Funerals, cremation, home funerals, green burial, memorial services


Planning for a funeral

Note: Federal law requires that funeral homes provide prices over the phone. If a funeral business offers you a package price, ask for a detailed breakdown--there may be services you will want to refuse. See • Planning for a funeral (advice from the Federal Trade Commission)
• The FTC Funeral Rule (Federal Trade Commission) "The Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), makes it possible for you to choose only those goods and services you want or need and to pay only for those you select, whether you are making arrangements when a death occurs or in advance." Further discussed: (1) You have the right to select only the goods and/​or services you want. (2) You cannot be charged for embalming unless you authorize it. (3) You don't need to buy a casket if you decide to cremate a loved one.
• What's the difference between a casket and a coffin? See Coffins, caskets and urns.
• Common Funeral Myths (Funeral Consumers Alliance)
• Funeral Planning Checklist (a list of all of the issues to consider when planning a funeral, from National Caregivers Library)
• Your rights as a funeral consumer, state by state (Funeral Consumers Alliance)
• Funeral Pricing Checklist (make copies of this page and check with several funeral homes to compare costs, recommends the Federal Trade Commission. This is part of Shopping for Funeral Services (Consumer information, FTC). See also Calculating the Actual Cost of a Funeral and Funeral Fees.
• U.S. Funerals Guides by State
• Executive Producing Your Own Goodbye ( Jane Condon, Modern Loss, 3-31-16) My father-in-law was a planner his entire life. The end was no exception. The funeral as a celebration of life.
• Funeral Insurance (Gail Rubin, A Good Good-bye). The pros and cons of "pre-need funeral insurance" sold through funeral homes (tying you to them) and "final expense insurance" (a small whole life policy that typically ranges from $3,000 to $50,000 in benefits), both of which are different from regular life insurance (which may not pay out when the money is needed). And what to beware of.
• Planning a Funeral: 8 Things Funeral Directors Want You to Know (Gail Rubin, Sixty + Me, 1-16-17) Rubin's motto: "Talking about sex won't make you pregnant, and talking about funerals won't make you dead. Start a conversation today!"
• Or establish a Payable-on-death bank account -- or "Totten Trust" (AllLaw).
• How not to suck at pre-paying for your funeral (Karin Price Mueller, Consumerist, 1-14-14) Thanks to Gail Rubin for the last three tips.
• Mortal remains (Thomas Lynch, Aeon, 1-25-13), an extract from The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care by Thomas G Long and Thomas Lynch. "‘Grief work’, as Geoffrey Gorer called it years ago, is not so much the brain’s to do as the body’s. Long, criticizing Jessica Mitford for being uneasy about having the body present for a farewell service, and identifies four elements essential to a good funeral: 1) the presence of the dead, 2) people to whom the death matters, 3) "some narrative, some effort towards an answer, however provisional, of those signature human questions about what death means for both the one who has died and those to whom it matters," and 4) "it must accomplish the disposition of the dead...getting the dead where they need to go."

