Well, it’s been 11 years since my dad died and I have finally got his date of death added to his grave marker. Feel free to judge me; I wouldn’t blame you if you do, but I posit that I’m not a bad son — merely a procrastinating one. After my mom died twenty-two years ago, Dad bought a shared marker, anticipating his eventual demise. It had both of their details on it and was only missing the date of his future passing (which must have felt weird to look at when he would go to visit mom’s grave). Anyway, after he kicked the bucket, I had a ton of things to do involving his estate and this task got pushed way down the list. I kept meaning to get around to adding the date; but it just never happened. I dunno–maybe it’s my natural aversion to mortuaries and sales types; dealing with a funeral director is like doing business with a soft-spoken, morbid car salesman—they radiate empathy while trying to upsell funeral-related products, features, and services. Ghoulish capitalism at its most caring.
Dying Ain’t Cheap
After handling my dad and my brother’s funerals, I can tell you that dying seems to be almost as expensive as living. Sending a loved one off to their eternal rest is not cheap, which is when funeral directors start setting you up for the sale by broaching funeral planning. For example, they’ll push peace of mind and financial certainty with funeral insurance to cover future costs or pre-paying your funeral in wallet friendly installments to lock in today’s prices and save your family financial and emotional hardship.
My dad had strong opinions about the high cost of burying a loved one. It galled him to think that he’d be giving money to a bunch of ghouls profiting on grief. (He had even stronger fears about the medical system plundering the small, hard-earned inheritance he wanted to leave our family). With that said, he had not skimped on mom’s funeral yet wanted no such extravagance for himself.
One night, we were watching one of the true crime shows he favored, and detectives were examining a shallow grave in a forest.
“Don’t waste money on a fancy casket for me, son. Just put me in a pine box and bury me in the desert,” he grumbled in his Virginian accent, evidently inspired by the killer’s frugal burial option on the show.
“What makes you think you’re getting a pine box?” I replied.
Ashes to Ashes
A few years later, when my dad went into hospice shortly before his death, he told me he had opted for cremation. My brother had also mentioned cremation before his death, so that’s what I went with in both cases. (I have two mini-urns with small amounts of my dad’s and brother’s ashes. I keep them on the entertainment center near the TV because Dad watched the boob tube day and night and he and Kevin were always bickering over my brother’s attempts to boss him into taking care of himself–I figured I’d let them keep each other company). Even though it was the cheaper option, each cremation with a service still cost over $3,000 at the time.
Even adding the date of death to my dad’s marker was way more than I was anticipating. At 3 inches by 6 inches, this embossed bronze rectangle that screws onto the existing marker set me back $645. If Dad hadn’t insisted on being Bbq’d, he would be rolling over in his grave right now at the expense. I have to admit I was a little shocked at the price, but I didn’t flinch when reaching for my wallet (okay, well, maybe I did a little) because I needed closure. Plus, I felt bad the blank spot on the marker had been there for so long. (Though, not as bad as I felt paying 645 goddamned dollars for that tiny piece of bronze–but call it my penance for procrastinating.)
Based on that price, you can extrapolate about other more substantial costs. Buying a casket and funeral service is like buying a car. You’ve got your entry price base model, but each upgrade and added feature or service is going to cost you–a lot. That’s why funeral homes suggest buying an insurance policy to avoid saddling your family with a huge bill or pre-paying and locking in the price.
Anyway, Mom and Dad’s marker is complete, so mission accomplished, right?
This wouldn’t be a Land Manatee post if thing were that easy.
Other Unfinished Business
While I was up at the funeral home, I checked on getting a marker for my brother. It only took me six years to get him squared away and his ashes spread this past summer in England. My dad had bought a plot for Kevin when my brother was in the throes of his drug addiction (he wanted him by family, just in case), but Kevin later said he didn’t want a burial. But the plot was in his name, so I thought it would be nice to get a simple marker. However, simple does not mean inexpensive. A funeral director quoted me an eye-watering price of $4,500.
“You know, we’re not actually burying him,” I reminded him. Didn’t matter–still $4,500.
After consulting with my brother’s mini urn, we’ve decided to put that on the back burner.
The other bit of unfinished business involves Dad. I’ve still got his ashes tucked away in the back of the master bedroom walk-in closet. Not the most dignified of spots, I agree, but he wouldn’t care–not as much as the Houseguest will after she reads this post…(Technically it’s my closet because I let her use the master bedroom when she came to stay for 3 months but then never left).
What To Do With Dad?
Before he went into hospice, Dad told me he wanted to have his ashes scattered over my mother’s grave. A romantic sign of devotion, no? Here’s the problem–11 years later and I still have them. When I originally spoke to one of the funeral home employees about my father’s original plan, according to her, dumping ashes on a grave in Arizona is illegal. There was some talk about sneaking in at sunset and doing it, but the human body turns into a shitload of ashes- around 5 pounds’ worth–and the list of suspects would be pretty short. True, my dad was a little guy, but it is still be a considerable amount. As another option, the employee told me we could bury a small amount of the ashes for $50 bucks. Dad, wanting to make my life difficult, hadn’t wanted his ashes buried, but he wasn’t in any position to argue with me. But we didn’t take them up on the offer at the time because we needed to get my sister’s family in town for a small ceremony. However, on my recent visit to the funeral home, I mentioned this option but the funeral director informed me it would cost an eye-watering $2000 to intern dad’s ashes and he’d never heard of the $50 option, which I guess was a blue light special.
I don’t know. Maybe I’ll take a handful of the ashes and surreptitiously scatter them over mom’s grave to honor Dad’s wishes, but what to do with the rest? I’ll have to think about it some more. I mean, after 11 years, what’s a little longer going to hurt?
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Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay