Preparing for the End of the Story

Photo Courtesy of Neptune Society, Inc. All rights reserved.

I recently attended three funerals over the course of a week. One of the deceased individuals was a month short of 90. The other two were much closer to my age. Of those two, one had an open casket. He looked good, but…you know. I had shared a number of meals and consumed a number of beers (when I did that type of thing) with the gent and seeing his empty vessel displayed in an open casket functioned as a wake-up call for me.

I decided to start pre-planning my funeral arrangements, or lack thereof. We talk of wills and trusts and of getting one’s affairs in order for the inevitable day of departure and the time that follows. What often gets lost is what is to be done in the minutes and hours that follow a death. The wishes of a deceased are sometimes noted in a will but a testamentary document isn’t usually looked at until weeks after passing. Telling your survivors ahead of time, with something in writing other than in a will, is an absolute must. I wanted to be cremated (and still do) without ceremony or recognition. Given that we are in the Age of Google, a quick search for “cremation” almost immediately in my devices being inundated with pop-up ads, emails, and phone calls from area funeral home representatives. This kind of browned me off, to be honest, though if you really want a lot of attention, google “housepainting.” That aside,  I was further upset by the refusal of the people contacting me to send me a price list concerning their services, insisting that I instead come to their offices for such information.  I know why. Funeral homes upsell. It is what they do. It is how they are able to stay in business. They have very high overhead and offer a service that almost no one else wants to perform. I just didn’t want it. 

I eventually as a result of my research contacted Neptune Society, a national organization that arranges cremation. I did this for a number of reasons. I wanted to be cremated. I contacted them, as opposed to them reaching out to me. They were upfront about their pricing and services. A friend of mine who would have found a problem with them if there were a problem to be found had personal experience with them (once removed of course) and strongly recommended them.  Their local office is on Cemetery Road(!) in a nearby suburb. And… they offered me a free lunch at a local restaurant where I could attend a seminar, even after I indicated to them that I would be using their services.

I showed up on the day and time appointed at a local sports bar with a few other crusty customers of the age where one wakes each morning with roughly equal amounts of surprise and regret. The other attendees eyed me uneasily across the table for a few minutes while I listened to them carp about the lunch choices (“I usually have a drink with lunch. Can I order a drink?”) and tut-tut about the cost of the services (“When my husband had this done ten years ago it cost less…”).  I silently promised myself to never be that obnoxious when I reached their ages. I learned over the course of the next hour that I was the oldest one there. You live and learn, even as you approach the end of the story.

The folks from Neptune Society were very nice and didn’t try to upsell me (“for just a little bit more, we can arrange a celebration of life for you”) or cross-sell me (“Don’t you think that a nice commemorative ribbon to match your urn would be a nice touch?”) as many funeral homes do. Their sales pitch was so low-key that it wasn’t an infomercial at all.  I was able to enter into an agreement with Neptune Society that afternoon and I became officially “pre-planned,”  meaning that my arrangements were paid for and my wishes set in stone. One item which was offered but not pushed was the “Travel Protection Plan.” I purchased it. The Travel Protection Plan is like “AAA-Plus” for a deceased, only better. If you have AAA or another roadside assistance service you are probably aware that there is a limit as to how far your car will be towed at no cost to you. If the towing mileage exceeds that limit there is a per-mile charge. It is not calculated in pennies. The same holds true for dead bodies. The general industry standard for funeral homes, at least in Ohio, is that if you die outside of a thirty-mile radius of your home the odometer starts ticking. Neptune Society has a seventy-five-mile radius, but with the Travel Protection Plan there is no mileage limit, even if the covered individual is out of the country. What this means is that should I pass away far from home Neptune Society’s sweet chariot will swing down and take me home at no cost.  The thought of my sons traveling to wherever I might be and doing a Weekend at Bernie’s trip to bring me back made me chuckle, but only initially. I paid for that and a storage box which I have taken to calling my “forever home.” Done. And done.

Photo courtesy of Al Thumz Photography. All rights reserved.

