The Moments Before & After Death


Hugh Elliott wrote, "Death can sneak up on you like a silent kitten, surprising you with it's touch and you have a right to act surprised. Other times death stomps in the front door, unwanted and unannounced, and makes it's noisy way to your seat on the sofa."

Honestly, the experience is different for everyone, as is the way we face the very possibility of our death. We can discover great lessons for those in our lives who are faced with terminal illness, such as humility, acceptance, and the power of compassion to heal old emotional scars. We can also find value in posthumously caring for others, through organ and tissue donation. This section has both practical and insightful reading materials, including valuable information on who to call first, and how to share the sad news with family and friends. Should you have questions on anything you find here, please call us.

Organ & Tissue Donation

In practice, donations cannot be carried out without the consent of next-of-kin, but we believe advance discussion of donation with family members is just as important as signing a card. This is your family, and they should know your wishes ahead of time. That way, when the time comes, your signed organ donor card, coupled with their knowledge of your wishes will help your family make their decision about donation.

Here are some common questions we hear about this subject:

1. Who can become a donor?
 
2. Will my decision interfere with my own health care?
 
3. How will medical personnel know that I am a donor?
 
4. Who pays for the donation procedure?
 
5. How are the organs and tissues distributed?
 
6. Does my age or medical history matter?
 
7. Will I have to change my funeral arrangements?
 
8. Can I change my mind about becoming a donor?
 


Question #1Who can become a donor?

Anyone who is 18 or older and of sound mind may become a donor when he or she dies. Minors may become donors with a parent's or guardian's consent.

Question #2Will my decision interfere with my own health care?

No. Medical personnel must follow strict guidelines before they can pronounce death and remove the donor's organs and tissues. Organ and tissue donors receive the same health care as non-donors.

Question #3How will medical personnel know that I am a donor?

Medical personnel will know by your carrying of a "Donor Card". You should distribute copies to your family, doctors, funeral home that holds your pre-arranged services and attorney.

Question #4Who pays for the donation procedure?

The organ donation programs, funded through health care, pay for all costs involved in the organ donation and recovery.

Question #5How are the organs and tissues distributed?

The distribution of organs is handled by regional organ banks which are linked to a national computer network that allows them to speed the process of matching organ donors and recipients. Tissue distribution is coordinated by various tissue banks throughout the country.

Question #6Does my age or medical history matter?

Although most programs do have age restrictions for organs, it should not influence your decision to become a donor. The transplant team will decide at the time of donation whether the organs or tissues are useful for donation. If the organs or tissues can't be transplanted, it is possible that the organs or tissues may be helpful in medical research.

Question #7Will I have to change my funeral arrangements?

Within reason, organ donation does not delay funeral arrangements or disfigure the body, so no changes will be needed in your funeral plans. If you plan to donate your body for medical research, you should be sure to arrange all of the details with your local anatomical board.

Question #8Can I change my mind about becoming a donor?

Absolutely, simply tear up your donor card. Anyone that you have told about your donation request should be notified of this change. Tell family members, doctors, funeral home, and if you have made arrangements to have your status indicated on your driver's license be sure to contact the driver's license office to have your status changed.

For further information on organ donation, we suggest the following websites:

Donate Life America
www.donatelife.net

Organ Donor.gov
www.organdonor.gov

You can also reach out to us to explore the subject oforgan donation. We’ve had lots of experience working with organ donors, and the respective donation agencies.Call or email us. We’ll be honored to speak with you.

who you should call first

Who You Should Call First

It really depends on how and where the death occurred. Where a death has been anticipated, call your attending physician.

If the death is unexpected, call emergency services first. If there are no emergency services or doctor available in your area, or you are concerned or uncertain about the circumstances surrounding a death, contact your local coroner’s office or the Office of the Chief Coroner.

