16300 Mack Ave
Grosse Pointe Park, MI 48230
Phone: 313-881-8500
Fax: 313.881.7653

Making Prearrangements - Why Does It Feel Strange?

by Susan Cox

Many of the folks who have been in my office to prearrange their own funeral and final dispositions are in their 40s and 50s and 60s with no illness or other impending doom! But we also have lots of folks in the same situation in their 70s and 80s and 90s who come in to make their own arrangements, or their loved ones come in to make these decisions. I've even made prearrangements for a lady who was 103 years old.

It's not too late to make prearrangements so long as life remains. This is something that is never viewed as pleasant but, by far, most people feel a huge sense of relief once they have taken care of the decision making process. Getting their funeral director to answer the questions they have, and getting their choices and decisions on paper with their professiona, bring about a great sense of relief and even accomplishment for most folks.

On the other side of this are the families and loved ones who come in to make some arrangements just prior to the death of a loved one. This is very difficult, but it still is easier in the long run than having to make these decisions after a death has occured. At that point your emotions, and not your head, make many of your decisions.

Again, the down side of this is that if there are several decision-makers involved, all of these folks will have many DIFFERENT emotions going on and coming to a consensus is very difficult. My favorite analogy is this: A person dies. Their spouse has already died. Five children come in to make funeral arrangements for their "last" parent. Two of the children have moved away from the home town, and have been able to see Mom and Dad only a few times each year, usually on major holidays. Three of the children have remained around the home town. One or two of these children have been Mom's and Dad's caretakers. The remaining child has been around, but has not been actively involved with his or her parents' care.

These five people come in to make funeral arrangements. The two who have cared for Mom and Dad know they want a "nice" funeral for their parent, but not too expensive because their parents were always frugal. The two from out of town want the best for their parent, possibly making the statement, "This will be the last thing we can do for our parent." The remaining child understands that the less they spend on the funeral, the more there will be to divide five ways...

Here are three different perspectives from five equal "legal next of kins", all in different emotional phases of their grief. Someone wants to spend a lot of money; someone wants to spend as little money as possible. Someone wants to purchase like they THINK their parent would if he or she were there. Someone must compromise. This means that two-thirds of this family will be unpleased by the outcome. This is a funeral director's nightmare.

Unfortunately the funeral director and the funeral home are usually blamed for this unhappiness because you can't blame family members. If you do blame someone in the family, usually an irreparable rift among the family members forms. This is a no-win scenario for everyone. I have seen this happen...more than once.

I recently had a man, his wife, and his sister come in to prearrange their funerals or final dispositions. The man's wife was uncomfortable doing this, so told them about the scenario mentioned in the preceding paragraph of this article. They were all in their 40s, lived in another county, and had used another funeral firm for their parents' services. They said, "You had no way of knowing, but that is exactly what happened in our family...and there were five of us children."

Truth is stranger than fiction.

The best way to prearrange funeral arrangements, for yourself or a loved one, is to discuss it with your family and loved ones (remember, they may be uncomfortable with the discussion), then call your funeral professional, set an appointment for a beautiful day, if there's one available. Talk to your funeral professional. If you are not satisfied with the discussion there, call another firm and talk to another professional.

DO NOT SIGN A FUNERAL CONTRACT WITH ANY FUNERAL FIRM OR FUNERAL DIRECTOR UNTIL YOU ARE SATISFIED THAT THEY WILL FULFILL TO YOUR SATISFACTION YOUR WISHES AND THOSE OF YOUR FAMILY.

Again, ask your professional if you can make unfunded funeral prearrangements until you are sure that your decisions are going to stand; do this while you are healthy and feeling good about life. Remember, a funeral should be a celebration of the life of a very special person.


Susan Mitchell Cox has served as the managing funeral director of Alexander Funeral Service in Taylorsville since it's opening in 1996. She was the first woman in a ten-count area of northwestern North Carolina to be a licensed as a funeral director and embalmer. She was recently elected as the District 10 Director for NCFDA.