The surprise for me was how relieved I felt about making the arrangements, or lack thereof. I told my children that if they wanted a visitation to come to see me while I’m alive. If they want to celebrate my life, take me to Twin Peaks. It’s too late once that rusty gate swings open and I tapdance through. I also gave each of them a copy of my Neptune Society card so that when the time comes things would be taken care of promptly. 

All of this thought and consideration about death and its immediate aftermath of course sparked within me an idea for what I think will be a heck of a story with the potential to be much darker than The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh. That brings us to you, my friends. Have any of you pre-planned your funeral? Have you thought about it? Do you know what you want? Or is the topic like that closet that you haven’t opened in years and are afraid of what you’ll find (or what will find you)?

 

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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

54 thoughts on “Preparing for the End of the Story

  1. I just visited my 95-year-old mother. Decades ago, when my dad’s parents died, my folks arranged to be ‘buried’ in a mausoleum. When Dad died a few years ago, she and my brother thought they’d arranged everything. Almost. They had the crypt, but no casket. Apparently Mom hadn’t seen one she’d liked, so she had to fork over many times what it would have cost her back then. When my brother, who’d been visiting the night my father died, suggested she get two, she said no. So, she’ll get whatever we pick out, I guess.
    We have a trust, not a will, so our kids should know what we want, but I’ll look into the Neptune Society.

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences, Terry, which are pretty much the norm and exactly what I wanted to avoid. You might want to have a short talk with your children and tell them exactly what you do and don’t want. Adult children don’t always listen but at least you’ll have said your peace. Be well.

  2. I’ve donated my body to science. No funeral. I don’t get to choose where my body goes, but whether it turns up at a med school or a body farm doesn’t matter to me as long as I’m helping living people learn about stuff.

    • I’m glad that you mentioned body donation, Priscilla. Thanks for the reminder. That was the first option I explored but it was closed off to me for a couple of reasons, one of them being that I didn’t want medical students snickering when presented with my corpse. I would have needed to get a tattoo stating, “It’s okay to laugh, but not to point.”

  3. Been there, done that, Joe. My wife and I have made pre-arrangements with a competitor of Neptune. One selling point with them was they’ll arrange for the cremation and ship our ashes back home from anywhere in the world, as long as it’s not in a war zone. Since we’ve been known to go on cruises (when not in a pandemic) that was a plus for us. And you’re right, a big relief knowing our children won’t have to sit in grief through the “upsell/hard sell rigmarole at a funeral home.

    • That’s excellent, Dean. The Neptune Society seminar mentioned — noting that it was an outlier — that they had one member who died in Israel who they saw home. Let’s just say that they lost money on that deal. Your interest in cruise travel makes a feature such as that imperative.

      Thanks for stopping by. I hope that you and your wife get on the boat much sooner rather than later.

  4. I would love to donate my body to the Body Farm. The thought of doing my small part to help in forensic science gives me great satisfaction, but my family said they couldn’t handle knowing my body would lie out in the elements for students to study. So, my next choice is to become a tree. I’d be cremated and put into a living urn. Ever hear of this? It’s a beautiful alternative. https://www.thelivingurn.com/pages/tree-zip-code My family could bask in my shade and I’d provide a home for wildlife. Seems like the perfect ending to my story.

    • Thanks, Sue. I was unfamiliar with the living urn. I’m wondering if I could do this and be planted in a dog park. I would be happy knowing that my favorite people (dogs) would be surrounding me for all eternity and yes, using me to mark their territory. I’ll check them out.

    • Sue, I’ve looked into this too. Here on the Gulf Coast we have Eternalreefs.com. Your ashes are used to create environments to preserve and protect coastal marine life.

      You can choose to become part of a large project or a unique personal reef that your only family will have the coordinates.

  5. Good morning, Joe. Great post. And so timely. My wife and I were just discussing the topic at breakfast this morning. We have trusts, but they need to be updated. We both know what the other wants, but we need to get it down in writing (in case something would happen to both of us at the same time) so the rest of the family would know our wishes. And, I suppose, it is time to discuss those wishes with our “children.” Maybe, with our avoidance tendencies, we could give them our written list of wishes. That would start an interesting discussion.

