Let me begin by saying that mom’s funeral (in Sherman) and burial (OKC) really were lovely. Family and friends came. There were more smiles and happy memories than there were tears. My mom would have loved it all.
You know the saying about death and taxes: they come to each of us and cannot be avoided. This post falls into the category of sharing what I learned from mom’s funeral and burial services. Feel free to stop reading if you do not like thinking about death in any way, shape, or form. Only click the following link if you are OK with reading more.
Mom’s funeral was the first where the planning fell mostly to me. Funeral homes will do a lot of the work for you, and they will charge you for every bit of it. I don’t blame them because we all need to make a living. However, do not be afraid to ask about costs up front and often. We opted not to use many of the services offered beyond the (prepaid) cremation itself and the ordering of the death certificates. (FYI: order more than you think you will need, especially if there are a lot of financial accounts to deal with.)
I did not have to guess much because mom told me what she wanted. In fact, she went over it again a few days before she died. I have no idea how she knew the end was so near. That’s probably why I was OK to not leave the planning to the professionals at the funeral home.
Mom wanted to be cremated wearing a nice, comfortable outfit. Nice, but not fancy, and she definitely wanted to go to heaven with her fur-lined plaid moccasins on her feet!
She wrote pertinent information for her obituary on a piece of note paper that she updated over the years. The paper itself is the shape and color of a bunch of grapes which made it stick out among her other papers. I might not have noticed it otherwise. Attached to the paper was the photo she wanted me to use in her obituary. I probably wouldn’t have chosen that photo but it was perfect. She was right. Way to go mom for leaving this for me to find!
She left instructions for us to place an obituary in both the Oklahoma City paper and the Herald Democrat in Sherman. Did you know that newspapers charge by the line for obituaries? I admit that I kept that in mind as I finalized her obituary. Some obits seem to follow a formula, probably because they mostly are generated by funeral homes. Mom’s was clear and said what she wanted. Click here and/or here.
Mom asked Steve to make a simple wood box for her cremains (such an odd word) and she wanted me to paint a pink rose on it. This is one of those things that I would have liked to have done while she was still around to give it an OK, but I do think it’s what she had in mind.
We are Catholic which helped to narrow down many of the choices when it came to planning the services. We had a funeral mass with music she liked. Our parish priest, Fr. Jeremy Myers, gave a wonderful eulogy. Steve spoke at both the funeral and the burial as well. Click here to see what Steve said—mom would have loved every word!
Mom and dad bought several plots at Resurrection Cemetery in OKC in 1990. That was helpful. My father, sister, and my dad’s parents are already there. But, even though the plot was paid for, there were still costs involved. I mention this because it’s probably good to set aside money if you can.
- The bronze date plaque (with the month spelled out) was extra.
- Digging the grave, and filling it in, was extra. This is a cost that varies from place to place. It was way more than I thought it ought to be.
- Oklahoma has a new law: cremains have to be sealed inside a particular kind of plastic box before burial. It doesn’t matter that mom was already in a bag, inside a cardboard box, inside the lovely oak box that Steve made. All of it had to be sealed inside the plastic box. Seriously. I hate to think what kind of box a casket has to be sealed in.
Details not to be overlooked if you are doing your own planning:
- Print a nice photo that is easy to see from a distance to display at the funeral.
- And print more photos, or set up a digital slide show, for gatherings before or after. People really do like pictures.
- Have a guest book and pens for the funeral (I forgot this and I’m sorry I did)
- Find out if there are restrictions on flowers and be ready to tell people where they can be sent, and when.
- You will be asked about memorials that can be contributed to.
- If you want prayer cards, be sure to order them in time for the services. I barely got that done.
- If you need a handout for the services, be sure that it gets handled. Luckily, our church does this because I didn’t think of it.
- If you are going to have a get-together before and/or after the services, make those arrangements. Our church provided a lunch in the fellowship hall which was perfect.
Things that you can do now, in preparation for future funerals:
- Write down important dates. Your family may not remember as much as you do.
- While you’re at it, write names and dates on family photos.
- Start a document with information that you would like in your obituary.
- Be clear: do you want to be buried or cremated. Prepay for as much as you can but find out what happens to those plans if you move out of the area.
- If you care, write down what you want to be wearing on your trip to heaven.
- Where do you want your remains to end up? Write down the specifics and, if you can, set aside money for any trips that might be required to get you there.
- Do you want a marker? If so, it might make sense to choose it and prepay for it as well.
- Talk about all of this with whoever is likely to be in charge of your affairs.
This last part is going to seem weird, but it’s important. Think about the burial itself. We drove 3 hours to OKC and didn’t have a lot of time to think about details once we arrived. I thought the grave would be exposed and we would watch mom be lowered into the ground. That’s the way it was in years past with my sister and dad. But this time the cemetery had plywood and astroturf in place over the grave. After the service and some visiting, we left and the man doing the actual digging waited for us before he buried mom.
For many of you, this is the normal course of events. However, this is the one thing I think mom would rather I had done differently. She was old school, and would have liked each of us to shovel in some dirt. No matter that we would have had to pull up the astroturf, move the plywood covering the hole, and find a shovel.
I didn’t think it through until it was way too late. My mom was a forgiving person, so I’m not feeling guilty. I just wish I had done it differently. If you care about this part, be sure to let your family know what you want.
What a strange blog post, right? I promise to get back to more normal news in my next post.