How to Give a Eulogy

eulogy_checklistMore families are opting to deliver their own memorial services, especially as the trend for direct cremation increases.  It can be a much more personal memorialization when the family and friends of the deceased prepare and deliver a eulogy at a funeral or memorial service.

The idea of a somber traditional funeral is slowly being replaced by something more celebratory, personalized and upbeat.  Today a Life Celebration is becoming a popular way of holding a funeral event.  This type of funeral ritual focuses more on celebrating the life of the deceased.

A eulogy should generally reflect on the life and personality of the person being memorialized.  Being given the task of writing and delivering a eulogy can be a daunting responsibility.  Choosing the right words, delivering it with the right amount of emotion, and being able to effectively reflect the personality of the person being eulogized are key to delivering a eulogy tribute.

What to do…

  • Position the eulogy by introducing yourself and your relationship with the deceased.
  • Try to keep the eulogy to a manageable time allowance (no more than 5 mins)
  • Include personal stories and anecdotes to re-live the memory of the person being eulogized.
  • Feel free to include a poem, song or artifact that memorializes the person.
  • When preparing a eulogy – you should consider how it fits into the whole service.  Is this to be a single eulogy? Are you combining stories from other family members or friends? Or will there be several eulogies from different people.

And what NOT to do!

  • Do not dwell on any negative aspects of the deceased or re-live ‘bad’ memories
  • Be honest without disclosing family secrets – do not use it as an opportunity to ‘get even’!
  • Whilst being honest, it would be diplomatic to avoid religious or political opinions.

How long should a eulogy be?

This can depend on the type of service and whether there is to be one or multiple eulogies delivered.  The general guideline seems to be between 3 and 5 minutes.  But this is all about personalization!

Can a person prepare their own eulogy?

Yes! There is no reason why a person cannot prepare their own eulogy.  In fact many people would prefer to be in control of how they are memorialized on their passing.   It has even been suggested that preparing your own eulogy can be a powerful tool for self-reflection.  It can be a great way to evaluate if you are ‘on track’ in terms of where your life is going and whether you are accomplishing the goals you aspire to.

MyOwnEulogy.com is a website that offers this unique service.  It enables you to create your own unique digital eulogy and then upload it to the site. You are in complete control as you can select the executors who will be notified of your passing and whether your digital content should be made public and remain private.

Check it out at MyOwnEulogy

My Own Eulogy

If you are tasked with preparing a eulogy you will find many resources online that can provide tips and inspirational quotes, poems and songs.  Preparation is probably key for constructing a tribute that is both dignified, reflective, emotional and yet celebratory.

Funeral Customs and Rituals from around the world

We are understand the ‘rites of passage’ as marking cultural traditions that are attached with certain points in our lives.   “Last rites” is generally considered the final passage of our life, however, the customs in how a funeral and our final passage from this world are performed vary by faith and culture.

This great infographic sums up some of the main differences in funeral customs from different cultures.

Funeral Ceremonies and Cultural Diversity

Selling cemetery plots in a declining burial marketplace

selling-cemetery-plotSome days it seems that everyone is trying to sell a cemetery plot that is no longer required.  As Communications Director for US Funerals Online I deal with inquiries on a daily basis from families, and one common question today is “how can I sell my cemetery plot?”  Unfortunately I think some individuals see the legacy of a family cemetery plot as the potential to a quick buck, but the reality is that more families are selling than those that are looking to buy!

Selling a cemetery plot is not always a straight-forward process.  Not only do we have a declining burial rate as cremation gains popularity, but finding an appropriate marketplace to sell a product that people do not really want to think about buying, can be problematic too!

So how do you sell an unwanted cemetery plot?

You have various avenues you can try.  Firstly there are online cemetery registry websites that allow you to list your cemetery property for sale.  Do be careful to check the terms for using an online registry.  Most online brokers will want a commission for helping you to sell your plot, but this can vary from a fixed fee to a percentage of the sale price.  Also check if there is a length of time you can list your property for, as cemetery property does not generally sell quickly!

You can also explore options in your locale.  Is there a cemetery real estate agent who can help you re-sell your property?  In some cases the cemetery may buy back your plot but the likelihood is that they will only offer you the original purchase price, or maybe even less.

