Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Presenting Profits

"In my recent experiences with death and funerals, I have come to appreciate the need for rituals, for the ceremony, where once I simply felt impatience, even disgust, at the whole procedure. It is hard, though, hard to make a meaningful ceremony out of death in America in our time. Certainly the funeral industry isn't interested in authenticity, it's interested in efficiency, profit, and assembly-line repetition."
ADOLF HESCHL, Das Intelligente Genom

Can you guess what sickens me? According to the internet, the average cost of a funeral alone (no, this does not include a "donation" which is often mandatory if you wish for a member of clergy to be present, nor does it cover ANY of the burial costs) is between $5000 and $7000. My mothers, for instance, cost well over $7000, and that gave us the bare minimum of what was offered, with a number of things given for free because we were personally connected to the family that ran the funeral parlor. This is without the other $5000- $10 000 it will cost us to have an urn of cremated remains buried. 

What is worse is the often blatant exploitation of grieving family members. Thank God that we had family and friends there for us, helping to reassure us and to help with the organization and cost or else I have no idea what would have happened to my mom. I just read an article online, which stated that for those that are "poor", "a service is [still] available to these members of society that helps to ensure they too can rest in peace" - the article further states that if one is on social assistance, they MIGHT qualify for up to $2500 for funeral costs. (See: Dying Poor )

Did you know that the cost of a gravestone alone, in my area, starts at $4000? Or that the cost to dig a small grave for the urn (let alone what it would be for a coffin)is $500? That is with a plot pre-purchased. 

A report by Calderdale and Citizens Advice, best illustrated the reason why people continue to beggar themselves over the cost of a funeral.
" Funeral rites are as old as humanity itself, and perform important psychological, sociologica, religious and symbolic functions for bereaved living that are left behind. They play a vital role within the bereavement process, as a funeral can assist the bereaved with acknowledging to themselves that the death has actually occurred, as well as providing an opportunity for the bereaved to publicly and jointly express their grief, share memories, and come together in a forma ceremony dedicated to the deceased[...]
[ ...] The bereaved can feel so strongly about this need for dignity that they may well be willing to incur debts or financial hardship in order to provide their deceased loved one with a respectful funeral service. " [Source Link Here ]

The report goes on to give the example of an elderly man who had no collateral to take a lean against, to pay for a gravestone and  was so distressed that he left his apartment home to live with a friend, so that the money formerly spent on his day to day needs, would be spent ensuring his wife was not in an unmarked grave- often associated with a theif or someone so negative that there was no one in their life to claim or care for them. This is also one of the reasons our own mother, after six months, has still not been put to rest. It is psychologically unhealthy to keep a deceased loved one with you, but what happens when you can't afford to put that person in the ground?


This post was brought on by the fact that we would like to find a final resting place for my mother, but are still unable to meet the costs. As it is, my father views himself as several thousand dollars in debt to another family member who was caring and helped share our burden during last fall when it seemed like our world was caving in on itself.

The second influence for this article was the episode of 60 Minutes which aired last Sunday. It discussed a specific company in the US, which offers more affordable options for burials but only because they double sell plots, or completely wipe them out, throwing the previous occupants into mass graves. If you are interested, the link to this is: 60 Minutes

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