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Rewind the Week – 13 June 2014

Burial Arrangements

Long before her death, my mother had prepaid a company for both her cremation and burial at sea. (You can read about that burial here.

Before my mother's last illness and death, I'd never thought about making one's own burial arrangements before they are needed. But it was a big relief to me that she had done it, that I didn't need to figure it out and I was deeply grateful for her foresight.

Over the years since then, I've come to believe that doing so is – well, the polite thing to do. Loved ones have enough on their hands just with grieving and in the event that burial was never discussed, there is no question what the deceased wants if he or she has bought and paid for it.

Some people have some pretty funny (to me) ideas about how they want their remains dealt with. You can read about some weird and interesting burials of famous people here and Gizmodo has images of a bunch of coffins in unexpected shapes that you can actually buy.

Although it amuses me to know that someone wants to be buried in a coffin shaped like a dumpster or a gym bag (to each his own), earlier this week The New York Times reported on a phenomenon that seems bizarre, even ludicrous: ordinary people deliberately purchasing their plot next to a famous dead person:

” is a different kind of hero worship, and puts a new twist on the real estate cliché location, location, location,' writes James Barron.

“It could be the ultimate form of devotion, putting yourself closer to someone you admired than you ever were in life — especially if the only words you ever spoke to a favorite celebrity were 'Can I have your autograph?' or 'Can I take a selfie with you?' — or it could be the ultimate way to elevate oneself. You may not be famous, but proximity to someone who was could bestow some prestige.”

This would be funny if it were not sad – that you think so little of yourself that you want to bask in the reflected glory of a famous person even in death.

Or, maybe it's one way to make it easier for loved ones to find your grave in a crowded cemetery: “Turn left at James Dean and walk a little further until you see Buddy Holly. I'm right next to him.”

Barron reports that it's not cheap to buy a plot next to a celebrity:

”A crypt above Marilyn Monroe's in a cemetery in Los Angeles had a winning bid of $4.6 million on eBay in 2009. The owner, a widow who wanted to pay off the $1 million mortgage her husband had left behind, moved his remains 23 years after he had been buried there.”

Jazz fan Pauline Smith is arranging to be buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Los Angeles near Duke Ellington and Lindy hop creator Frankie Manning:

“'Who knows what life is after death?' said Ms. Smith, a retired teacher who is 74 and lives in New Rochelle, N.Y. 'Not knowing what it is, I want to enjoy the thing that brings the most joy to me in my life right now, so I want to be close to them.'”

Have you thought about your burial arrangements - or have you made them?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Old


Hunky Husband and I own burial plots within two miles of our home. In addition, I have part ownership of four plots left by my parents, next to them and two of my deceased siblings in the little town in which I was born.

Instructions to my survivors:
1) See if anyone wants pieces/parts of my body.
2) Cremate the rest.
3) Do whatever with the ashes.
4) Ignore or sell the burial plots.

donating my body teaching hospital; they cremate as part of the deal.

My parents were "old school" and shied away from prearrangement, leaving it up to me and my brother to pay for and figure out what they wanted. I was determined not to have anyone go through this. Prearrangement allows YOU to make the decisions in a stress-free environment.Most likely you will save money by doing this. In addition, for those of you who need to "spend down" your savings in order to qualify for Medicaid, this is a legal way of doing it.

Assuming the place is still around, I have asked that my ashes be planted in garden of my church where many of my friends are. Though the other day, I suggested to my partner that if she is still around, and ambulatory, I wouldn't mind having some of a cremated me were dumped off my favorite trail in Marin Headlands.

I suppose that might not be legal, but I bet she could get away with it.

Twice in the past few years we have distributed the cremains of leaseholders all over our RV park.

My Mom distributed all of her belongings to family. Her cremains were sent to AZ to be placed next to my Dad in a cemetery wall. Family members from both sides are buried in that same cemetery from at least three generations back from my parents.

As my time as an RV'er has now reached 30 years. My choice is to have my cremains sprinkled around the RV park.

I have instructed my sons to have my body cremated and to please dispose of my remains/ashes as in a legal, sanitary manner, preferably the trash. Not that I don't think of myself highly, it's just that I believe that death is the end and there is nothing of me left in my cadaver/ashes. (If it were legal I would have preferred to be buried casketless in someone's garden.)

Great topic, Ronni. There is a difference between prearrangement and prepaid plans. We have made our cremation wishes known in our legal documents but have been thinking about adding more specific instructions.

I love the idea of using a compostable paper urn with ashes and a small tree in it that can be buried anywhere it would grow.

We also have heard that many prepaid plans are not good ideas and could be more expensive. A better idea is to set aside a burial fund.

Anyone have more information about this?

My husband and I are both members of the People's Memorial Association, which has special arrangements with funeral directors for either cremation or low-cost burial in a plain box.

We both want to be cremated, with our ashes spread over a favorite spot on the Olympic Peninsula. I decided on cremation because I don't want to take up space after I'm dead. Sooner or later the world will be populated enough that all that land devoted to cemeteries will be needed for other things.

