Tips on Do-it-Yourself Funerals | HumorOutcasts

Tips on Do-it-Yourself Funerals

April 26, 2011
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Somehow, I got on a funeral list. I am not talking about a specific funeral, but trends that go on in the funeral industry.  My first thought as to why I get the funeral updates was that I must have done an article on this topic, but I cannot for the life of me remember researching or writing such a piece.  So, being the logical person I am, I jumped from point A to point Z and decided my husband must be investigating funerals. It’s not that farfetched. When he does online research, he gives everyone my email address, so his email box doesn’t get filled with spam.  Somewhere along the line, my email address has become our family’s clearing house for stuff they were interested in, but don’t want to be contacted about.  But now, I am left wondering why he is investigating funerals and should I watch what I eat when he cooks.

This latest email on this macabre topic led to an article about “Do-it-yourself” funerals.  Apparently, in these tough economic times, people are looking to cut corners wherever they can and a loved one’s funeral is no exception.  Why spend $8,000 to put Grandma in the ground when you can shave half of the costs if you do some of the stuff on your own. Again, this is a red flag for me with my husband. He is a human being who loves to get a good deal, so allow me to ask a favor here: If there comes a time when someone out there says, “Gee, I haven’t heard from Donna in a while”, would you please ask someone to check my freezer?  It’s in the basement. Down the steps, hang a left. Thanks.

Do you know it’s perfectly legal to do your own funeral?  It’s not that long ago that people did have wakes in their homes. There were no funeral parlors. You just parked the casket next to the sofa and let the booze flow and the mourning begin.  Now, for most of us, it seems a bit creepy having a dead body in the house.  However, with the rising costs of such an event, the funeral industry is telling customers or soon-to-be customers that a funeral can be a shared experience.

For instance, to cut down on “preparation”, you can opt to wash down the deceased yourself.  You can do the makeup and dress the body, etc. Now again, I don’t have a problem with this, but personally, if my funeral is going the economic route, I want someone who is good at makeup.  I don’t want someone who has held a grudge toward me or my family applying lipstick or — and I can’t emphasize this enough — a curling iron.

You might be asking who would want to prepare their own loved one’s body. Well, would you be surprised to learn that if you are a “green” person, opting to prepare the body and foregoing embalming is helping out Mother Earth? Yep, embalming chemicals and whatever else they do in funeral parlors in not a “green” procedure, so a do-it-yourself job eliminates chemical waste and the deceased becomes great mulch along the way.  I could see my husband liking the mulch idea and planting me in the vegetable garden.  Okay – new thought. If I’m not in the freezer, go to the garden. It’s at the end of the backyard by the fence.

There are a few caveats with the whole body-in-the-house thing. First, most states have a limit on how long you can keep a dead body in your residence. Secondly, funeral professionals suggest that even if your event is taking place in the midst of a blizzard, you need to crank up the air conditioning or have a lot of dry ice on hand. When you do plan a “home” funeral, know that you can ask a funeral parlor for help in different ways. Apparently, most do offer a-la-cart services now.  For instance, perhaps you need help transporting the deceased from one place to another. I wouldn’t underestimate the value of transportation. This is something best left up to the professionals.  Otherwise, you have to think about details like do you throw the body in the back seat or trunk?  How do you get the body from the car to wherever you are going to put them in the house?  Do you use a Dolly or a wheel barrel?  If there are stairs involved, how are you going to get the cadaver up and down the stairs without dinging your walls?  I hate dings in my walls.

To me the difference between a good at-home funeral and a disaster lies in those details.  From what I read, a good funeral parlor will give you a loaner casket for transportation or you can rent one.  You don’t need a good one if your beloved is becoming mulch or if you are planning cremation.

Oh, and for the record, and this is important: you cannot do your own cremation! It doesn’t matter how hot you can get the grill or fireplace, this is still against the law throughout the country except in those backwoods areas where you can still marry your first cousin.  Also, remember to get all the right permits for a do-it-yourself event. You have to check with the county and state to make things legal.

I cannot imagine that a do-it-yourself event is an easy task to accomplish.  It’s not a fun project to tackle like remodeling your own bathroom.  If you screw up up this event, you will never live it down – so to speak.

photo by Touring Cyclist

Donna Cavanagh

Donna Cavanagh is founder of HumorOutcasts.com (HO) and the partner publishing company, HumorOutcasts Press which now includes the labels Shorehouse Books and Corner Office Books (HOPress-Shorehousebooks.com). As "den mother" to the more than 100 aspiring and accomplished writers, producers, comics and authors, Cavanagh's goal is to allow creativity to flow. She is a former journalist who made an unscheduled stop into humor more than 20 years ago. Her syndicated columns helped her gain a national audience when her work landed in the pages of First Magazine and USA Today. She teaches the how-to lessons of humor and publishing at conferences and workshops throughout the country including The Philadelphia Writers' Conference and Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop. The author of four humor books, Cavanagh hopes her latest book, How to Write and Share Humor: Techniques to Tickle Funny Bones and Win Fans, will encourage writers not only to embrace their humor talents but show them off as well.

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8 Responses to Tips on Do-it-Yourself Funerals

  1. lbwoodgate
    April 26, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Very funny Donna. And I have heard that embalming fluid gets earth worms high which is not a nice thing for Mother Nature

    • April 27, 2011 at 6:15 am

      Is that true? Nah, certainly you jest. high earthworms? Sounds like a horror flick waiting to be made.

  2. Mayor Lund
    April 26, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Damned, if I’d had known I could do my own funerals I could have saved the cost of 3 divorce lawyers. How hard could it be to dig three 7 foot holes?

    • April 26, 2011 at 6:10 pm

      It would have been easy. Instead of all the alimony, you could have collected oodles of life insurance. Bad planning Mayor Lund.

  3. April 26, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Darn it. I always thought it’d be cool to have my dead body burned in a big bonfire like Darth Vader. I guess that’s not legal in our galaxy?

    • April 26, 2011 at 3:52 pm

      A girl after my own heart Maria! That would be a way to exit! I could very much get into that. HA HA

  4. Theresa Wiza
    April 26, 2011 at 9:09 am

    I can honestly say I’ve never received an email about funerals though when I was 29 AARP started hounding me to join.

    • April 26, 2011 at 9:22 am

      29? Geez. My husband turned 50 so they just assume I was too. So I started to get things two years ago, but still – officially I guess I am late 40s now. I think they should hold off. I know 50 is the new 30 or 40 and that’s good but I don’t like that 50 gets you senior status. Where is our middle age? Oh, my next humor column. No one take it! LOL



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