While backstage at the British Columbia Funeral Association Convention waiting to present I ended up chatting some with Jack*, the 30 something year old AV technician. The presenter at the time mentioned something in his narrative regarding the price of a cremation without a service that happened to cost $1,800.00. Jack was absolutely blown away. He said, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I thought he was thinking that was very inexpensive based on a personal experience or something similar. I was wrong. Jack couldn’t believe that it cost THAT MUCH to cremate someone! “Just throw me in the trash, for God’s sake!” I decided right then that it wasn’t worth it for me, right before going on stage to deliver an address to a theater full of eager funeral professionals, to enlighten Jack at that time. We hear this type of thing all the time, so I admit I can be a bit jaded. But, for some reason, Jack’s fulmination resonated. I went on to deliver my presentation without affect, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that, because of Jack’s feelings, I was on the verge of an epiphany.
It came to me later that evening, over a beer or four with colleagues. This whole mindset of “just cremate me and throw me in the trash” could be born out of guilt and an intrinsic lack of self worth. When most of us contemplate our own death we don’t want to imagine anyone celebrating our life when we die. We feel (subconsciously) guilty that were are leaving our loved ones behind, and don’t want to cause them any pain. At the same time we are humble and don’t feel worthy of any kind of tribute of a life well lived. We feel guilty about “being a burden.” We think that making it easier will make it hurt less. “Don’t go through any fuss after I die, just cremate me!”
I’ve always found this thought strange because the fact is you dying is the actual burden! Nothing is going to change that, and arranging a funeral, life celebration, home going, memorial or whatever you want to call it is therapeutic and healing.
Why can’t we understand how to, and allow others to love us, especially after we die? All of us are worthy of someone feeling sad when we die. Death is inevitable, and it is OK that your friends, family & loved ones have a chance to grieve, remember, cry, feel sad, and even smile, together. A gathering arranged at a set time for everyone to get together for this purpose is healing, healthy and yes, necessary. You want to be there too, don’t you? Whether you’re in a fancy casket or in an urn, you should be there, with all of your friends and loved ones. A funeral is going to happen no matter what. It could happen 6 months later, while your spouse is grocery shopping and they bump into a friend that they have been out of touch with. The friend asks about you, not knowing you died. Your spouse is stuck with informing the friend of your death and the grief and emotion come out like a deluge.
Personally, I want to be cremated, but before the cremation I want to be laid out in a Marseilles 710 Presidential casket made of eight quarter (2”) solid mahogany planks. This model casket weighs in at 400 lbs and takes about 6 months to construct, all by hand. The high gloss finish is hand rubbed to a brilliant shine and takes 16 hours to complete.
You might ask “Larry, why would you waste the money on a casket like that simply to burn it up?” (it’s worth mentioning here that this casket can retail for about $25.000.00). I always respond with “Because I want to look great for my family and friends and I am WORTH IT!” I also try to explain the fact that there really is no difference in burning it by cremation or burying it in the ground to rot in the dirt.
Whether we have lived 10 weeks or 100 years, each and every one of us is loved by someone and the only burden upon our death, is the death itself. Don’t deny your family and friends the chance to love and celebrate you after you are gone. The time spent arranging and the money spent on a funeral is worth it, just as you are, and it is not a burden.