• Types of Funerals
• Pre-Paid Funeral Plans: Buyer Beware (ElderLaw Answers, 5-1-14)
• Advantages and Disadvantages of PreNeed (Pre-Paid) Funeral and Burial Plans (National Care Planning Council, 9-24-09)
• Tract (William Carlos Williams' lovely poem about how to perform a funeral)
• R.I.P. Off (Barry Yeoman, in a piece that ran in AARP Magazine in 2008, on funeral-industry scandal that's fleecing thousands of Americans. Read this before buying any "pre-need funerals"--that is, pre-need contracts for funerals)
• Planning Your Own Funeral (Federal Trade Commission) Good advice about what you can do to be helpful to your survivors and where not to leave your instructions, but be wary about pre-paying for the funeral, for several reasons.
• What To Do When You Can't Afford a Funeral (Josh Slocum, Federal Consumers Alliance)
• Who Has the Right to Make Decisions About Your Funeral? (Funeral Consumers Alliance, state laws on personal preferences)
• My Funeral Choices (simple one-page worksheet, Caring Connections)
• • • 13+ Things A Funeral Director Won’t Tell You (Michelle Crouch, slideshow from Reader's Digest Magazine, June/​July 2011). The first of many excellent money-saving secrets provided: Don't pre-pay for your funeral; the firm can go out of business. Keep your money in a pay-on-death account at your bank. Another tip: Many funeral homes don't offer a refrigerated holding room because they want you to pay for the more expensive option: embalming.
• A Consumer's Guide To Arranging a Funeral (NY State Department of Health)\
• Funeral Consumers Alliance (protecting a consumer's right to choose a meaningful, dignified, affordable funeral--this nonprofit is not connected with the funeral industry). Learn state laws. Order Before I Go Funeral Planning Kit. Keep up to date on the FCA blog, The Daily Dirge
• Local affiliates of the Funeral Consumers Alliance
• Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death by Joshua Slocum and Lisa Carlson.
• The American Way of Death Revisited (an update on Jessica Mitford's classic, funny, unforgiving book about the funeral industry)
• Alternative Funerals (transcript of Morning Edition show, NPR, 3-10-98)
• Embalming -- what is it and is it required?. What are your rights as a consumer, and under what circumstances does it make sense? (ICCFA, from the funeral industry). You need it only if you have a public viewing of the body or plan to ship the body across state lines.
• Do It Yourself Funerals, transcript of a session of NPR's Morning Edition, The End of Life: Exploring Death in America (reporter Jacki Lyden interviewing George Foy, father of a deceased infant, Lisa Carlson, president of Funeral and Memorial Societies of America, Jan Berman, daughter of a woman who died of AIDS, Thomas Lynch, mortician, poet, and author)
• Funeral Music. Recommended selections, with links to music samples.
• My Dad Oversaw Sound for the Super Bowl. So the Audio at His Funeral Needed to Be Epic. (Michael Estrin, Narratively, 5-20-16) . . . and no one was going to stop us.
• The Good Funeral Guide blog (UK-based)
• FTC keeps Funeral Rule lapses buried: Plain Dealing (Sheryl Harris, The Plain Dealer, 9-8-12). Undercover investigators for the Federal Trade Commission found violations in twelve Cleveland-area funeral homes, but issued its fines in secrecy. Why protect funeral homes instead of the public?
• Straight answers to real questions about funerals (International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association)
• Funerary Rituals & the Funeral Industry, Michael Kearl's Guide to Thanatology, the Sociology of Death and Dying. Part of Kearl's Death Index. Pretty academic stuff.
• How to Plan a Funeral (Caroline Mayer, Next Avenue, 9-24-12). To avoid being pressured into unnecessary purchases, follow these steps
• Jewish funerals, burial, cremation, and mourning, and other interesting links (Kavod v' Nichum)
• A Good Goodbye (Gail Rubin's site, 'funeral planning for those who don't plan to die')
• Handbook for Mortals (full text online of consumer guide to end-of-life care by Joanne Lynn and Joan Harrold)
• The High Cost of Dying: Funerals, Burials Can Be Expensive by John S. DeMott (AARP Bulletin). There are lower-cost options, and ways to resist sales pressure.
• Letting Children Share in Grief (Catherine Saint Louis, NY Times, 9-19-12). New attitudes toward children and funerals--and grief camps, too.
• The Perfect Stranger's Guide to Funerals and Grieving Practices: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People's Religious Ceremonies by Stuart Matlins
• The High Cost of Dying: Funerals, Burials Can Be Expensive by John S. DeMott (AARP, reprinted in Funeral Alternativess). There are lower-cost options, and ways to resist sales pressure.
• Ask a Mortician (Michael Washburn, Univ. of Chicago Magazine, in Utne Reader, July/​Aug 2013). Mortician Caitlin Doughty, host of a popular YouTube channel called “Ask a Mortician,” is trying to help us to not be afraid of death and dying.
• Native American Funeral Traditions (Gail Rubin, A Good Goodbye, 7-7-10)
• Preparation of a Muslim's body for burial (IslamiCity)
• Poems and Readings for Funerals and Memorials, compiled by Luisa Moncada.
• Prayers, poems, and meditations on this website.
Tell all my mourners
To mourn in red --
Cause there ain't no sense
In my bein' dead.
~ Langston Hughes, "Wake"
• Dying: A Book of Comfort
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Veterans death, burial, and survivor benefits

The following sources vary in clarity, level of detail, and user-friendliness,
so check them all and let me know if you recommend something better.