The other first calls you should make include:

1. The funeral home
2. Immediate family members
3. Employers
4. Your Pastor
5. Your close friends

When you think about it, these calls are being made for two distinct reasons:

  • To notify the authorities and obtain assistance in dealing with the body
  • To notify the social circle, and gather family and friends together for support

Naturally the first of those reasons takes priority, because it is your responsibility to care for your loved one. In fact, we think of this as one of the final acts of love that you can take. Placing their body in the care of professionals can be a relief, and will give you the space to make those calls involved in the second category of outreach: the purely social notifications that will surround you with support.

The death of a loved one can make us feel numb and ineffective. If this is the case for you, and you'd like additional advice about who to call, and when, reach out to us. We’ll be pleased to be your ally during this difficult time.

How to tell family members

How to Tell Family Members

When the death is unexpected, the news will surely have been a shock to you – so you need to expect that reaction in those you tell. Even when the death is expected, as in a long illness, or when a loved one is in hospice care, the news may be difficult to deliver.

Before you go any further, the overriding question to ask, no matter the situation, is this one:


What Do You Want this Experience to be Like for Your Family?

Think about it. This will be a time in their life they will always remember. Just how do you want them to look back on it?  

We’re confident you’d say you want them to remember it as a time of loving compassion; where the news of their loved one’s death was delivered with kindness and understanding. And that takes forethought. One aspect of thinking ahead includes avoiding the Internet channels of communication during the first hours after a loved one dies.

You want to be very careful that this information is not broadcasted through Facebook or Twitter (or any other social media site), or via Instant Messaging, before you’ve had the opportunity to connect with family members personally.


Stop, Think…and then Speak

You know your family members, and chances are you can predict how each one of them needs to be cared for during this difficult time. Our best advice is that you walk into this situation with your “eyes wide open”, and set the stage accordingly.

Should you call them in the middle of the night, or while they are at work, or school? Only you know the answer. But, when you tell them is an important consideration, and your family member deserves your clearest thinking on the matter of when you tell them the news.

Then, you need to think about how you will break the news. It’s preferable to deliver such news in person, but if that’s not possible, a phone call will have to do. In either case, we have some valuable suggestions:

  • Protect them by asking them to sit down. After all, such news can often make someone’s knees buckle, and send them crashing to the floor.
     
  • Choose your words carefully. You know the right words for the person you’re speaking to hear. If using a phrase like “passed on”, “passed away”, or “gone to a better place” makes sense, then use it. If you think they would they would rather hear their loved one has died, then that word is appropriate.
  • Give them as many of the details involved in the death as you feel they need to hear right now.
  • When you’re done, ask them if there’s anything they would like to know, and if there is, answer their questions as best as you can.
  • Let them know they can continue to ask questions during the days ahead, and that they can openly express any emotions they are feeling now – and in the future – such as fear, guilt, sadness, depression, or anger.

After the call is made, or the news shared in person, keep the lines of communication open. And in the days to come, help your family member (to the best of your ability, considering your own grief) work through these emotions by encouraging them and reassuring them. Naturally, family members should support one another; so don’t neglect to turn to them for support as well.

Death, no matter the circumstance, is hard for us to handle. Keep in mind that the best thing that you can do for anyone when informing them of a death is to deliver the news thoughtfully. Let them know that you are there for them and that you love them. That too is an essential truth they need to know.

Preparing for The Funeral Service 

Writing Down a Life: Crafting the Obituary

An obituary also serves as notification that an individual has passed away and details of the services that are to take place. But it can be for more than that. A well-crafted obituary can detail the life of the deceased, with style.

An obituary's length may be somewhat dictated by the space available (and the related costs) in the newspaper it is to appear in. Therefore it's best to check how much room you have before you begin your composition. Remember that the obituary needs to appear in print a few days prior to the memorial service. There are some cases where this may not be possible, therefore give some consideration to the guidelines below when composing the obituary.


What Should You Include?

Naturally, it is vital that the full name, along with the location and date of passing is included so that there is no confusion over who has died.