A useful strategy may be to notify local funeral homes in your area that you have a cemetery plot for sale, the cost of the plot and the commission you would be willing to pay them if they sold the plot for you.   Do bear in mind that even cemeteries are struggling to sell plots now and offering huge discounts and enhanced commissions.  Local clergy and estate lawyers may also be worth notifying of your intent to sell a plot.

Don’t expect a quick sale!

Prepare yourself…selling that family plot that has been in the family for decades is not going to get you rich quick!  Transferring cemetery deeds can sometimes be a complicated affair.  If your family has a plot in an established cemetery, and if you happen to live in a city where burial space is becoming sparser, then you may be in luck.  But you do need to accept that your plot may take months, if not years, to sell and may not fetch thousands of dollars.

Cremation & Memorialization: Conducting your own memorial service

cremation-memorialOne of the most significant changes happening in the funeral industry today is the fragmentation of professional services.  For many years we have entrusted the funeral home to handle all aspects of the death ritual, from collecting and preparing the deceased to delivering a eulogy.  This may have all seemed very relevant in times when the funeral director most likely knew the deceased in person or through his community.  However, this is not so much the case now where funeral directors can be handling the services for a deceased person that they have never met!

This raises the issue of how effectively a funeral home can assist a family memorialize a person that they have no prior knowledge of, and is but one driver in why more families today are opting to conduct their own cremation memorial services.

Funeral directors can cremate: Families can memorialize!

Industry critics talk about how the industry is separating into the disposition and memorialization elements.  The disposition element continues to be served very well by funeral professionals, and cremation is offering a simple and low cost disposition option.  A basic cremation without any services (known in the trade as a direct cremation or immediate cremation) can be conducted in most cities for between $795 and $1,195.  This handles the complete disposition process simply, efficiently and at a manageable cost.

Once the cremated remains are returned to the family they can than arrange to conduct a cremation memorial service.  This can be arranged at a time and place that is entirely suitable for the family.  Memorial services can be held at home, in a place of worship or a community venue.  In fact, you can even hold a memorial service at a golf club!  They can be held with the cremated remains present, or without.  A memorial service can be held to scatter cremated remains, or to distribute keepsake cremation urns between family members.

Not only can the family arrange to conduct their own memorial service which can be uniquely personalized, but they can do it at a fraction of the cost a traditional funeral service at a funeral home would have cost.

memorial_board_makingLife celebrations: Tributes that are uniquely personal

No one can best memorialize a lost loved one than the family who hold those shared memories of the deceased.  Funerals are becoming less somber events and more about creating an uplifting celebration of a life lived.  The number of celebrants is increasing as families use the services of a professional to deliver secular celebration services.  However, where they feel capable the family can prepare and deliver their own tribute service.  A benefit of being able to arrange a timely cremation and postpone the funeral service is that it gives the family a chance to immediately grieve without being forced to make decisions about a funeral service.  The service can be arranged at a later date when the family feels ready to address the memorial aspect of remembering their lost loved one.

Save money by creating your own memorial tributes

If you wish to conduct your own memorial services and keep costs down, then there are various options available for how you can make your own memorial tributes.  You can download templates for memorial cards, set up free online memorial pages, and create your own memory boards, candles and wreaths.  All it takes is a little bit of time, imagination and desire to completely make your tribute personal.

What can I do with the cremated Remains?

cremated-remainsToday as more families choose cremation as a final disposition option, so more folks consider what they can do with the cremation ashes once they are returned. Typically about 3 to 7 pounds of cremated remains are generated once a person is cremated. Once fully processed by the crematory these cremated remains resemble a gray-like ash compound.

These days more funeral homes are reporting that families are not even collecting their loved ones’ remains, and in fact many funeral homes now include a clause stipulating that they have the right to respectfully scatter any uncollected remains after a period of 90 days has passed.

So what do you do with cremated remains once you have collected them from the funeral home?

Burying cremated remains

cremation nicheMany people choose to bury the cremation urn.  You can purchase a small cemetery plot (usually similar to an infant size), or purchase a cremation niche in a columbarium.  Indeed more cemeteries are adding both columbaria and scattering gardens.

Alternatively, you may choose to inter a cremation urn into an existing grave plot with a loved one already passed.  Cemeteries will charge you an opening and closing fee to do this, but it can be a great way to ensure loved ones are respectfully laid to final rest and provide a common memorial site for future family to visit.