• Veterans resources (Funeral home Money & King's useful page: Who is eligible? How do you apply? Reimbursement of burial expenses. Burial Flags. Burial in national VA cemeteries. Headstones and markers. Presidential memorial certificates.)
• Burial locations of veterans and their survivors, nationwide (Department of Veterans Affairs)
• Survivors and Dependents Benefits (Death After Active Service) (U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs) and a page to lead you to info particularly for benefits for a veteran, parent, spouse, or child
• Veterans' burial benefits. Many state veterans cemeteries provide free burial for veterans and often for veterans' spouses.
• Military Connections on Veteran Burial Benefits. Click on links for Military Funerals, Veteran Headstones or Marker, Presidential Memorial Certificate, and so on.
• Survivors' veteran burial benefits (click on button for whether service member died in service or after)
• Death Pension Benefits (for Widows,Widowers, and Dependent Children
• How to Claim Veterans Death Benefits
• Survivors and Dependents Benefits (Death After Active Service) (U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs) and a page to lead you to info particularly for benefits for a veteran, parent, spouse, or child
• Obtaining Military Records and Medals (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)
• Military Funeral Honors (U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs) "Honoring Those Who Served"
• Origin of the 21-Gun Salute and answers to other frequently asked questions (U.S. Army)
• Benefit brochures (on several topics, Veterans Benefits Administration)
• Pentagon Reorganizing How It Brings Home America's War Dead (Kelly McEvers, Morning Edition, NPR News Investigations, 3-31-04) Listen to story or read transcript.
• Grave Science (Kelly McEvers, NPR, and Megan McCloskey, ProPublica, on NPR 3-6-14). The U.S. military's effort to recover and bring home the remains of its service members who were missing in action is slow, inefficient, and stymied by outdated methods.
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Farewells to veterans


• This WWII homeless veteran had no family. So 200 strangers showed up for her funeral. (Colby Itkowitz, WaPo, 6-10-16)
• A WWII vet’s body lay unclaimed at the morgue. Then neighbors did something beautiful. (Steve Hendrix, WaPo, 4-8-16)
• After seven decades, a missing World War II soldier’s remains are buried in Virginia (John Woodrow Cox, WaPo, 10-3-14)
• Fallen Soldier on My Delta Flight (Johnny Jet, 2013)
• The Story of TAPS
• Veteran’s funeral: ‘Doesn’t matter what war or who it is. It’s family.’ (Sara Wagner, Wane.com, 12-17-15)
• In Flanders Fields (Wikipedia)
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Funerals and other ceremonies for the dead,
including memorial services

