This is obviously a personal post, but my blog is only read by friends & family anyway. So many events shape the days after one’s death and it’s typically things that most of us have little to no experience dealing with. If the death is somewhat expected, advanced planning makes this heart-wrenching experience so much easier on the family. Funerals are tough and tradition expects too much from grieving families. These thoughts are my own opinion with little experience to base them upon and reflective of a sudden although not unexpected death.
Of a Saturday, our timeline went something like this:
Call Sheriff/local law enforcement – they will send an ambulance to confirm death, an investigator to get information and take photos of deceased & medications, and the medical examiner (they will work out the details of who will sign the death certificate & will decide if they need to come to the scene). Somewhere along the line here, you’ll need birthdate, social, and probably some other details that I can’t recall right now.
Once they are finished, the Funeral Home may be called. If prearrangements have not been made, then you have to find a funeral home. There were no prearranged plans for this, although it had been discussed and more or less decided to have the service at the church. Unfortunately, the church was not available until Wednesday and FIL didn’t want to wait that long. I’m really not sure of how much time this took, but it’s probably been about 3 hours so far. The funeral director called us a little while later to make an appointment & give basic information.
Meanwhile, you are calling family and a few friends. Call your pastor & someone that can come help you. They can take & make phone calls while you’re dealing with the official business and answer the door — because food starts coming through the door within a couple hours. Family/friends that live far away and that you’re fairly certain will come, will need more time for planning, so you should call them as soon as possible. You really don’t need to call a lot of people at this point because you’ll want to wait until you have the funeral time & date.
Start a list of who brings what — so you’ll have it for thank you notes. Mark their dish, if it isn’t disposable.
Make appointment at the Funeral Home – the sooner the better. We went that afternoon at 1:30.
Take some time to take care of yourself, your spouse, your children. Make sure you eat something. In our case, I had to make sure that my FIL ate. He would say he wasn’t hungry, but make them sit down with some food in front of them, cut in small pieces, so they can pick at it. Someone brought sausage biscuits and made coffee and it was perfect.
Go to Funeral Home – this IS an ordeal. Don’t forget your checkbook or credit card & the clothing & accessories for deceased.
Bring information that you want printed in the obituary: vital statistics, names of family, anything you’d like written like church membership, employment, etc.
Bring information for the death certificate: birthdate & place of birth, social
They will want to know how you want the service done: who is officiating (if that’s the right word), music, pallbearers, about how many expected to attend.
Do you want a visitation or viewing before the funeral service? They are common here in the south and we had ours Monday from 5-8.
Open or closed casket service? If open, do you want it open for the entire service?
Pick out the casket.
We also picked out our flowers, although not all funeral homes offer this service. We did not want to spend another hour in a flower shop.
You choose the background for the tribute photo, the programs. Decide on the background for the DVD.
The funeral home furnished a temporary frame for the tribute photo, guest book, and plenty of water/drinks for the family during the meeting, visitation, and the funeral.
They also coordinated with the cemetery, which was a separate location from the funeral home. Even if you already own your burial plots, there is an opening and closing fee (nice way of saying digging & covering the hole).
Sunday we stayed at FILs, people came & went throughout the day, tons of food was brought in, and family started arriving from out of town.
Start thinking about what you & your family will be wearing to the visitation & service.
Monday we signed some paperwork w/the cemetery.
Monday night was visitation. Many of the flowers were already in place and there was a constant line of people for the entire 3 hours. Wear comfortable shoes. This is a very tiring thing, but I must say that I see why it’s done.
Tuesday @ 1100 was the funeral. We were finished around 12:45 and headed for the church for lunch provided by some of the church ladies. This is a lovely gesture and a relief.
Someone will probably have to go back to the funeral to pick up the flowers/plants that weren’t taken to the graveside. They will have already pulled the cards from the graveside flowers. Also, remember to pick up the tribute photo & DVD, the guestbook, and any other paperwork.
Other thoughts & mental notes
Get & keep your end-of-life related paperwork in order.
Living Will – rescue personnel must see this paperwork if you don’t want any CPR/life-prolonging measures
Life Insurance – don’t need right away, but it just makes sense to keep it together
Last Will & Testament
Prearranged Funeral Plans
Location of important papers – somebody needs to know this
Get & keep your financial paperwork in order. Even more important if the one who died, took care of this,
How are bills paid? online payments, mailing checks, automatic withdrawals from bank accounts, or through a credit card
The latest thing seems to be tribute DVDs and photos. These may be included in your funeral expenses. It helps if you have some pictures set aside or at least some that are easy to find. Grieving family members are not up to digging through years of accumulation nor will they have much time to do so.
Yet to do:
Death Certificates take at least 6 weeks — need for financial stuff and social security