Last week, I got the opportunity to visit a Funeral Home, only it wasn't for a wake. Due to financial and personal reasons, my mom and I pre-planned the funeral of her uncle, who is now living in a nursing home, and I was able to go along with her and help plan it. It was an interesting, moving and amazing experience that I would like to share, so if you've ever wondered what it's like to plan something like this, then read on.

When we got there, Brian, the owner, greeted us and sat us down in his quaint little office and we got to business. He was very kind, soft-spoken, understanding and helpful. He was never pushy, short or impatient. He allowed us to talk things through and make choices at our pace, and he never tried to sway us or change our minds with anything.

Firstly, he had to get all of the necessary information, which consisted of the following:

  • Name, address, SSN and date of birth
  • Education information
  • Employment information
  • Veteran status
  • Living siblings and names of deceased siblings and parents
  • Personal information- marriage, kids, etc. (he was never married an never had kids, but it's still necessary to ask)
  • Miscellaneous information- pallbearers, obituary, songs, flowers, survivors, and cemetery information

After all of that, we picked out the following: the arrangement that would go on top of the casket, prayer cards and the

 prayer verse that goes on the back of the card, the guest list book and thank you cards. He asked if any of his family members had gone through their home, and we said we thought so. The home keeps records of all the funerals they organize (since the 30s), and we found that they had done his mother's (which was also my mother's grandmother and my great-grandmother) funeral in September of 1983. (Unfortunately I never got to know her). We were looking at her records and saw that she was 81 when she died, and that her birthday was April 21. Brian and I looked at each other, and then at my mom, who realized shortly after what we had: it was that day's date. It was scary, but relieving and eye-opening at the same time. His mother was guiding us while we planned her son's funeral. It was too weird. The lights flickered a couple of times after that too! The other funny thing- the difference in costs. The price we paid for his funeral was triple that of his mother's, in only 28 years!

After that, Brian led us into the room where the sample caskets were held. There were about seven on display, and there was a book with a variety of other choices which could be ordered. The coffins come in either wood or metal, and varied in color, size, wood and metal type and price. We chose a brown metal casket, metal because it has a seal to keep water and debris out, while wood doesn't. We also had to choose the vault for the casket to go in, as the cemetery he will be buried in next to his family requires them.

I desperately wanted to ask him if I could get in one, but I know my mom would've been embarrassed and Brian would probably be taken back, but I bet no one else has ever asked! I also wanted to go in the morgue, but again, I held back for the same reasons. (If you haven't already noticed, I'm a pretty morbid person).

After, we went back to the office to finish things up. We were there for about an hour an a half, which isn't a long time considering how much we had to plan. I had no idea how many choices were to be made, but I'm glad I was able to help.

I highly recommend everyone pre-planning their funeral and opting for their family members to do the same. It is such a smart thing to do, one, because then the person gets everything they want, and two, because it's much easier to make decisions and plan something like that when you're not grief-stricken, stressed and mind-boggled. It's better for everyone in the long-run.

Other facts and information I found out:

  • It takes around three hours for a body to be cremated. The remains the family gets is only bone. The muscles, skin, organs and everything else burn away and deteriorate. Ashes never seem like a lot because of the fact that is is made up of only bone.
  • A body can stay perfectly intact for decades after it's prepared and buried. Brian told us the story of when they had to exhume a body, and when they opened the casket, the woman looked exactly the same as the day she was buried, and it had been 10 years.
  • The average price to run an obituary in the paper for one day is $150, and it costs extra for each additional day you want it there.
  • Each death certificate costs just $10, but you need a few copies incase certain people or other places need one
  • You can opt to have a limousine the day of the funeral. It fits seven people, and will pick you up from your house, bring you to the church, to the cemetery and then back home. It's one less thing to worry about. I of course will ask if I can ride in the hearse! : )
  • After your loved one dies, the home will pick up the body and bring it to the morgue and will notify social security, the paper and anyone else that needs to be notified so that you don't have to do it.

That was my first behind-the-scenes funeral home experience, and it was very moving and very amazing. Have you ever done anything like this? Will you be pre-planning your funeral?