• Take Me Out to the Ballgame. "This week I attended the funeral of a man I did not know well but had worked with and admired. It was the funeral we all would like to have, a tribute to a long life well lived and well loved. The speakers were his four children, each with wonderful stories of his and her own particular and individual relationship with him. The last daughter said that he sang her to sleep every night with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and that his favorite food was chocolate chip cookies and milk. So at the end of the service we all sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and then as we left there were platters of chocolate chip cookies for each of us to enjoy in his memory." ~Nell Minow, on Facebook, June 2014 (reprinted by permission)
• Drinking with the Dead (Garrett McGrath, Narratively, 7-4-13) In a rollicking pub on the edge of the Bronx, an Irish-American enclave clings tight to the tradition of celebrating, rather than mourning, their dead. “Why would I want anyone being sad at my wake?”
• Directing Your Final Exit: Lessons from Nora Ephron about Death and Dying (Susan Soper, Legacy.com blog, 7-23-12). And here's a Huffington Post story (with photos) about Nora Ephron's funeral
“They say such nice things about people at their funerals that it makes me sad to realize that I'm going to miss mine by just a few days.”
― Garrison Keillor, Good Poems for Hard Times
• Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully - A Journey with Cancer and Beyond by Nancy Manahan and Becky Bohan (how Diane Manahan chose to live life fully at the end and die at home)
• How secular Americans are reshaping funeral rituals (Simon Davis, The Gazette, 12-17-15) "With the notable exception of Eastern Orthodox churches, most Christian denominations no longer actively oppose cremation. Reform Judaism also permits it. Islam prohibits cremation but mandates burial without a casket. Buddhist and Hindu traditions have long encouraged cremation....even for religious families, it can be seamlessly incorporated into centuries-old traditions....'When a family chooses cremation, it’s (just) an extra step. You’ve got the Mass, you’ve got the wake, you go to the cemetery … but first we go to the crematory.'”
• When Your Loved One’s Last Wish Was ‘No Funeral’ (Tr้ Miller Rodrํguez, Modern Loss, 9-3-15)
• And at the End, All the Comforts of the Carlyle (Corey Kilgannon, New York Times, 10-21-08, writing about a memorial service that "was a sophisticated, poignant and kick-up-your-heels affair, almost like something out of a Cole Porter song")
• A Final Journey With Mom (Joe Hakes, Newsweek, My Turn, 11/​10/​07) When it was time to scatter her ashes, I was able to remember her all over again.
• Funerals remain a segregated business in the South. "Helpful Hands on Life's Last Segregated Journey" by Kim Severson (NY Times, 6-23-12). Severson interviews Charles Menendez on the art of embalming and the art of handling different types of grief. "If Sunday remains the most segregated day in the South, funerals remain the most segregated business," writes Severson. "In the same way that generations of tradition dictate the churches people attend, the races tend to bury their own."
• Celebrating the History of African-American Funeral Traditions (Gail Rubin, A Good Goodbye, 2-1-17) Fascinating history as told by funeral director and funeral home owner Allen Dave.
• In South L.A., professional pallbearers have an uplifting touch (Nita Lelyveld, Los Angeles Times 6-2-14). Look at that photo. "Cars stopped. A crowd gathered. All the neighbors came out. The man who died had not been rich, but who would know?"
• Taking Chance Home (Marine Lieutenant Colonel Strobl's simple and moving account of escorting the remains of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps home from Dover Air Force Base). You can watch HBO's film based on the story, Taking Chance, starring Kevin Bacon. Or check out the Chance Phelps Foundation.
• Nudity, profanity, and music energize Roger Ebert’s raucous Chicago memorial (Nathan Rabin, A.V. Club, 4-15-13) "Death has a way of washing away sins and transforming people into paper saints. But the joyous memorial for Roger Ebert at the Chicago Theatre last Thursday night was a celebration of an unabashed sinner, a man of rapacious appetites and a lust for life that carried him through years of intense trauma."
• Living by a Creed: Death Be Not Ugly; Harlem Undertaker Softens Grief By Taking Great Care in His Work (Alan Feuer, NY Times, 1-2-03) The most artful undertaker in Harlem is a sweet-natured, God-fearing, gospel-singing man named the Rev. Isaiah Owens, whose funeral home on Lenox Avenue and 121st Street boasts the slogan, ''Where beauty softens your grief.''
• The Undertaking (PBS Frontline program featuring Thomas Lynch, funeral director in a small Michigan town, documenting funeral arrangements and families' reactions to grief), watch online, buy the DVD, or read the transcript. You can also read the online chat with producers Miri Navasky and Karen O'Connor (Washington Post, 10-31-07)
• Funeral & Burial Rituals From Around The World (Everplans)
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Coffins, caskets, and urns