Keeping cremated remains at home on the mantelpiece

This is not for everyone.  In fact, most folks tend to say that they don’t really know what to do with the urn when they bring it home!  An Aunt of mine used the remains of her late husband in his urn as a doorstop for many years.  Now there are so many different cremation urns, even quirky personalized urns, that the choice can be overwhelming!  Keepsake urns (a set of 1 or more small urns into which the cremated remains can be distributed) also mean that family can share out remains between siblings or family members.  However, it seems that more often than not, a cremation urn kept at home may end up in the back of a cupboard!

Scattering cremated remains

Ash scattering is fast becoming a low cost means by which to ‘dispose’ of someone’s mortal remains that can also offer the opportunity to lay someone to rest in a ‘space’ they loved. Cremated remains are basically organic matter and so pose no threat at all to the environment.  In fact, you could actually argue that scattering cremated remains is a symbolic gesture of reuniting one’s mortal matter with the Universe, and could be interpreted as such by the biblical reference of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.

As scattering cremation ashes is gaining popularity, we find we are asked more and more frequently as to what laws govern ash scattering.  There is very little legislation and policing of the scattering of ashes, so long as one conducts it with dignity and common-sense.  If scattering on private land you must have the permission of the landowner.  There are some public areas where you do need to gain permission or sometimes even a permit.  However, in the main, you are at liberty to dispose of a loved one’s remains by scattering them to the winds.

There is an array of ash scattering companies today, and you can choose from an aerial scattering over the natural beauty of mountain ranges, scattering at sea off the coastlines and or having a portion of remain blasted into space to be scattered.  The great thing is that there is something to suit every budget and imagination!

Creating cremated remains artifacts

Memory-GlassBeing largely organic matter cremation ashes can be mixed into a variety of compounds to be constructed into memorial artifacts.  The carbon from a person can be used to create a cremation diamond at the cost of around $3,000.  A cheaper option is to use some cremated remains to make hand-blown glass ornaments and jewelry, and prices for this start at around $30.00.  Cremains can be mixed with cement and used to construct birdbaths and garden ornaments, or even made into a memorial reef fixture.

Transporting cremated remains

Mailing cremated remains

You can legally transport cremated remains, either in person, or by United States Postal Service.  The cremated remains must be securely packed and marked as “human cremated remains”.  USPS offers Label 139, so that the package can be clearly identified and tracked, and it has to be shipped by Priority Mail Express Service.  Courier companies such as FedEx or UPS will not ship cremated remains.

Flying with cremated remains

If you opt to fly with cremated remains, you must ensure that you meet the TSA guidelines for traveling with cremated remains.  The remains MUST be in an x-ray friendly container such as cardboard, plastic or wood, and you should carry the supporting documentation such as cremation permit and death certificate.

Other things you can do with cremation ashes

It does not stop at burying, scattering and creating a cremation artifact.  Today there are all sorts of weird and wonderful things you can choose to do with cremated remains including fireworks, vinyl records, gun cartridges and tattoos!  To read more about quirky ash scattering ideas, visit this Ash Scattering Guide.

What to do with the cremation ashes after your cremation service?

TIME Magazine’s ‘Cremation: The New American Way of Death‘ highlights a very real issue that is a growing concern as more Americans choose cremation as a preferred disposition choice.  What do you do with the ashes?

The cremation rate is now at 42% and it is predicted that by 2017, one in every two Americans will be cremated.  A cremation service offers a simple and much more affordable funeral alternative.  A basic direct cremation service can be conducted in some cities in America for as little as $399*.  For those Americans choosing a cremation service  instead of burial, the decision about what to do with the cremated remains is now proving a growing dilemma.

There are basically 4 main options of what to do with your loved ones’ ashes –

  • Inter the ashes in a niche, columbarium or existing grave site.
  • Store the cremated remains in a cremation urn at home
  • Scatter the ashes in a ‘special’ place
  • Have something personalized done – cremation diamonds, cremation ammunition, or send the ashes to space or to the bottom of the ocean

cremation-urnCremation may be cheaper – but interring cremated remains is not cheap

Interring the ashes is not necessarily a cost friendly option.  It is widely accepted that many Americans are choosing cremation because it is so much cheaper than a traditional burial.  A cremation can cost a quarter of the cost of a traditional funeral.  By opting for cremation you eliminate the need for the expensive cemetery elements – such as a casket, grave liner, cemetery plot and headstone.   The cost to inter cremated remains can still seem expensive though, when it can run to a few hundred dollars, for that budget cremation service  that only cost a few hundred dollars itself!

