelist and with my sixth title, I’m exploring, in part, mafia owned funeral homes and crematories. I’m a good researcher but it’s been tricky trying to get into the meat of this industry. As you can imagine, my ‘home’ is less than scrupulous.
    Much thanks.

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    […] our recent conversation on DIY funerals, I wanted to pass along a link to this new report by Boston’s NPR affiliate WBUR on the […]

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