    Thanks for the information about Neptune Society. I will definitely check them out.

    And, your fear of what medical students do in “Gross Anatomy” class, in the cadaver lab, is justified. I’ve been there. And we won’t discuss it here.

    So, thanks for reminding us all of something we need to do, yet so often avoid.

    Have a great weekend, Joe. And hopefully those pearly gates won’t be swinging open any time soon. It is a weekend to be celebrating life.

    • Good morning, Steve. It seems as if great minds run in the same channels. I would definitely recommend telling your children your wishes now, just so that there is no misunderstanding about what you and Cindy want and how you want it.

      Thanks for the information about Gross Anatomy class. As I often tell my brother, “Told ya! Told ya!”

      Happy Easter to you and Cindy. I try to celebrate life every day, but this weekend, as you noted, is a special one.

  6. Joe, you tackled a touchy subject with grace and humor.

    Way back in 1978, my husband’s grandmother died at home with us. She’d endured the Great Depression, wasted nothing, and wanted no-frills cremation. The thought of burning up a $3000 casket horrified her. That’s how we first learned of Neptune b/c she’d made her arrangements with them. Glad to hear they’re still around.

    The way I want to go follows the lead of an author friend. She left money with her kids to throw a party for her friends at a nice restaurant. About 25 of us had a lovely dinner, reminisced about her, and laughed a lot. Then we took her ashes to the Whitefish River that flowed past her condo. Her daughter opened the urn and emptied them into the water just as a duck floated past, quacking. Not sure if the duck was welcoming her or she was sending us a message. Either way, it was the best sendoff I’ve ever seen.

    Excuse me now–I need to make up the guest list for my farewell dinner.

    • Thanks for sharing, Debbie. Neptune Society was relatively new in 1978. Your grandmother-in-law had great foresight.

      I like your author friend’s idea. I thought about that but decided that I didn’t want to plan a party that I wasn’t invited to. I love your story about the duck.

  7. My obligatory info for writers. Don’t forget your published writing in your will. Click on my name here, then click on the label “wills” on the right side of my blog for lots of fun legal info about dealing with that aspect of your life.

    When my mom died, one of her final caring gifts to the family was a huge folder filled with absolutely everything we would need to go forward with her cremation, memorial service, and the probating and closing of her estate. She had even written a rough draft of her obituary and the hymns and Bible verses she wanted at her service so we knew we were giving her the send off she wanted. People who attended said it was the most mom service they could imagine because it fit her so well. And it was.

    • Thank you, Marilynn. Neptune Society provided me with a similar folder to “get started,” if you will, with those “post-need” items as well as an online service to set up photos, recorded messages, memorials and the like. It’s a great idea no matter what medium is used.

  8. I was impressed with how the Neptune Society took care of both my ma and pa. So some years ago my wife and I signed on, with travel protection. My dad, who predeceased my mom, had put together a binder for us (my two brothers, me and Mom) explaining where everything was (accounts, etc.) and who to contact about what. It was so enormously helpful and comforting.

    Good to bring this up, Joe, as writers getting along on this journey need to get their ducks in a row. That includes an estate plan that provides for the transfer of intellectual as well as other property.

    • Thanks for mentioning intellectual property transfer, Jim! My wife and I are in the middle of our own estate planning as I type. Need to make sure that’s covered.

    • Thanks for sharing, Jim. It’s good to know that you and Mrs. Bell are fellow Neptune Society members.

      This may be false memory, but didn’t you or one of our fellow TKZers post several months ago about estate plans for authors? I tried to locate it to locate to my current post but couldn’t find it. If you have it handy (if it exists) please feel free to add it here. Thanks!

  9. Joe, this was a great take on a subject far too many of us put off for too long. I used to quote Lou Grant from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, in the classic episode where Mister Peanut is killed by a circus elephant and the staff is musing on death. Lou: “When my time comes, just put me out in the trash with my hat on.”