My husband and I are 64.He does not want to preplan. A year ago, I took my Father to make the arrangements for both my parents. My only sibling was working. It was very difficult emotionally. Being from a small town,we knew the director. Dad says,"Death is an appointment we all keep."

Those who have been in the military get free burial.

I would like to be put in the Fort Rosecrans Cemetery a mile or so from our house, but it is full now and closed. Cremated and put in Miramar National Cemetery is what will happen. For a while they didn't offer a ceremony, but once again they do. The family get's the flag. My husband will be buried with me.

I have been a member of the Funeral Consumers Alliance (A national organization) and like Nancy Wick's Peoples Memorial Association, it is tied to a local funeral home. There is an annual fee (minimal) and cremation is done at a discount rate. If you want to have a service at the funeral parlor there is a small additional fee. I have left that option up to my children as it won't make a whit of difference to me and any service is for the benefit of the family. I think they will probably have a celebration of life in my home instead of a formal service. And my ashes will probably be scattered over the back side of Mr. Lemmon where my husband's ashes were let fly to the wind.

Jan, I think you can get a permit to scatter ashes in most places. I will have my children deal with that as I could care less what they do with them. I will not know.

Oooh, I am so glad you brought up this topic...well, sorta glad !! Just scanning for now, going out to lunch with "the girls" shortly, while I still can. Being out with other women is great medicine, but I digress.

While at the doctor's the other day for a routine check-up (A-fib, 2 broken hips and I'm a breast cancer survivor) I picked up a flyer entitled : Start the Conversation.

We are not spring chickens. My hubby manages to avoid "the talk" with me, or with the kids. (BTW, I read somewhere recently that actually _pre-paying_ for a funeral is not a good idea, but I forget why.)

I'd like to talk about cremation to our kids (I don't like the idea, myself) ~~ and sometimes I consider giving my brain to science. It should save family expenses, and my brain could give science a lot of think about. What an exciting day this is !!

My husband and I talked many times about the type of Memorial Services we preferred and where he wanted his ashes scattered.

I wanted the very same except for where my ashes were to be placed.I wanted some of my ashes put near Roy's at our cottage and the rest at our beloved home.

He died last May and we followed his wishes to the letter and I'm sure he would have been very pleased with the Memorial we had.

So, all I had to say to my four children was, "I want the very same type of Memorial but scatter my ashes near Dad and at home."

I have also put every document, bank book, Insurance Policy, Trust Agreement,Safety Deposit Key,etc. all in the same drawer at home and have shown them exactly where these necessary items are.

Hope those wanting to be buried next to Elvis won't be disappointed when they discover that Elvis has left the casket :-)

I wish there were a way to "like" comments here!

I grabbed a book written by Gail Rubin called "A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don't Plan To Die." In the chapter on "A Grave Undertaking: Working With a Funeral Plan," Gail quotes advice from The Funeral Consumer's Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to protecting consumers' rights. Their motto: "It always pays to plan ahead. It rarely pays to pay ahead." However, she mentions earlier that it's good to buy a plot ahead if you plan to be buried, but be careful about paying for the whole funeral ahead of time. Book is really good, worth a read. I think that I bought it on the recommendation of a certain blogger we all know.

Yes, i did.

Have made arrangements for my body to be donated to science. They will send cremains to one of my daughters who will scatter ashes in garden of remembrance where my parents and grandparents ashes were scattered. If for whatever reason my body is not acceptable I have asked for cheapest cremation preferably in cardboard box and without a service . Ashes will then be collected by son who lives fairly near and sent to his sister who will scatter ashes as I requested.
I have asked they give me flowers whilst I am alive to enjoy them!
When I am dead they can remember me in their thoughts and not have to trek to a gravesite. Of course they can do as they want when I am gone as I will not be there to complain it's not what I wanted!

I have my wishes written up and attached to my will. Cheapest cremation possible. I'd like my ashes sprinkled where my paternal grandparents are buried, down the side of the hill into the blackberries would be fine. There's a gorgeous view of the forests behind this cemetery. No fuss no muss.

It's in an area where my sons could finish up by going fishing in my Dad's favorite steelhead streams and still get home the same day. I suspect my sisters would come, but who knows? I tried to make it clear these are suggestions not orders.

I'm also a member of the Peoples Memorial Association and am hopeful that will help with any cost. The information is attached to my will as well.

Any other activity, some or none is up to them. I have a Certificate of Deposit that will go to them that will hopefully cover any costs.

My parents paid for burial plots in a cemetery they lived 2000 miles from when they died. Waste of money. We've told our kids repeatedly we want to be cremated in a cardboard box and once we're both gone scattered us together in a forest, and scatter the ashes of our cats with us.

A widow, I have pre-planned & pre-paid (but did a lot of research first). I still have my late husband's ashes; I'll be cremated as well, and our ashes will be mingled and placed in an urn that will compost after burial. Urn will be placed in a small grave in a family cemetery (great-grandfather donated land, all family are buried in free plots). It will be close to my grandparents, whom I loved dearly. There will be a small flat headstone with our names/birth/death dates(helpful for family genealogy sometimes). My wishes for a brief memorial are with my Will.