You may wish to consider placing a photograph (which can appear as black & white or in color depending on the newspaper's layout) with the text. There are usually extra charges applied if you are thinking of using a photograph.

If you wish, mention where the deceased resided. Do not include the street address, for security reasons; just mention the city and region/state/province/county.
In a concise manner, write about the significant events in the life of the deceased. This may include the schools he or she attended and any degrees attained; you may also include any vocations or interests that the deceased was involved with.

Add the Names of Those Left Behind…as Well as Those Who Went Ahead

It is common to include a list of those who have survived the deceased, in addition to those who passed away prior to the death of your loved one. The list should include (where applicable):

  • Parents
  • Spouse and children
  • Adopted children
  • Half & step children
  • Siblings
  • Half- & step-siblings
  • Grandparents

The relatives listed above may be listed by name. Other relatives will not be mentioned by name but may be included in terms of their relationship to the deceased. In other words, the obituary may mention that the deceased had 5 grandchildren, or 7 great-grandchildren.  

Also, anyone listed as a special friend or companion is not normally included amongst the list of survivors unless the deceased's blood relatives request that it be so. The obituary's traditional purpose is to list survivors either related through the bloodline or marriage.

Additional information such as where the body will be laid to rest and any pallbearer's names or names of honorary pallbearers may be mentioned.

At this point list the details of the time and location of any services for the deceased: these may include the funeral, burial, wake and memorial service where appropriate.


Tips for Crafting a Complete Obituary

If you don't know where to start, do read other obituaries to gain an idea of how personal and touching an obituary may be.

Do use such terms as "visitation will be from" or "friends may call from". Do not say the deceased will "lie in state" as that only applies to a head of state such as the prime minister or president.

Don't use the phrase "in lieu of flowers" when memorial donations are to be requested, as this limits how readers can express their sympathy. Perhaps they want to send flowers to the family – and unless you are adamant that flowers are not wanted, the phrase is decidedly “off-putting”.  Instead merely start the final paragraph of the obituary with the words "Memorial donations may be made to" and then state the charity’s name.

If you wish, send the obituary to newspapers in other cities or towns where the deceased may have resided previously.

Obtain copies of the obituary to send to distant relatives and friends.
 

Final Considerations

Any and all information to be included in the obituary should be verified with another family member. A newspaper will have to verify with the funeral home being utilized that the deceased is in fact being taken care of by that funeral home.

Seeing as most newspapers charge by the word when placing an obituary, it may not always be feasible to mention everything that we have stated in our guidelines. Use your own discretion and do not put yourself under any financial hardship. Your loved one would understand.

Today there are online memorials, such as the Book of Memories™, where the obituary can be available for the cyber-community of the deceased to view. It is also a place where friends and family can leave messages of condolence, light a memorial candle, or share photographs and videos. If this sounds like a good option for your family, contact us to learn more.

Writing and delivering a eulogy

Writing and Delivering a Eulogy

Journalist Peggy Noonan said, “I love eulogies. They are the most moving kind of speech because they attempt to pluck meaning from the fog, and on short order, when the emotions are still ragged and raw and susceptible to leaps.”  

While writing a eulogy and sharing it with funeral service guests is a noble gesture, that is worthy of thought and effort, it can not only be a challenge to write–if you’re not comfortable in front of a crowd of people–it can be equally as challenging to deliver.

However, it is an opportunity to make a contribution to a memorial service, a contribution that your friends and family will remember for a long time. For that reason, if you are asked to write one, we suggest you consider doing so, if only for yourself.

That’s because writing a eulogy is a therapeutic tool to help you deal with your grief. The power of writing is undeniable and there is no better time than now for you to discover and take advantage of this.


What Should Your Eulogy Accomplish?

People often think one of two things about a eulogy:

  • it should be an objective summation of the deceased's life.
  • it should speak for everyone who is present at the memorial service.

Both of these assumptions are just plain unrealistic, don’t you think? How can you possibly be objective after losing a loved one; or sum up a person’s life in just a few minutes of time?