    Never failed to get a laugh from me, but in all seriousness, we need to plan for that point where we’ve slipped this mortal coil. My wife and I both want to be cremated. We’re currently in the middle of long overdue estate planning. Sounds like the perfect time to add this to the mix. Thanks for mentioning the Neptune Society, I’ll definitely check them out.

    Have a wonderful weekend, Joe, and hopefully it will be just the first of many, many more.

    • You’re welcome, Dale. Thanks for sharing that MTM line. In the past, my response to what I wanted post-need was always “Surprise me.” I’m glad I changed my mind.

      Hope it’s a long, long time before your pre-need becomes post. Thanks again.

  10. Ah, jeez, Joe, I hope you won’t need these arrangements for a long time to come. I’m losing too many friends these days. Don and I both made our wills, but haven’t decided on our final disposal. I’m leaning toward cremation and ashes scattered in the ocean. You were right to go to the Neptune Society. They promote no-frills funerals. Traditional burials are bad for the environment, too.

    • Thanks, Elaine. I mentioned a friend who had experience with Neptune Society. His parents’ cremains were scattered near the Golden Gate Bridge. He traverses it frequently and sees their final resting place far more often than if they were in cemetery plots.

      I hope that final day is a long way away for you and Don as well, Elaine. Thank you.

  11. Good information, Joe.

    Remembering my Mom, I’d add, prepare now just in case you fall prey to dementia.

    It was difficult for us, because she’d done nothing to prepare. When we moved her in with us for a time, I arranged a visit with an attorney. My husband, brother, and I had quite a time trying to get from Mom what she wanted. She was still partially cognitive-capable, but I do remember her saying quite forcefully at one point, “I don’t care what you have to do, or how much it will cost, you must keep me alive. Don’t ever pull the plug on me.”

    It took quite a bit to talk her down off that ledge… 🙁 Presently, I’m caring for Dad, but his arrangements are all made.

    So, as dementia runs rampant on my side of the family, my husband and I have already started the process.

    • Deb, thanks so much for sharing your experiences. That is painful to go through. Alzheimer’s runs on my paternal side and cancer is the culprit on my maternal side. I’m hoping to be shot by a jealous husband before either of those (or both) catch up with me but you can’t always plan those things.

      Bless you for taking care of your dad. Be well.

  12. I’m in India so if I don’t make it back to the U.S. to die I directed I wanted to be cremated and provided a stainless steel canister for the ashes to be kept in. I hope it’s big enough. I don’t know how much room I’ll need. I have the location of the grave as the cemetery told me I could be buried in the same cremation vault as my mother’s ashes. My dad had a regular burial nearby. I directed my daughter on what to do. One of my children will have to come here to collect my ashes. I gave my caregiver a letter. I prefer to go to the U.S. to die but I’m not sure I can. I was especially specific as I don’t want to be dumped in the dirty water of a river here. Hindus think of it differently.

    Since I won’t be around to see to things, it’ll probably be up to my daughter as my son doesn’t like to discuss death. My daughter is more realistic. My son reminds me of my dad who didn’t have anything arranged. I had to do everything the day after he died, on July 4th of all times. He did have insurance so I could pay for everything. I bought lots and let the funeral home do the rest. I’m 79 so there’s no time like the present for me. I don’t trust the people at the crematorium. People here sometimes get confused. You have to check everything. I may not have a man to handle things. They always tell me to have my “son” do things. A man with a loud voice is best. At least my daughter and caregiver are forceful women. Good piece, Joe.

    • Thank you, Suzanne, for your kind words and for sharing your personal experiences. It’s a reminder that all that we can control is what is in front of us but that we should control what we can. I hope that you don’t have to put your plans in place for a long time. Be well!

  13. I plan on living forever. If it doesn’t work out… I hope no one tells me.

    • Ed, that’s my plan as well! Everything else is a Plan B or Plan C. Just in case.