• Caskets--How to Save on Them (Funeral Consumers Alliance)
• By federal law, funeral homes must allow you to provide your own casket and may not charge fees for doing so. You can buy caskets or coffins from the funeral home, or you can buy them directly from the manufacturer or from discount stores such as Costco and Walmart (enter "casket" in the search window on their website, for more choices). You can get advice and a price sheet for various casket models from wholesalers and at least the four following online direct sellers:
---Best Price Caskets at www.bestpricecaskets.com (call 1-888-474-5061)
---Casket-Online.com at www.casket-online.com (call 1-800-300-1655)
---Funeral Casket Society at www.casketsite.com (call 1-888-222-5955)
---PeninsularCasket.com at www.peninsularcasket.com (call 1-800-833-4551)
Most high-end funeral homes have huge mark-ups (300 to 500 percent and more of wholesale price, according to Washington Consumer Checkbook.
• If a lower-cost casket is not on display in the funeral home showroom, ask to see one. You can also rent a casket for the funeral, to house a less expensive container that is used for burial or cremation.
• Do not pay extra for a "protective" casket with rubber gaskets. (Here's why, from 13+ Things A Funeral Director Won’t Tell You (Michelle
Crouch, Reader's Digest, 6-2011)
• Are caskets and coffins the same?. According to Norayne L. McCreery, they're used for the same purpose, but a coffin is constructed with six sides and a top and bottom, and a casket is four-sided, with a top and bottom. (The illustration makes it clear.) Caskets are fairly standard at U.S. funerals.
• All you need to know about caskets (Funeral Help, a site with many helpful pages of consumer advice on how to shop for funeral services and products, including a cemetery plot)
• A Word About Burial Liners (by gravedigger Paul G. Huffman, Funeral Consumers Alliance 11-26-07). Cemeteries (not state or federal law) require burial container to protect the casket but mostly to prevent collapsing caskets and cemetery lawn. Choices include burial liners, lawn crypts and vaults.
• How To Choose The Right Outer Burial Container: Burial Vaults and Grave Liners (Everplans). "Burial vaults and grave liners are used to support the soil around the casket and ensure that the soil above and around the casket will not collapse, which ultimately serves to minimize cemetery maintenance and keep the cemetery grounds looking nice." Includes practical tips.
• Bones, Bugs, and Batesville (Lisa Carlson, FAMSA, posted by Funeral Consumers Alliance). This "study merely verified what any cemeterian and most funeral directors already know: Embalmed or not, dead bodies decompose to one degree or another. And a sealed casket creates a smelly stew."
• Do-it-yourself or pre-need coffins from the oddly named Outhouse Charlie's Tradin' Post ((here's a story about them in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer). Check out also MHP Casket Kits. The Sandler casket kit, also from MHP; casket plans from Casket Furniture. Some of these are designer for pre-need use--for example, as a storage box or a coffee table. Can someone who has actually built their own casket or coffin tell me about the experience, and where you got your plans, kit, etc., and if you recommend the process and the source?
• Bios Urn (the first biodegradable urn designed to convert you into a tree after you die).
• Greener Funeral products (eco-friendly caskets, biodegradable urns, burial shrouds)
• Funeria ( beautiful handcrafted containers for ashes)
• Kent Caskets, simple pine caskets, biodegradable, designed for natural green burials and cremations and for Orthodox Jewish burials
• Natural Burial Company, in its Good Funeral Store offers a range of products that may make you smile, from bamboo pet coffins and dog-bone urns to shrouds and an interesting array of human coffins
• Paws Rest Premium Pet Casket
• Cremation urns for pets
• Bamboo, rattan, seagrass, and banana leaf coffins and caskets (Final Footprint)
• Find a provider search page (Green Burial Council, listing various sources of biodegradable caskets and urns)
• Renaissance Urn Company
• Trappist caskets and urns . Handmade caskets and urns, from the monks of New Melleray
• Military (Army) cremation urn, from Custom Urns R Us
• Rosewood cremation urn
• Brass urn with mother of pearl (for humans or pets)
• Star Legacy Mediterranean Mystic Urn (blue with pewter finish)
SOME ALTERNATIVES:
• LifeGem (creates diamonds from locks of hair or cremated remains)
• Eternal Reefs (replaces cremation urns and ash scattering with a permanent environmental living legacy)
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Cemeteries, gravesites, headstones, and memorials