Let’s think of the eulogy as being much simpler. It should convey the feelings and experiences of the person giving the eulogy. The most touching and meaningful eulogies are written from a subjective point of view and from the heart. So don't feel compelled to write your loved one's life story.

Instead, tell your story.

Clearly, the burden of the eulogy does not have to be yours completely. If you have the time, ask friends or relatives for their recollections and stories.

Honesty is very important. In most cases, there will be a lot of positive qualities to talk about. Once in a while, however, there is someone with more negative traits than positive qualities. If that is the case, remember, you don't have to say everything if it would make you, or the guests uncomfortable. Just be honest as you can, and do your best to show the full humanity – both the good, and the not-so-good, characteristics of the deceased. After all, everyone there knew them, and is there because they want to acknowledge their relationship to the deceased. In other words, you have a “warm” audience, who will welcome your words.

Don’t Strive for Perfection – You’ll Make Yourself Crazy

Remember, you do not have to write a perfect eulogy. Whatever you write and deliver will be appreciated by the people at the funeral. If you are inclined to be a perfectionist, lower your expectations and just do what you can, considering the short time frame for preparation and your emotional state.

When You Step Up to the Podium

  • Realize that people are not going to judge you. They will be very supportive. No matter what happens, it will be okay. If you break down in the middle of your speech, everyone will understand. Take a moment to get composed, and then continue. There is no reason to be embarrassed. Remember, giving a eulogy is a noble gesture that people will appreciate and admire.
     
  • Make the eulogy easy to read. On a computer, print out the eulogy in a large type size. If you are using a typewriter, put extra carriage returns between the lines. If you are writing it by hand, print the final version in large letters and give the words room to breathe by writing on every second or third line.
  • Before the service, get a small cup of water. Keep it with you during the service. When you go to the podium to deliver the eulogy, take the water with you in case you need it. Sipping water before you start and during the speech if needed, will help relax you.
  • If you are nervous beforehand, breathe deeply. Remind yourself that everything will be fine. It will be. Look around at your relatives and friends and realize that they are with you 100 percent.
  • Realize that it is acceptable to read the eulogy aloud. You don’t have to make eye contact with anyone.
  • Take your time, and simply do the best you can. No one expects you to have the delivery of a great orator or the stage presence of an actor. Just be you.


Should you need any more advice on writing a eulogy for a loved one, just call us. 

Social Expectations: A Primer On Funeral Etiquette 

Social Expectations: a Primer on Funeral Etiquette

Most of us are uncertain about what to do at a funeral. We see it all the time. In fact, I think Funeral Directors are the only people who are truly comfortable in this social setting. After all, we’ve had a lot of practice.

We’ve put together this section on funeral etiquette to share everything you need to know to help you do the right thing before, during and after the service.


What to Do


Offer Words of Condolence

Offering comforting words to the family is usually the easiest thing you can do. It's also something the family will appreciate and remember. If you're attending the service, offer your condolences in person or share a story or special memory about the deceased. If you can't be there, send a card or share your message using the Book of Memories online memorial tribute page.

Sign the Register

When you sign the register at the funeral home, be sure to list your name and your relationship to the deceased. The register is something the family will have forever, and they will appreciate knowing who you are and how you knew their loved one in years to come.

Send a Gift to the Family

Appropriate gifts include flowers, a donation to a charity (oftentimes the family will have a preferred charity), food or a service. You can send your gift to the family's home or the funeral home. Please ensure you include a signed card with your gift so the family knows who sent it. However, please take a few minutes to recognize that certain faiths have proscriptions about what should be sent to the bereaved. If you’re unclear, check with a close family relative or friend.

Stay in Touch with the Family

Depending on your relationship with the family, you may choose to stay in touch in person, by telephone or online. The grieving process can be long and difficult, so don’t just walk out of their lives after the funeral service. You will serve the family well by letting them know you're there for them during the days, weeks, and months follow the death of their loved one.
 