  14. Thanks for all this great info, Joe. I’ll have to see if the Neptune Society operates here in Canada. Or maybe there’s an equivalent… I do have a will made out, but need to inform people about where everything is. And since I’m not married, my two sons divide my estate equally. But what about my jewelry, original art pieces, etc.? Which sister gets which? Also, what happens to my blog, website, Facebook page, and Amazon author account? I really shouldn’t put off all those decisions. Get to it, Jodie! Thanks for spurning me to action! Hope we’re both (all) having this same discussion in our nineties! 🙂

    • Jodie, I don’t believe that Neptune Society has a Canadian branch. I do know that cremation is very popular in Canada, with something like 65% of people opting for it.
      I am not sure how Canadian law with respect to wills and the like but if you might want to decide who gets what of your individual pieces and give them away before you pass. That prevents problems afterwards. If you don’t do that I would suggest making a list of who gets what then consulting the attorney who helped you with your original will as to the best way to proceed.

      As to your online presence, I would give your password(s) to two people, a primary and a secondary, who will know when you pass and will shut things down, post notices of your passing, etc.

      As for having the same discussion in our nineties…why so soon?

  15. I’m old school on these things. There is no way to intellectually justify my thoughts on . . . final arrangements. But here they are:

    I’ve been burned in fires. I didn’t like it. My orders call for a box, a hole and a stone worth visiting. Fact is, cemeteries fascinate me, and I’d like to be part of future generations’ fascinations. We haven’t chosen our final real estate yet, but I know that I want it to look like a cemetery. I specifically don’t want it to look like a park or a golf course.

    Loved ones will grieve at my passing, but I want them to get over that hurdle quickly. When the lights go out on my stage, I have every confidence that the next stage of my personal voyage will be fascinating. If my last days will be painful (I hope not), I will be pain free. There will be generations of loved ones on the other side to welcome me home.

    In the Irish tradition, I want there to be a wake, and I have already stipulated that there will be an open bar. I’ve worked hard to squeeze every molecule of adventure and fun out of this run at life, and I look forward to many more years of doing so. Whoever speaks at my wake will carry the obligation of making people laugh. I want them to toast me along on my new journey and get on with living their own lives.

    And if anyone care to sip a wee dram at my tombstone, that’s fine. If not, that’s fine, too, because I’ll be off setting the table for all the other friends and family who one day, sooner or later, will be joining me.

    • John, it’s all good. It doesn’t have to be an intellectual decision or to be justified. It’s what you want and thus what you should have, right down to the drink over your grave. Just so long as they don’t pour it on you afterward.

      • There’s an old joke about Paddy and Sean as they discuss their final arrangements. Paddy says, “Sean, if I go first, I want you take a bottle of fine Irish whisky and pour it all over my grave as you say a prayer for me.”

        Sean replies, “Paddy, I’d be pleased and proud to do it. I swear to God I’ll do it. And if I might ask a wee favor in return.”

        “Anything,” Paddy replies. “Anything for an old friend.”

        “Ah, God love ya,” Sean says. “Do you mind awfully if it passes through me kidneys first?”

  16. Heartfelt piece, Joe. Thanks so much for opening up on this important topic and reminding folks to get their death ducks in a row. You never know when the Reaper comes calling.

    In my time as a coroner, I saw a lot of shenanigans go on in the funeral home business – I should probably write a post on this. Often, someone would die unexpectedly with no disposal plans and the family would ask me, as a merchant of death, to recommend a funeral home. We were under strict company policy never to refer a home or service type. If asked, we were supposed to hand them the Yellow Pages, which I’m not sure exists on paper anymore. There was one funeral home in particular that I so wanted to warn people about but, nope, mum had to be the word.

    I can’t sign off without telling you about my father-in law. This guy (and his name is Guy) is the ultimate prepper. He was a superb finishing carpenter in his day, and he handcrafted his own casket. The thing is a work of art, and it’ll be a shame to shovel dirt over it when the day comes. Guy not only has his heaven-shipping box on standby, he has his burial suit freshly dry cleaned and hanging up. He even visits his pre-paid plot every once in a while to make sure someone hasn’t claim jumped.

