A Proper Burial
Recently, while reading the book of Ecclesiastes (Eccl. 6:3), the importance of a person having a proper burial was emphasized. That was the case in the days of King Solomon, and society still values “a proper burial” today. Proper, refers to one that is decent, appropriate, respectful, and or dignified.
The early Hebrews, Babylonians, and the Egyptians in Biblical times, believed in burial. A deceased person was placed on a bier (a stand for a corpse to lie in state and or to be carried to the burial site), washed, eyes closed, jaws shut, wrapped in cloth (with spices and perfumes) and delivered for burial within 24 hrs. The predominant opinion was that a person was entitled to the dignity of a proper burial in the ground or in a cave (tomb). So much so that it was disgraceful, a great degradation and shameful when not buried in such a manner. The Egyptians practiced a more elaborate and intricate process of preserving the body, placement in a case or coffin, with detailed funeral rites and burial. In these societies, a person that had dishonored his family or his people, did not receive a proper burial. They were left out in the elements to deteriorate, and to nature’s fate. The Greeks and Romans, believed in burning the body, as in cremation today. Their ashes were placed in urns and buried.
The phrase “a proper burial” should be expanded to a “proper final disposition”, as cremation is also a choice. Some people believe that cremation is an acceptable disposition, while others feel that it is disgraceful and should be the last resort. It is a matter of one’s philosophy, beliefs, and certainly a personal choice. Many choose cremation for financial reasons, as it is less costly than burial. Others do so because it is their family custom, or because they are not interested in the traditional service that is usually followed by a burial.
Thank God governments respect the right of every person to have a proper disposition today. If someone dies and has no family, but has sufficient assets, the county will appoint a local mortuary to not only bury, but to arrange a funeral service. A newspaper notice is sent out, a minister is called upon to give a eulogy, flowers and a casket are selected and a funeral service is held. Many times the only people in attendance are the funeral directors. If a person has no family and has very few assets, or has family who can not afford disposition, the county will cremate the body and place them in a common burial ground at no cost.
Therefore, family or no family, money or no money, and regardless of a person’s behavior, society today makes provisions for a proper disposition of the dead. Reverence for the departed and public health considerations prompt local governments to take timely action when a person dies, if no one else can or does.
In modern society, as in ancient times, a proper and decent burial or disposition is an appropriate expectation. How can you insure a proper burial? The answer to this question can be in found in the next “Funeralwise” article titled, “Insuring a Proper Burial.”
INSURING A PROPER BURIAL
Last month’s Funeralwise article entitled “A Proper Burial” discussed the reality that most individuals and societies recognize the importance of a person having “a proper burial” or “a proper final disposition” (to include the option of cremation). To be laid to rest in a respectable manner is a normal and reasonable expectation. However, it is not something that just automatically takes place. There is a process, procedures and costs involved. How can you insure a proper burial? You can do so by pre-planning your services and, those of your immediate family.
There are a number of circumstances that can threaten a proper final disposition, such as, inability to find insurance information and other important documents, indecisiveness, time delays, family conflicts, lack of money, etc... Thorough Pre-Need Funeral Planning can help you avoid these pitfalls. Pre-Need funeral planning involves:
1) Providing information that is needed for the official records at time of death, such as birthplace, birthdate, SS#, Veterans Service #, parents names, etc..
2) Making selections regarding: type of service, place of service, merchandise (such as the casket, vault, register book, urn, flowers, headstone, etc.), vehicles (limousines), programs, newspaper notices, type of interment, etc… and,
3) Identifying or establishing a means to pay for funeral services and interment (burial or cremation). This is last but not least, as having funds to pay for the service is the most important step in insuring a proper disposition. Without the money, it is difficult for families to proceed with any type of service.
There are costs associated with funeral services that are best taken care of in advance. Life insurance is one of the best methods of doing so. It is important to choose a life insurance policy that can be “assigned” to the mortuary. In this instance the insurance company pays the funeral costs directly to the mortuary and additional proceeds, if any, then are paid directly to the beneficiary. Selecting an adult beneficiary is important, as proceeds left to children are not always readily available at time of death. Selecting a primary and a contingent (or secondary) beneficiary is a good idea, in case the primary beneficiary dies before the insured person. These steps help avoid the proceeds going into your estate, and therefore not immediately available for funeral services. Most mortuaries offer excellent insurance plans that you can pay on monthly to cover the cost of funeral services.
Some people don’t believe in insurance and that is their prerogative. It is important then that they have enough money in the bank that their next-of-kin can access right away, once death occurs. The person designated should be a joint tenant on your bank account (one with at least enough to pay for your desired services and interment) and not just beneficiary, in order to have the immediate access to funds upon death.
There are substantial death benefits available to veterans and their spouses, but the veteran’s Discharge papers: the DD214 and Honorable Discharge Certificate are needed. It is best to locate them before death occurs. We have had instances where the family knew their loved one was a veteran, but the Veterans Administration could not verify this, and denied burial. This should not happen to a veteran who has served honorably, and can be avoided by securing the documents in advance.
Pre-need funeral planning addresses all of the above as well as other issues that can cause problems and delays in the services and interment of a loved one. Information, needed records and signatures are secured, important decisions and selections are made, and a means to pay for desired services is identified or established. A trained counselor assists you and all of the above is kept in a person’s pre-planning file at the mortuary. Copies are given to the appropriate family members also. You can insure a proper burial tomorrow by planning ahead today.
Gail Valentine Taylor, M.S.W.