What to Wear

Historically, people wore black or only somber colors to a funeral. Today it's acceptable to dress in a wider range of colors and clothing styles. In fact, we’ve seen services where the family asked everyone to dress in pink, or in colorful Hawaiian shirts and shorts. But, these unique events aside, a good rule of thumb is to dress as you would at church or a job interview.

Have other questions about funeral etiquette? Contact us. We’ve got the answers you’re looking for – after all, we’ve been to hundreds of funerals. So call – we’d love to help you get through what can (but doesn’t have to) be a challenging social situation.
 

Frequent asked questions about funeral or cremation services

Frequently-Asked-Questions

We are happy to answer any and all questions about funeralsburialcremation, and funeral preparations which come our way – and we hear some over and over again. Those are the ones we’ve included in this section of the website.

However, if you’re question isn’t listed, don’t hesitate to email us. If yours is an urgent need, please call.

1. What is a funeral?
 
2. How much does a funeral cost?
 
3. How do I make funeral arrangements?
 
4. What is a pre-arranged funeral?
 
5. How do I make funeral arrangements?
 
6. What type of funeral service should I have?
 
7. Can I personalize my funeral service?
 
8. Why should we have a public viewing?
 
9. What should I do if a death occurs in the middle of the night or on the weekend?
 
10. What should I do if a death occurs while away from home?
 
11. What happens if I have a problem with how a funeral was handled?
 
12. Why do we need an obituary notice?
 
13. What is included in an obituary?
 
14. What is embalming?
 
15. Is embalming necessary?
 
16. What is involved in cremation?
 
17. Do I need a casket if I choose cremation?
 
18. Can I have a visitation period and a funeral service if cremation is chosen?
 
19. What can be done with the cremated remains?
 


Question #1What is a funeral?
Answer:A funeral is a time when friends and family gather to celebrate a life and mourn the loss of a loved one. They occur in cultures and societies around the world, and have deep personal and social significance. We know a funeral is the starting point of the recovery process and the first step toward healing.

Question #2How much does a funeral cost?
Answer:The cost of a funeral depends entirely on your wishes for the funeral. Funeral costs are made up of professional services, charges for transporting the body and presentation of the body, casket costs, vehicle charges, and fees for the doctor, minister, or cremation. Personalizing a funeral is also a factor in the cost. While we have many options to help you memorialize your loved one in a meaningful way, those options all have costs attached.

Question #3How do I make funeral arrangements?
Answer:You can call a funeral director to make an appointment or plan it online. We offer this service free of charge, and without obligation.

Question #4What is a pre-arranged funeral?
Answer:A pre-arranged funeral is a funeral arrangement made prior to death. You can pre-arrange your own funeral or you can pre-arrange a funeral for a loved one. Pre-arrangement is a way for you to make sure your life is celebrated in a way that is meaningful to you. It also relieves your loved ones of the burden of arranging a funeral for you.

Question #5How do I make funeral arrangements?
Answer:You can call a funeral director to make an appointment or plan it online. We offer this service free of charge.

Question #6What type of funeral service should I have?
Answer:The answer to that question is very personal – how would you like it to be? A funeral service can be open to the public or accessible by invitation only. You can choose a large service or a small one. And, if you’re deeply religious, you can follow the liturgy of your faith. 

Perhaps you want something completely out-of-the-ordinary, and that’s possible too. Our funeral directors are trained to provide you with support and guidance to help you plan a funeral that truly reflects your needs and desires.

Question #7Can I personalize my funeral service?
Answer:In a word, yes. We believe that each funeral should reflect the life of the deceased – and no two people are the same. We invite – no, we encourage –you to let us know exactly how you want you or your loved one to be remembered, and we will do our best to create a ceremony that will truly celebrate the life lived.

