The funeral business is a racket. The U.S. median cost of a funeral with a burial, not including cemetery costs, is over $7,000.
There is no transparency in pricing, and buyers are generally in a fragile emotional state. NPR ran a story about how you can get the same service – and save $1,895 – just by crossing the street, in Raleigh, NC.
And it’s something you don’t need until you really need it – like instantly. So although you can pre-purchase a funeral package, most people don’t because the payback timeline is totally unknown.
And it also requires you to confront your mortality, which is a major drag for most people.
I remember hearing about a study that sought to determine whether the cancer diagnosis of a co-worker made people more likely to get screened for cancer.
Actually, it was just the opposite – a colleague’s diagnosis would make someone less likely to get evaluated. Especially if the cancer-stricken co-worker was really sick, or if the healthy colleague worked in close proximity to the patient. It’s known as ‘information aversion,’ aka being scared sh!*less that you also might also get a difficult diagnosis and, you know, die.
Fortunately, I am married to Nora, who has a Masters in death and dying. Not really, but that is actually a thing – my sister has a Hopkins Masters nursing degree with that concentration.
Nora’s is an honorary degree issued by Hard Knocks U. Her dad died when she was 13, and her stepdad followed when she was 15. Then years later, stepdad #2 passed away. Then her sister – and only sibling – in a motorcycle accident.
As a result, dying for her is just a part of living. A sorrowful part, of course, but something to be kept in perspective.
The perspective being that everyone dies, yet our souls live on in heaven if we accept Jesus as our Savior. It’s that simple.
Shield the Kids?
I believe it’s a minor form of child abuse to shield your kids from thinking about their mortality, so we discuss it occasionally. What do you want to have happen to your body? What do you want your funeral to be like? Then we write it all down on a piece of paper that no one will be able to find if I die first.
For the record, here’s what Nora wants:
- Be buried next to me 🙂
- Cheapest possible funeral package (of all time)
- A simple service, where we sing “Amazing Grace” and “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go” and “It Is Well With My Soul”
- In her memory, take everyone to Disney World with the money we save
- Coffin or cremation (Nora is slowly – glacially slow – convincing me of the benefits of returning to dust/ash)
- Be buried next to Nora
- A simple service, where everyone sings “In Christ Alone” and “My Life Is in Your Hands”
- A performance by our church’s United Voices of Faith
I’ve tried to get Nora to agree to recruiting the United Voices of Faith if I die before she does, but she’s totally noncommittal. I’m not sure why, and if it were me, I’d promise the moon, then backtrack if necessary when the accountability factor instantly goes to zero, but she doesn’t work that way.
Regular death discussions also serve another purpose: Keeping the guesswork and emotion out of funeral purchases. We don’t have a pre-paid funeral package, but I have a pretty good sense of what to buy – and how much it will cost – if and when Nora goes to heaven before I do.
Knowing her luck with close relatives, I’ll be the first to go. She’ll be sad, of course, but ultimately it will be well with her soul. We’ll see each other again.
And it will be well with her pocketbook.
And it will be well with family unity. It’s not listed in my handwritten funeral wish list, but with this blog post, I officially declare my desire for everyone to go to Disney with the money saved cremating me, or perhaps placing me in a cheap rough-hewn pine box. Give me a couple more decades (hopefully) to determine which.