• Cemetery & Burial Q&A for Consumers (International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association, ICCFA)
• Consumer’s Guide to Cemetery Purchases (Funeral Consumers Alliance)
• A Cemetery Plot With a View (Annie Groer, First Person, Washingtonian, July 2013). "My father bought graves for the family, but now his kids have other plans. It’s up to me to deal with the 'interment rights'—and the memories."
• The Definitive Guide to Choosing a Headstone (Headstone Guide, UK) Types of headstones: Upright, flat, kerbed (UK); materials (granite, limestone, bronze), finishes, designs, contours and moulding, inscriptions).
• Kerbed Memorials (a new-to-me concept from a UK organization, The co-operative funeralcare)
• For Families Struggling to Pay Bills, A Cemetery Plot Becomes an Asset to Sell (Brigid Schulte, Washington Post, 8-18-09)
• A Year Gardening the Grave of a Stranger (Sydney Schaedel, Atlas Obscura, 7-6-17) At Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia, green-thumbed volunteers participate in a unique program. It’s a creative outlet for city dwellers who may not have space for a garden at home, and it brightens up the cemetery.
• The Persistent Racism of America's Cemeteries (Jennifer Young, Atlas Obscura, 9-7-16) Not only is segregation still an issue but also America risks losing important history in its forgotten graveyards.
• A common man’s labor of love: A mini-Taj Mahal for his beloved wife (Lindsey Bever, Wash Post, 8-21-15) “I will build a tomb that everybody will remember,” he said. The tomb has become known as a “mini Taj Mahal” and he plans to be buried in it, too.
• Creative Ways to Donate in Memory of Loved Ones (Florence Isaacs, Legacy Connect, 1-20-12) Q. I want to set up a lasting memorial to my late husband, but my funds are limited. Can you suggest some affordable options? How do I get started? Florence Isaacs: Two possibilities are a scholarship in his name at a school he attended or a memorial award to go to a deserving member of his professional organization. Parks and recreation areas present other opportunities. In New York, the Central Park Conservancy’s “Adopt-a-Bench” program maintains and endows care of the benches in Central Park. An online search will turn up other sources for memorial benches, from wood to granite.
• Paw Print Pet Memorial Stone (and you can scroll down and see variations on the theme)
• Inside the funeral industry: Northampton man’s ashes reclaimed from common grave (Dan Crowley, Gazettenet, 3-28-15) When Northampton native Paul W. Swift died in March 2009, his ashes were held in safe-keeping by the former Pease and Gay Funeral Home to be interred along with his wife’s in a Northampton cemetery when she died. After learning that the funeral home was sold last fall, Swift’s children discovered that their father’s remains had been buried in a vault with other unclaimed ashes. A cautionary tale.
• 10 Celebrity Tombstones Worth a Laugh (Mental Floss) I like what's on Rodney Dangerfield's: "There goes the neighborhood."
• Selling the Family Plot: Where Real Estate Is Hot (Anne Marie Chaker, WSJ, 9-24-09). In 2009, when the economy was down, cemetery plot real estate brokers were busy family plots, some of which had been in the families for years.
• Finding a cemetery plot (Everplans)
• Internet sites that advertise and broker re-sales of cemetery plots and sites include Cemetery Registry , Grave Solutions, Plot Brokers, and Plot Exchange.
• 'Living headstones' use technology to honor the dead (Susan Gilmore, Seattle Times 7-31-11).A Seattle monument maker affixes a small QR or "quick-response" code (like a bar code, but square) to the tombstone. A smartphone with the right application lets visitors read the person's life history online.
• High-tech headstones speak from beyond the grave. They use QR codes to link to photos and videos of the dearly departed. (Jeff Strickler, Minneapolis Star Tribute, 7-14-12)
• Andy Warhol still doing the unusual (a collaborative project of the Andy Warhol Museum and EarthCam: Figment, a live feed of Warhol’s gravesite)
• Technology Brings Digital Memories to Grave Sites (Bellamy Pailthorp, NPR's All Things Considered, 5-30-11--listen or read). A Seattle company is adding "quick-read" codes to gravestones, allowing cemetery visitors to connect with the dead's life stories.
• Dead Stop . National Public Radio visits strange, funny, historic and notable gravesites and cemeteries across America in this quirky series you can listen to online.
• Deep Grief: Creating Meaning From Mourning (Linton Weeks, NPR, 2-9-10). Some parents in deep grief are creating memorials that celebrate the child's spirit in meaningful ways.
• Lot exchange program (ICCFA)
• Photogallery of cemetery symbolism (About.com)
• Green Cemeteries in the US & Canada
• Celebrating Cemeteries (blog posts on DigitalDying website)

BOOKS ABOUT CEMETERIES
• The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History (Creating the North American Landscape) by David Charles Sloane
• The American Resting Place: 400 Years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds by Marilyn and Reid Yalom. A history of America as seen through its gravestones, graveyards, and burial practices.
• Your Guide to Cemetery Research by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack (useful but slightly outdated)
• Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography by photographer Douglas Keister
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Online memorials and high-tech headstones


As I understand it, a customized, scannable code is placed on a tomb, urn, or monument, which people can scan with a smartphone to call up material on an online memorial site for the deceased.
• The AIDS Memorial at The Body
• Bridges to the Past
• Eternal Flames
• Find a Grave (not quite the same thing, but very useful)
• Forever Missed
• iLasting
• Imorial (create a free online memorial)
• In Loving Memory (for Irish families)
• Last-Memories.com
• Legacy.com (Where Life Stories Live On)
• Making Everlasting Memories (MeM
• Memories for Eternity
• Much Loved
• Never Gone
• Qeepr (Qeeping Memories Alive)
• Remembered.com
• Remember in Peace
• Tributes.com
• Valley of Life
• The Virtual Memorial Garden
• Virtual Memorials
• The Virtual Wall (Vietnam Veterans Memorial)
• The World Wide Cemetery
• Your Tribute
• How To Make an Online Memorial for a Departed Loved One (Jim t. Miller, HuffPost, 6-6-14)

