Creating a Great Funeral

Oct 29, 2009 | 0 comments

So, tomorrow is Create a Great Funeral Day. Have you made any plans? Would you even know where to start?

Most people don’t have a funeral plan. They don’t want to think about it, don’t know why it’s important, or think they’ll get around to it “someday.”

Newsflash: Just as talking about sex doesn’t make you pregnant, thinking about death and funerals won’t make you dead. And by discussing these touchy topics, you might avoid a world of hurt.

There are plenty of good reasons to have a funeral plan. You can shape your own bon voyage party – certainly your family isn’t going to feel like planning a party after you die. Yet funerals and memorial services have many of the same elements as a wedding – invitation list, clergy, transportation, flowers, etc. In addition, unless you’ve already planned, all the elements must be decided and pulled together in a couple of days, as opposed to months! Take that burden off of those who love you and make some plans.

And when you start making plans, you realize how much funerals cost — they can be as much as a wedding. The current average funeral cost range is $7,500 to $10,000, and that doesn’t include a burial plot. Planning ahead and shopping around before you need it allows you, the consumer, to get the best deal possible, manage those costs, and figure out how you’re going to pay for a funeral.

There’s news today that Walmart’s web site recently started carrying caskets, and has carried funeral items such as caskets, urns for people and pets, and sympathy flowers for years. The Federal Trade Commission has a rule that funeral homes must accept a casket from an outside source and not charge extra for it. I’ve comparison shopped for a simple pine box, from an area carpenter and a local funeral home – there was over a $500 difference. How will you know if you don’t look around?

So, here’s my funeral plan: I want a traditional Jewish funeral. No embalming for my body – it will be washed and dressed in white linen burial garments. This will be lovingly done by the Chevre Kadisha, a group of volunteers who ritually cleanse and prepare the bodies of Jews for burial. I’ll be buried in a simple wood coffin in a plot that my husband and I have already purchased in our synagogue’s cemetery. I’d like a funeral at our synagogue, followed by burial at the cemetery, then a nice luncheon at home.

At the funeral, I’d like my haftorah portion from my Bat Mitzvah read aloud: Isaiah 62. A few lines I like: “The nations shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name. You shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God…”

At home after the burial, I’d like the art I’ve created and the articles and books I’ve written to be on display.

I would hope that my husband would sit shiva for at least three days, a formal period of mourning when the family retreats into their home. Friends and family come to the house, bring food, say prayers, and console the mourners. It’s supposed to be held for a full seven days, but many Jews feel too busy these days to devote the time and allow themselves to be helped by their community.

Sitting shiva is a valuable ritual to follow, to make that transition after the shock of a death in the family, but that’s up to my husband – I won’t be around to make it happen. I’d do it if he died first. My husband did mention to me after his father died that he saw the value in a full week of retreat from the ordinary cares of the world, as we did not do it and we felt the strain.

So, what are your plans? If you’d like some help, check out the online planners at They’ve got some great information and resources.

A Good Goodbye