    • Garry, thanks for sharing your experiences and your description of Guy. Checking the pre-paid plot is a good idea, for sure. And by all means, I’d love to read a post by you about the funeral home business!

  17. While it may be a morbid topic, it is definitely necessary. After losing my third immediate family member in just over 7 years, back in 2013, I laid the groundwork for my own preparations. My immediate family all still live back east. I’m the black sheep that moved west, so, while I would not ordinarily choose cremation, I feel no need to have a casket burial because it is unrealistic to think that my resting place will be much visited, given the long miles between where we each call home. So that part is arranged and I have spoken with my family verbally, but I do need to take the step of putting all pertinent info together to provide to them for when it’s needed.

    But as I was reading this I was thinking I missed one thing. I want them to find someone to play a bluegrass banjo version of “Amazing Grace” at my service. Might as well make my exit listening to the happiest instrument on earth. 😎 😎 😎

    • I think you’ve got the bases covered here, BK. It probably isn’t practical in your situation to have an “in-ground” resting place. And yes, by all means, put what you want in writing so that there is no question about what you want. As for morbid…I’m finding that the older one is, the less morbid and more practical the discussion becomes.

      Re: A banjo version of Amazing Grace, here is Gospel Creek’s version:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlgV6Z7Mj1g

      For something really unusual, here is a version of Amazing Grace by Melissa Swingle played on a saw. It doesn’t get more bluegrass than this:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7fNBzIBhuo

      Good luck and be well.

  18. So the traditional funeral home tried to upsell you, eh? At least you were alive. Let me tell you what they do to your family if you’re dead.

    My dad had made it clear to any and all he me that he wanted to be cremated, no funeral. We planned on using a cremation society, although we found the Neptune Society’s pricing a bit on the high side. But my dad being my dad didn’t have the good sense to drop dead on a weekday during business hours. Nope, he had to keel over in the bedroom after midnight on a Saturday night. This was not on the day’s original plan, but what can ya do. First the police came out for their investigation. It took them a millisecond to determine neither myself nor my mother had done him in. Fine. Well…then you have a dead body lying in your house, and this is just not something you want to keep around. At the suggestion of the police we agreed to let them call a local Well Known Traditional Funeral Home who would come and collect the body at this inconvenient hour. It wasn’t a place that we would have chosen, but we had to go with the middle of the night pick up service. They even showed up in suits.

    So Monday they call us for an appointment. We show up. The salesman/funeral dude take us into a “special” room. Then the sales started. A price list was discretely displayed on the table. Fortunately I have an excellent poker playing history, or my eyes would have popped out of my head when I looked at it. After a few minutes of sales bs I made it clear that we were interested in nothing but a basic cremation, and I wasn’t paying the price they were asking as it was more than three times the cost as cremation at a society (around $5-600 at that time). He was taken aback. “Let me go talk to my manager.” Seriously. Like we were at a used car dealership. Once he was gone my mother and I quickly and quietly agreed on our course of action. He came back and made another offer. Not good enough. Another trip to the “manager”. They were not coming down to our level. I told him I had heard funeral homes played on people’s emotions, but that I wasn’t sentimental and his tactics weren’t working. We would pay for the transport on Saturday night, but we would not pay their cremation fee. As it was (is) legal in Washington state to transport a body we expected them to put my dad’s body in my car (a Saab with a really deep trunk and fold down seats) and we would leave and seek cremation services elsewhere. That sent him right back to his manager. It was several minutes before he made it back this time. He offered a final price of $800 for the late night transportation and cremation. I decided I could live with that.

    When we left my mother told me my father would have been proud of the way I handled that negotiation.

    Ever since that time I’ve regarded funeral homes with the same disdain I hold for boiler room telemarketers and Nigerian princes.

    • Thanks for sharing that enlightening story, catfriend. I loved how you told it.