The funeral industry reports that they have a growing issue with families NOT collecting cremated remains [especially after that quick and low cost direct cremation], and some funeral homes are storing hundreds of unclaimed cremated remains.

Cemeteries are also now dealing with the issue of families scattering remains over an existing grave, rather than pay the large cost to open the grave and inter the remains.

Keeping mortal remains on the mantle can seems gruesome for some!

There have been plenty of spoof movie scenes featuring some catastrophe happening with that ceramic cremation urn over the fireplace holding grandma’s remains.  Meet the Fockers always sticks in my mind – and quite clearly highlights how, culturally, we still find the idea of having the mortal remains of a dearly departed ‘invade’ our living space somewhat macabre.

I have heard stories from families where cremation urns have ended up as door-stops, or been stored away in the back of a cupboard for generations.  Cremation can detach us from the fixed notion of a ‘final resting place’ in the way that a traditional burial ritual did.

It seems that scattering ashes is becoming more popular alongside the trend towards cremation.

 Permits, prohibitions and ‘ash scattering’ police

The legalities of scattering cremated remains are a somewhat complex and as of yet relatively ‘un-policed’ matter.  Interestingly the TIME feature mentions ‘wildcat scattering’ – an activity where relatives scatter the remains of a loved one at a site of their choosing, without gaining any consent.  Apparently Disneyland has an issue with this.

I am quite sure we will see more ‘wildcat scattering’ as more folks choose cremation and decide to opt for a special final resting place for their cremated remains.

Personalized cremation artifacts

Memory-GlassIf money is no object, and you want something quirky and unusual, there are a whole host of possibilities today of what you can do with cremated remains.   With a spare $4,000 you can be turned into a memorial reef at the bottom of the ocean, or with around $3,000 you can be made into a cremation diamond.  If you want something less expensive, you can maybe opt for being made into a birdbath, glass goblets or tattoo!   This article on ash scattering explores quite a few possibilities.

There future of final resting places is certainly changing alongside the trend towards cremation.  In some ways it heralds a complete reinvention of what the notion of a cemetery is in the future.

* Direct cremation prices vary but a basic direct cremation can cost under $500 in areas such as Nevada, Florida and Washington.

Cremation options: choosing a cremation ceremony

This infographic from Skylawn Memorial Park gives a great and simple overview of the various cremation ceremony and cremation memorial options you can choose from.

Memorializing after the direct cremation

Understanding Direct Cremation Part 4 – Save on your memorialization costs

A direct cremation offers a family the opportunity to ‘simply’ employ the services of a funeral director and/or crematory to conduct the disposition of the deceased.  As mentioned in my earlier posts on Understanding Direct Cremation, it can help the family to arrange a direct cremation at a low cost, and then the family can arrange their own memorial service.

cremation-memorialOnce the direct cremation has been performed and the family have the ashes returned, a memorial service or life celebration service can be held.  This can be held anywhere and does not need to be in a funeral home.  Indeed it can be more befitting and uplifting to hold a memorial service somewhere that is special to the family or the deceased.  It can be held in a place of worship, a community center, a golf course clubhouse or outdoors in a garden or park.  The possibilities are endless!

Some in the funeral industry will have us believe that the ritual of memorialization is integral to how we grieve.  I believe that how everyone handles loss and grieving differs, and that a family are far better equipped to know and commemorate their loved one that has passed.

Some families need a funeral director, a minister or a Celebrant to help them conduct an appropriate and befitting tribute.  However, there is no ‘rule’ that says that this is right for every family.  If you feel you wish to conduct your own personalized memorial service, there are many resources and ideas online to help you.family-led-memorial-service

These days you can quite easily make your own memorial products such as memory tables or boards, memorial candles or balloons, memorial DVD tributes or a dedicated online memorial webpage.  If you are considering scattering some (or all) of your loved ones ashes, there are many creative ways to do so.

Part 6: Death away from home – a direct cremation & shipping cremated remains

[Sara Marsden] Google+

What is the average cost of a cremation in Boston?

