Ready or Not #219: Preparing for Dying

My 10 year old daughter was in tears.  What was I thinking?

I came home and was all excited because I had just saved my husband and me over $500.  I was excited to share my good fortune.  My daughter was the first person that I found so she got the good news.  “They had a sale on cemetery plots and I got two-for-one!”  I was ecstatic!

And here she was sobbing.

I was confused.  I was getting us prepared.  In 50 or so years from then, my children were going to be so grateful that I had thought ahead and prepared for the future.  It wasn’t like we were going to get out of this life alive.  But being 10 years old my daughter thought that I was announcing my death – next week!

That happened almost 14 years ago and we still both laugh about that day.  Some people think that if they prepare ahead of time for their eventual death that it will bring it on that much faster.  But it doesn’t – really.  It just makes it easier for those that are left behind when the time does come.

The thing that upsets me about the whole “passing” thing is that it costs so darn much!  Why?  When my dad died two years ago, my mom and my siblings went down to the funeral home to make arrangements.  Some of the caskets cost more than a luxury car and the rest were as pricey as a very nice used car.  That is ridiculous!

My mom loved my dad, but if she had purchased an expensive casket, he would have been come back and haunted her!  In the end, she chose a nice inexpensive steel gray casket.  She felt she was cheap and  disrespectful of my father’s memory by not spending insane-amounts-of-money-on-a-box-that-was-only-going-to-be-on-display-for-couple-of-hours-and-then-buried-for-forever. I reminded her that steel gray was his favorite color.  Every single saw blade, bit, and hammer that he owned was a steel gray color.  (He loved working with wood.)  She agreed. Ggray was my dad’s color.  And the casket was beautiful.

I respect the honorable profession of funeral directors and morticians, but in my opinion the burial costs have gotten way out of hand.  Some funeral homes are starting to agree and “tribute centers” are starting to offer less expensive options.  We didn’t know about that option so we took things into our own hands.  We were able to cut costs while still having a beautiful service to honor my dad.

To save on the cost and make it more personalized, I made our own guest sign-in log.  On each page I put a picture of my father starting with his baby pictures and then each page had pictures of him growing up and being with family.  I found a nice leather binder to put it in and went to a stamp and trophy business to have his name and dates engraved on a small plaque to place on the front.  It was less expensive, very handsome looking, easy to make, and beautifully personalized.

My daughter created a nice video montage and made a silk flower arrangement for the casket.  LOTS cheaper.  My mom was then able to keep the beautiful arrangement in a large floor vase instead of throwing away expensive dead flowers later.  I created the announcements and wrote the obituary.  Just by doing those few things my mom saved hundreds of dollars – literally.

Later on, I decided to do some research about what happens after you die and why it was so expensive.  I was very surprised about what was required and what wasn’t; I didn’t know we even had any options.  I also think that a good time to make these kinds of decisions is beforehand, without all of the raw emotions and exhaustion making the costly decisions for you.

Did you know that it isn’t always the law or mandatory that you be embalmed?  Embalming is VERY expensive.  You don’t have to buy a casket either; you can make your own.  I have even heard of styrofoam caskets that look like regular caskets but are offered for a fraction of the cost.  Another thing – the optional, very costly, gasket seal on the cement vault to “keep the water out”, in my opinion, is just wrong.  Cement is a very porous material and eventually there will be moisture that will get in.  Another thing to think about:  if the moisture can’t get in, it can’t get out either.  I’m just saying…save your money and let nature take its course.  Besides, what is it that you are trying to stop from happening?

Don’t think that I am being disrespectful of your loved ones who have, or will someday, die. I have loved ones, too, but I don’t think that it is necessary to go into debt to prove your love for them.

While doing my research, I found The Funeral Consumers Alliance site, at .  This site is an incredible resource and will help take some of the emotion out of a very emotional decision.  It explains what to expect, what is required and what isn’t necessary.  They also explain all of your burial options and what each one entails and the cost associated with it.  They have a lot of pdf printouts that are very informative from dealing with the feelings of grief, to tips that will help you make informed decisions and also what to expect.

If you want to save on casket expenses and are interested in building your own coffin, there are a lot of pre-cut kits that you only need an electric screwdriver to put it together and they are very inexpensive, especially when compared to your average floor models.  Or, if you are fairly handy with a hammer and saw, you can buy patterns and build your own for next to nothing.  I read about one guy who put shelves in his and is using it as a bookshelf until he needs it for his final resting place.  I saw a picture of it and it looked really nice.  I kind of like that idea.

Another way that we prepared our family for eventualities was to take out an inexpensive insurance policy on our children when they were very young.  We decided to purchase the policies for each child for $10,000 each, just in case.  Of course we didn’t want anything to happen to our children.  But if something had happened, the expenses would have been taken care of and it would be one less thing for us to worry about.  Thankfully, nothing bad happened and they both grew to adulthood.  Now I can pass that insurance policy on to them to keep for their family’s peace of mind.

I waited until my daughter grew older before I told her about the insurance policies.  I don’t think that she could have handled me buying a burial plots for us and insurance policies for her and her brother all at the same time.  She might have never stopped crying.  Fortunately, we haven’t had to use either.  But when something does happen, we will have already prepared ourselves.

And if somebody buys an expensive coffin for me, I WILL come back and haunt them.  My money would be better spent buying them a new car to drive – not an expensive box to bury.

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