Lovely yellow daffodils and lacy filigree
Pretty little angels for everyone to see
Lily of the valley and long black limousines
It’s three or four month’s salary just to pay for all these things.
So don’t buy a fancy funeral, it’s not worth it in the end
Goodbyes can still be beautiful without the money that you spend
There’s no amount of riches that will bring back what you’ve lost
To satisfy your wishes, no way to justify the cost. –Lucinda Williams
I know a little about funerals. I’ve been to hundreds of them.
As a teenager, I worked summers and weekends for a burial vault company. I was the guy who put the concrete vault in the freshly dug grave. I laid out the fake grass, put up the tent, set up the chairs for the bereaved family, and otherwise arranged all the flowers and other trappings you find at the typical graveside service.
I did this in country church cemeteries that might only have one burial every year or two and in the city cemeteries that had a permanent caretaker who cut grass and kept everything neat and tidy.
They say you never forget your first, and I haven’t forgotten mine. Her name was Maddie Smith. There were four people in attendance that day: the preacher, the funeral director, the grave digger, and me. I was so affected that I believe I went home and wrote a bad poem about it: “Maddie Smith is Dead in Alabama.”
Through five years of funeral services of all sizes and descriptions, I developed a few observations and opinions on burial practices. I’ve seen and heard a lot of things behind the scenes. Let’s just say I’m not a fan of the funeral “industry.”
Morticians, funeral directors, headstone salesmen, and others directly associated with the funeral business are a nasty lot. I’m sure there are exceptions to this sweeping generalization, but I haven’t met any. They are skilled emotion manipulators who excel at transferring grief into big bucks. If grief doesn’t work they will attempt to appeal to your vanity.
You will be told you need the super deluxe burial vault (guaranteed not to leak for fifty years), the ten thousand dollar stainless steel casket, the ornate granite headstone and solid bronze marker. It is what your loved one deserves. Don’t you want the best? And after you purchase all these luxuries (none of which perform as advertised), they smile all the way to the bank.
I’ll give you a personal example. When we buried my father, we sat in an office with a marker salesman who presented us with two options. There was a tremendous difference in price. When my grieving mom asked the difference, this jackass replied “Well, you know, there are Cadillac people and there are Chevrolet people.”
Huge mistake in judgment on his part. Yes there are two kinds of people. We were, and still are, Chevrolet people.
I found that most of these shysters feign kindness and sympathy, at least until you are gone and the check clears.
I first realized that it was all an act at a graveside when the mourners returned to their cars and pulled away in the procession. The funeral director turned to me and said “Move it, boy. Let’s get this sumbitch in the ground. I’m taking my wife out to eat tonight.”
So take a little advice from Lucinda and a man who has seen and heard a lot in the funeral business. Skip the fancy funeral. Use the money to honor your departed loved one in another way. Pay some bills, or give the money to charity where it can help the living. Remember your loved one with friends and family in a personal way. Reminisce: laugh, cry, and comfort one another.
Honor the memories and skip the vanity. It’s not worth the cost.