We are all becoming more price-conscious consumers today and shopping for Boston cremation services is no different.  What can be frustrating is that many funeral homes do not actually display cremation prices on their websites or advertising.

low-cost-cremation-bostonAccording to the Federal Trade Commission’s ‘Funeral Rule‘, all licensed funeral homes in Boston MUST have a GPL (General Price List) itemizing all their services charges and funeral merchandise, and they MUST disclose these prices to you when you make an inquiry.  However, getting succinct funeral pricing information is still not always easy!

To help families through this cremation price comparison quagmire, we at DFS Memorials have conducted some cremation price comparison in Boston and selected a local, family-owned funeral home that offers a competitively-priced and best value cremation package.

Cremation services in Boston are not especially cheap, and we have discovered that the average cost of a direct cremation is around $1,600.  A number of funeral homes in Boston are priced in the $2,000+ bracket for a basic direct cremation service.   However the funeral home DFS Memorials has partnered with offers a complete direct cremation package for just $1,310.  This presents an exceptional value cremation service package for the Boston area.

To find out more about the best priced cremation services in Boston :

Call on  (617) 221-7778 for immediate help with a cremation,                                           or to preplan a cremation plan

Direct Cremation Package : $1,310

Traditional Funeral : $4,000 (inc. casket)

Cremation services available throughout Essex County, Norfolk County, Suffolk County, Middlesex County, Worcester County, Braintree, Burlington, Marblehead, Melrose, Milton, Needham,  Reading, Saugus, Stoneham, Wakefield,Wellesley,  Winchester, and Winthrop.

[Sara Marsden] Google+

 

“Best Funeral Ever” – Reality or Spectacle?

BBQ Themed FuneralIt seems everyone in the funeral profession is talking about this latest TV reality show offered up by TLC (The Learning Channel)  “Best Funeral Ever“.  The questions we are all asking are how does this portray the funeral profession to those tuning in?  And really, how tasteful is it to run a reality show about people’s funerals?  Will this help encourage a positive and open dialogue about death care in our culture?

What is the message?

Whilst we wholeheartedly agree that any ‘message’ that gets people openly discussing death care is good.  The more we can dispel that taboo about discussing funerals and end-of-life decisions, the more our society will have a well-rounded perception about death as a natural process.

Is this program really encouraging open debate and discussion about death care in a positive way?  Critics seem to think not.  The Washington Post even go so far as to state “The idea of inserting a reality show into the business of death is more ghoulish than I care to ever see again.”  Other comments I have read concerning the show cite should words as “circus”, “bizarre” and “distasteful”.

The show centers on Golden Gate Funeral Home in Dallas, and is offering up for us an African-American heritage perspective on “home-going” funerals.  These are the kind of funerals where the more extravagant and outlandish the service, the more fulfilled the mourners seem to feel.  Best Funeral Ever shows us funerals themed around BBQs, Christmas and Theme parks.

Certainly the message about personalization is clear.  Although maybe the representation in the show is taking it to an extreme.  We at DFS Memorials encourage the notion of personalization in memorialization today, but largely we are talking about how the family can create their own personal and unique commemoration……not some spectacle put on by a so-called professional who maybe never even met your loved one!

Title of the show

“Words are mightier than the sword” is a truth that Shakespeare could pen centuries ago but has become even more significant in our media-saturated world.  Psychology professors at Yale studying English language designate “best” as one of the ‘power words” that connotes a significant response.

Hence how it is over-used today by retailers to encourage us to consume.  Put “best” together with “ever”, and you are stringing together some pretty powerful messages.  Is this show portraying to us the Best Funerals Ever?  I sincerely doubt it.  It does more to make a mockery of what value is.

What do we learn from ‘Best Funeral Ever’?

Being that this show is hosted on The Learning Channel, we have to ask this question.  Personally, I don’t think we learn anything new about funeral rituals.  It reinforces the stereotype we already knew, that African-Americans choose to conduct more ostentatious funerals, to mourn more openly.  The fact that Golden Gate Funeral Home employ fake mourners to attend funerals and cry, openly exemplifies what a shallow and surreal culture we have now created to live in.

Best Funeral EverI don’t think it is anything new to present the notion that a funeral can be personalized.  Funeral directors around the U.S. (if not world) have been doing this for some time.  I have known of plenty of unique funeral services hosted with a special theme to commemorate the deceased.

The main thing we learn is that spectacle makes for good TV.  What you view on ‘Best Funeral Ever’ should make you realize that reality is NOT reality.