Since we had no children, and my siblings are younger (but who knows what will happen), I felt it necessary to pre-pay and pre-plan so, if necessary, the estate attorney could handle it.

I plan to become a "permanent resident" in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, a historic landmark of lush green parkland, founded in 1838. My family has a niche in the tranquility=garden columbarium holding the urn with ashes of my middle child Chris, who passed in 2006 ~ a niche I'll later share with him. Green-Wood is a beautiful, serene exquisitely cared for place, with a lovely chapel for brief remembrances.
I hold the deeds to 2 family plots elsewhere, in case of need for future generations, but Green-Wood will be paradise enough for me.

I was forced to make of these many decisions immediately when my husband died. As soon as I could gather myself together after that, I marched myself to the Neptune Society, made all arrangements, plunked down a check and all is taken care of. And I have filed in a safe place all the information needed to fill out the certificate required when the time comes. Additionally, I've even written something of an obituary, since I'm the only one left who knows this stuff!

And my goodness, does it feel grand to have all this taken care of.

My mom died less than a month ago, age99 +3 days. Did not pay up front for her funeral. However, she had the money in the bank & we followed her wishes: no fuss, private with only family (she's the last of 7)no mass, but the priest read & spoke at a small service in the funeral home. We paid for a no frills funeral & service which cost $6000 & included everything. Her plot with engraved headstone from my dad's death 30 yrs. ago was in place & paid for because she was working. I recall that when I jotted down the notes about her plans she told me "no tent. Too expensive!" She died after being in a NH for almost a year. A broken hip & arm did her in. All of her monthly income went to the nursing home (SS & pension)& the rest was paid by Medicaid. Had she known that, I think she wouldn't have liked it, but even tho' she was lucid she couldn't grasp the concept of inflation so it was never discussed. She was a dream mother & I miss her every day. Dee

My wife and I have our funeral arrangements written into our will, but we are considering setting up a prepayment plan.

On a personal level I have considered other issues too:

We made arrangements about 8 years ago with The Neptune Society. Our "containers" are stored in our hall closet. Some of our adult kids think that's a bit strange, but they'll thank us when the time comes.

Being totally non-religious, I believe that when I'm gone I'm gone--body, "spirit" and all. I don't want any funeral whatsoever. I haven't quite decided what should be done with my ashes. Actually, it's really not important to me, but it would probably be helpful to my survivors to have a suggested destination. I've always loved the ocean, but there are probably laws against scattering ashes in local waters, and who can afford to charter a boat? So, it's still an open question. . .

A good topic, Ronnie and some good comments too..I also would like to "LIKE" some of the comments.

I only noticed one other comment about donating the body to science. I had a "new" gastrointestinal surgery about 14 years ago-had not been done much in the U.S., so little is known about long term results. I've donated my body to OHSU (Oregon Health & Science University) so my surgeon can check out the innards after this surgery. My brain and spinal column go to a study about TBI-that also needs 'normal' brains to compare TBI's to. If anything can be used (kidney, liver, eyes etc) that goes first at OHSU. After all is used up, the body is cremated (for free) and returned to the family if desired, or buried at sea in a mass burial with other donations. I have asked my daughter to take a trip to Costa Rica and hire a surfer to take mine and my husbands
cremains out on his (or her) board and dump them together into the Pacific.

My mother-in-law recently passed away and we sent her body to OHSU for scientific use - I did the same for my husband when he passed away. I think it's important to further science and others who need body parts if possible. We are all Buddhist and our philosophy is that the body is simply a container for the spirit (or whatever you choose to call it). After death, why not recycle your body?

I'm 71 and I had this conversation with my daughter about 15 years ago, when she became old enough to understand why it needed to be talked about. Now it's a topic of occasional conversation..and my 9 year old grand daughter thinks it's 'very cool' that I'm donating my body-her cousin had a kidney transplant a couple of years ago so she is quite aware about the importance of 'recycling' ones body.

Best to you, Ronnie, and lets hope neither of us needs this anytime soon.

Your neighbor Elle in Peaverton

You changed your pictures at the top of the blog...
In California right now it's $800 for cremation.

No one has said they are orgin donors? I am.

Yes, lovely new photo Ronni.

Death gets complicated in Spain as the deceased's body has to be dealt with within 24 hours and it is unbelievably bureaucratic, with money upfront, in cash.

I have no specific wishes about how to deal with me after cremation but on further thinking about it, putting the ashes round our fruit trees is a comforting thought.

I have funeral insurance to spare my OH the trauma of wrestling with bureaucrats - one phone call does it all.

They're very welcome to any organs worth donating when I die: there's an opt out system here and I haven't activated that.

It's a good feeling to have all those loose ends tied up.

Good topic; good comments. Love the new photo!

I forgot about the organ donor aspect. Yes all my family carry donor cards. The funeral arrangements will apply to what is left of us...

I just recently put making such arrangements on my to-do list. It is a stressful time and having things arranged in advance makes life easier for others.

My headstone is in place and carved except for the end date. This was very important to my fiancee's folks, who will be buried beside us, and we were happy to make them happy.

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