In the Beginning

This is about the business end of losing one’s spouse. If you have time to be prepared for death then you have time to plan the funeral, be practical in getting information lined up and decisions made. My spouse was a planner and we had plots bought decades ago along with the stone, so those things were in place as well as insurance for burial. I did not have to worry about costs because it was already arranged. So it is not out of the ordinary for someone to plan ahead. He also had cancer which gave us time to be prepared in many practical ways. It’s difficult to worry about the illness that is thrust upon your loved one and to carry on daily life as well as plan for the eventual burial but as I told my husband, “It is a walk that we all must take.” So here goes the funeral list:

  1. If the death occurs at home with hospice, call them first, they will arrange for the funeral home to come collect your loved one. In my case I was given the honor of preparing his body with the hospice nurse prior to the undertakers coming. We live in a small town and two very close friends were here to take him to be prepared. That is a bonus. If death occurs at the hospital or nursing home, they will also make the contacts. In cases of a sudden death, call 911 for assistance but call the funeral home first and then the coroner. Just sound advice. You don’t want the body to go to a funeral home other than the one that you select, so be very clear.
  2. They will want an obituary written by someone in the family who knew your loved one. There are charges by the local papers for this service so you want it to be cleanly written, concise and yet capture the true person. One can choose how long one wishes to run the obit and in which paper.
  3. Someone from the funeral home will collect the obituary and see that it is delivered. They will make an appointment with you to come in and make selections for services. You will choose, flowers, coffin, vault, cars, cards, memorials, and registers. One can choose any florist but most homes have a floral service of preference. There will be books to choose flower arrangements from and if you wish to have memorials made instead of flowers, there are those to choose as well. We did both. In terms of a casket, we chose wood and a special insert for veterans as my husband was retired from the Air Force. They can customize as much or as little as you like. The vault is the more important feature as it prevents mold and moisture from damaging the coffin. A middle ground pricing is a good way to go, keeping the coffin clean without spending extra for the top end. It’s a utility, looks are less important here. Take someone with you that you trust and will stand up to this emotional part of the journey. Taking someone extra outside of that can only cloud the issues with more choices. Honestly, I have things in place for my own funeral now and all I have to do is go in and make selections at some time in the near future. All of those things will be decided and my family will have no reason to fuss. I have had the experience where there  was a fuss over what goes on the tombstone, what colors are used and on and on. Really? At a loss, there is no need to fuss but to learn to heal. Some people choose cremation and there are a number of ways to go about that. The funeral directors will guide you through that process. It’s a personal choice but less expensive and sometimes people want to have their loved one with them all the days of their life, so they may make the choice to skip internment or do partial internment with an urn or jewelry containers for part of the ashes. Cremation does give you more time before the internment which then could be done at any time.
  4. Make sure that you order plenty of copies of the death certificate. When you are dealing with closing accounts, switching accounts to your name, changing beneficiaries on insurance, selling vehicles, selling property, settling tax issues, switching mortgages and so on, you need a copy. I know of one widow who went to pay a bill at a large chain store such as JCPenny’s and she could not pay the bill without the death certificate. In the world of business, they do not care if you are the legal spouse, only that you have proof of that and the death of the spouse.
  5. If you have time prior to the death, get passwords for all of their online accounts, charge cards, membership fees, phone bills, banking services etc. If you do not have passwords then you will have to jump though the hoops to get them changed. There is no fun in that. Once in the fall when my husband was ill, we had to talk to the service personnel together to get permission for me to pay his bill. Once that was done then I had access to see that things were paid and eventually to close the account. It’s true that if the spouse owes anything at the time of death that you are not liable in payment but we paid everything off months before is passing. That is us, not to leave anything leftover for someone else to absorb the debt. We kept one MC in service but had my name on it as well so that I could close it when done. We had it for my son’s use in college for gas and expenses such as books. Planning ahead gave us the ability to have continuity of services.