Question #8Why should we have a public viewing?
Answer:Not every tradition encourages a public viewing, but we believe that they serve a purpose. In making a viewing part of your funeral service, you provide a certain amount of closure to all in attendance. This isn’t just our opinion; studies show that viewing the body helps everyone recognize the reality of death which is an important stepping stone in the grieving process.

Question #9What should I do if a death occurs in the middle of the night or on the weekend?
Answer:It’s simple: call us. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you need immediate assistance, one of our funeral directors will be there.

Question #10What should I do if a death occurs while away from home?
Answer:It’s comforting to know that our funeral directors can help you no matter where a death has occurred.  We’ll take care of everything from bringing your loved one back home; to helping you arrange the service. All you need to do is call us. We’ll take care of the rest.

Question #11What happens if I have a problem with how a funeral was handled?
Answer:If we handled the arrangements, then call us. We’ll do everything we can to resolve the issue. 

We take pride in caring for the families who trust us during this difficult time. But, we’re well aware that sometimes things can go wrong, and if they do, you need to tell us. 

If you’re not satisfied with how we attempt to resolve the issue, then you can reach out to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and/or our state licensing board.

Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC  20580

www.ftc.gov

1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).

Question #12Why do we need an obituary notice?
Answer:An obituary notice is helpful for friends and family of the deceased. It informs them that a death has occurred and gives them information about the service.  Obituaries can be placed in newspapers and online.

Question #13What is included in an obituary?
Answer:A basic obituary includes the deceased’s full name, age, date of birth, city and state they were living in when they passed away. It should also include the name of the deceased’s significant other, and the date, time and place of the viewing, burial, wake and memorial service. If you don't have this information yet, you can always write something such as, "Funeral arrangements are being made by the funeral home and will be announced at a later date."

You may wish to add additional details, such as the names of any children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, parents, other close relatives or special friends. You may wish to write about the deceased’s life, accomplishments and legacy. You may suggest preferred charities for memorial contributions and let people know if you would rather not receive flowers.

Question #14What is embalming?
Answer:Embalming is the temporary disinfection, preservation, and restoration of the body. During the embalming process, the body is washed and dressed and cosmetics are applied.

Question #15Is embalming necessary?
Answer:If the body has to be transported to a country that requires embalming, then yes, it is necessary. Otherwise the decision is up to you. Some religious traditions forbid embalming. If your religion allows it, we recommend embalming if there is a long wait before burial or cremation.

Question #16What is involved in cremation?
Answer:The casket or container is placed in the cremation chamber where the temperature reaches 1,400-1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. After approximately 2.5 hours, all organic material is consumed by heat and evaporation, and the bone fragments are left behind. These are known as the cremated remains, which are then carefully removed from the chamber and processed into fine particles to be placed in a container or urn for the family.

Question #17Do I need a casket if I choose cremation?
Answer:No, you do not need to purchase a traditional casket. But, for sanitary reasons, crematories usually require a combustible, leak-proof, covered container. Commonly, a relatively-inexpensive cardboard cremation container is all you need to purchase. However there are other, more elegant options available as well. Visit our online cremation container showroom to explore your options.

Question #18Can I have a visitation period and a funeral service if cremation is chosen?
Answer:By all means, yes. We encourage families to have a gathering – whether it’s a simple visitation, or a more elaborate funeral or memorial service – to support the bereaved and begin to mend the social fabric, torn by the loss of a member of the community.

Question #19What can be done with the cremated remains?
Answer:The cremated remains can be interred in a cemetery plot or retained by a family member -- usually in an urn, scattered on private property or at a place that was important to the deceased. The cremated remains can be scattered at sea, or the skies above a special, well-loved place. You can also incorporate the remains into an artificial reef, to be lowered onto the sea floor. There, your loved one provides sanctuary for sea life for years to come. 

There are also elegant ways to memorialize a loved one using small amounts of the cremated remains, including art glass, oil paintings, and man-made diamonds. Or you can take a small amount of the cremated remains to include in a piece of cremation jewelry. Please view our online cremation keepsakes and jewelry selection for inspiration.


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