      Upsell? I’ve heard of folks who were the subjects of an attempted upsell at the cemetery! Something about perpetual care, “perpetual” meaning that the survivors have to perpetually remind the cemetery to take care of the plot, including the wasp nest that annually formed under the arm of the statue of Christ.

      The worst was when my daughter’s dentist’s office attempted to upsell us into surgical removal of wisdom teeth when it wasn’t necessary. They said she would need to have it done sooner or later. I said I was an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” guy. We switched dentists after that. That was six years ago and she still has them, with no problem.

  19. I haven’t yet planned my farewell, although my younger brother, some years ago, sent me a detailed list of things he wants done (and evidently will want me to do, even though he has two adult kids) when his time comes. I can see the utility of such a thing, but it seems a little macabre to be planning one’s own funeral. I’m sure I’ll do it eventually, though.

    • Thanks for sharing, David. Certainly, there is somewhat of a macabre element to such planning, but on the other hand, it is a one-time inevitability that will have to be dealt with by someone. My particular goal was to let my children deal with my passing to whatever extent they need to without the extra burden of figuring out what to do with me and then having to deal with the expense of their choice. I also wanted to avoid any sort of death bed guilt trips (“Promise me that you’ll…”) that are an entirely separate issue. As I said, “Done. And done.” Thanks again.

  20. As a veteran I’m eligible to be buried in a national cemetery which I told my daughter and son-in-law to take full advantage of. I don’t care which cemetery either, just cremate me and have the celtic cross put on the (government supplied) tombstone. I’m practical, that way. I will be more specific with my funeral mass though. 🙂

    • Bridgit, Happy Easter and thank you for your service. My brother lives near Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery. I hope that you’ll consider it for your final resting place and that your daughter and son-in-law fulfill your every wish. Be well.

  21. Joe,
    This topic came to my mind again when last year my older sister preplanned her cremation. Unfortunately, she died on March 3rd after only six weeks of terminal cancer previously undetected. She was a strong lady who roller skated through age 80 and died at age 85.
    Her cremation and private burial next to her deceased husband went without a hitch.
    I have pre-planning on my hot to-do list.
    I have already done legal paperwork, will, etc. and I, too, plan to be cremated but have a service.
    Thanks for a great topic.

    • Frances, thank you for sharing. I am so sorry for your sudden loss. I want to be your sister when I grow up.

  22. I need to check the settings on my email for receiving these posts. I always seem to be a day late!
    A thousand thank yous, Joe, for tackling this subject AND mention of Neptune. Everyone should be aware of alternatives for standard, overpriced box-in-hole nonsense!! And those alternatives have grown by leaps & bounds in recent years. Everything from totally natural no-box, no-embalming burial to having your ashes made into bird treats (no joke!) Or diamonds (still no joke!)
    I’ve always planned for cremation, but recently I’ve looked into resomation. Also considered a Body Farm donation because I find them fascinating.
    If you’re interested in alternatives like this and a respectfully educational look at behind the scenes of body preparation, check out Caitlin Doughty’s YouTube blog, Ask a Mortician.
    A recent trip to Morocco had my partner and I updating wills and digging deeper into decisions about possessions, pets, house, my literary work, etc. I even left suggestions of local, trusted estate sale companies (we have a house full of antiques, ancient artifacts, and handmade articles that need an expert to properly handle. Ugh. And no children, so it would fall on elderly parents, siblings, and trusted friends! Double ugh.) That said, I love the idea of an entire binder. Gives me more room for all the nitty gritty like contact info, etc.
    The most important part is making sure that the responsible parties know it exists! I saw a poignant post online from a woman who found, years after the relative was deceased & buried, a bagged set of clothes with a note requesting it to be (the deceased’s) burial clothes! Well that clearly didn’t happen!

  23. Cyn, you are never late at TKZ because we never close! Thanks for sharing that story you saw online (Oh, the humanity!) and for commenting on resomation and the Body Farm. Resomation is legal in fifteen or so states, mine not included. I immediately wondered why not. It wouldn’t necessarily be my choice but I can see why folks might prefer it.

    Best wishes for you with your planning, Cyn!

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