• Our Top Six Online Memorial Websites (Stefani Twyford, Legacy Multimedia, with some comments about users' experiences)
• The Top 10 Online Memorials (Everplans, with comments)
• SafeBeyond ("your digital time capsule"). See Digital Messages for Loved Ones From Beyond the Grave (Paul Sullivan, Wealth Matters, NY Times, 10-23-15) Digital services like SafeBeyond are relatively new" and "they could become problematic to heirs if not used correctly, lawyers and planners said. And the nature of SafeBeyond and similar services — online and private except to those explicitly given access — also raises broader issues about digital assets in an estate." (SafeBeyond "keeps written and video wishes safe and private until its users are gone or until a set time. SafeBeyond, which likens itself to Dropbox for the hereafter, is one of several similar cloud-based systems." Sharon Klein, managing director of family office services and wealth strategies at Wilmington Trust, says that with " digital assets, who is entitled to have access is a big issue." Mr. Zur, SafeBeyond's founder, calls it "emotional life insurance," but adds that "people need to designate a trustee for what they record or write and store in SafeBeyond. That person will have the responsibility of tracking down family and friends whose email addresses and phone numbers may have changed by the time they are supposed to receive the messages."
• 'Living headstones' use technology to honor the dead (Susan Gilmore, Seattle Times 7-31-11).A Seattle monument maker affixes a small QR or "quick-response" code (like a bar code, but square) to the tombstone. A smartphone with the right application lets visitors read the person's life history online.
• High-tech headstones speak from beyond the grave. They use QR codes to link to photos and videos of the dearly departed. (Jeff Strickler, Minneapolis Star Tribute, 7-14-12)
• Technology Brings Digital Memories to Grave Sites (Bellamy Pailthorp, NPR's All Things Considered, 5-30-11--listen or read). A Seattle company is adding "quick-read" codes to gravestones, allowing cemetery visitors to connect with the dead's life stories.
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Cremation and crematories

• Cremation, Consumer Resource Guide (International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, ICCFA, an industry group)
• Cremation Explained, Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (Funeral Consumers Alliance, a consumers advocacy group)
• Understanding cremation laws and how they affect arranging a cremation (U.S. Funerals Online)
• How to package and ship cremated remains (U.S. Post Office)
• The 9 Things No One Tells You About Scattering Ashes (Tr้ Miller Rodrํguez, Modern Loss, 5-2-14)
• Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. A young mortician take us behind the scenes in a crematorium.
• Celebrating Life: How to Create Meaningful Memorial Services, with Templates and Tips (download free ebook by Gail Rubin)
• Hail and Farewell: Cremation Ceremonies, Templates and Tips by Gail Rubin and Susan Fraser
• How to Fly with Cremated Remains (Gail Rubin, A Good Goodbye, 6-15-15)
• Jewish views on burial and cremation (and other interesting links)
• Round Trip to the Crematory (Len Finegold,Funeral Consumers Alliance of Greater Philadelphia). Report on an informal information-sharing tour.
• How to inspect a crematory for above-board operation (Funeral Consumers Alliance)
• Religious views on cremation (Wikipedia, on views in various religions)
• How to Mail Cremated Remains (Gail Rubin, A Good Goodbye, 5-21-15) Did you know the U.S. Postal Service ( USPS Priority Mail Expressฎ Service) offers the only legal method of shipping cremated remains domestically or internationally? FedEx won’t do it, nor will the United Parcel Service.
See also Coffins, Caskets, and Urns
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Helpful death- and burial-related organizations


• Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC, The Thanatology Association)
• Ask a Mortician, in which you'll find Caitlin Doughty's answers to such questions as Do Corpses Poop? and addresses issues such as Least Expensive Death Option and Are Those Really My Mother's Ashes?. See especially: Death Positive (Order of the Good Death) Twitter: www.twitter.com/​thegooddeath. Facebook: www.facebook.com/​orderofthegooddeath. See also her TED talk: The Corpses That Changed My Life.
• Burial Societies in the New York Metropolitan Area (Jewish Genealogical Society)
• Catholic Burial Society: Frequently Asked Questions (Catholic Burial Society)
• The Center for Complicated Grief "Grief is a form of love."
• 'Dead Meet' Is a Dating Site for People Who Work in the Death Industries (Hayley Campbell, Vice, 10-28-14)
• Digital Dying (Funeralwise blog and website) with both serious articles and Coffin Corner (funeral humor)
• Green Burial Council
• Final Salute (a nonprofit group for homeless female veterans)
• Funeral Consumers Alliance (see its FAQs). Very important consumer-oriented watchdog group, which keeps the funeral industry a LITTLE honest.
• International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA)
• Green Burial Council
• International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA)
• Jewish Burial Societies (transcript, Jon Kalish, All Things Considered, NPR, 1998. Kalish reports on Jewish burial societies known as Chevra Kadisha which perform ritual purification for observant Jews who have died.
• Jewish Cemeteries in the New York Metro Area
• Midwest Green Burial Society
• National Home Funeral Alliance
• National Home Funeral Alliance
• Natural Burial Alliance
• Natural Death Centre (UK)
• Natural Death Care Centre (Australia)
• Patriot Guard Riders (motorcycle enthusiasts who attend funerals to honor fallen US military personnel)
• Romano-British burial traditions (Wayback Machine, chapter from a book of history)

• Homegoings (PBS documentary, an up-close look at the rarely seen world of undertaking in the black community)
• Dying in America: A Chronology (A Family Undertaking, POV, scheduled for August 3, 2004)
• Discussions About Death (POV, in association with A Family Undertaking) center>[Back to Top]


Organ, tissue, and whole-body donation

Imagine what you could make possible.

• Organ donation and transplants (MedlinePlus, NIH and National Library of Medicine)
• Basic information about organ and tissue donation (Organdonor.gov, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services). This site is full of answers to common questions.
• Organ donor registries (by state) (Organdonor.gov)
• Organ transplantation: the process (Organdonor.gov, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services)
• Organ donation: Don't let these myths confuse you (Mayo Clinic Staff) Unsure about donating organs for transplant? Don't let misinformation keep you from saving lives.
• Donating a body to science (whole body donation in the U.S.)
• In death, a promise for the future.As her world diminished, Elizabeth Uyehara signed her body over to researchers to help unravel the mystery of Lou Gehrig's disease. (Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times, 8-28-10, on the course of Uyehara's ALS and on what happens when organs are donated for science)
• Medical schools by state, for body donations (Lisa Carlson, Final Rights)
• Why Do Hospitals Want to Hold on to Dead Bodies? (Lisa Carlson, Final Rights). Out of ignorance, sounds like.
• Frequently Asked Questions About Full Body Donation (BioGift)
• Why donate a body to science? (BioGift)
• Facts about organ donation (New York Organ Donor Network). See especially Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
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Cryogenics (being frozen for later revival)


• Cryogenics (Wikipedia, which on this topic is at the top of search engines searches) Many encyclopedia entries online also.
• Cryogenics for English Majors (Magnet Academy, Science Plain & Simple)
• Cryogenics: Low temperatures, high performance (CERN--the European Council for Nuclear Research) CERN's main area of research is particle physics – the study of the fundamental constituents of matter and the forces acting between them.
• Frozen Dead Guy Days (FDGD) Grandpa Bredo Morstol is frozen in a state of suspended animation, in a Tuff Shed in the hills above Nederland, Colorado, awaiting the big thaw. The one that will bring him back to life. A quirky annual festival is held to celebrate frozen for three days each March. More than 20,000 people attending in 2017. Gail Rubin has posted a few stories about this festival on A Good Goodbye.
• Cryogenics (cartoon by XKGD
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Keeping a lid on funeral and related (or alternative) costs


• You Could Pay Thousands Less For A Funeral Just By Crossing The Street (Robert Benincasa, All Things Considered, NPR, 2-7-17, part 1 of a series). Listen or read the transcript. See also Part 2: Despite Decades-Old Law, Funeral Prices Are Still Unclear (2-8-17). Listen or read the transcript. Two items of special interest: When a funeral parlor offers two different levels of cremation service, know this: the body gets cremated in the same place. And this: "In the sales materials SCI gives customers, the company says buying a package will save them money. But the company tells its investors a different story. At a conference in 2015, the company said that consumers who buy a package, as opposed to services a la carte, pay an extra $1,900 on average." SCI is Service Corporation International, which "claims 16 percent of the $19 billion North American death-care market." "It also offers cremations for much lower prices at storefront outlets under other brands such as Neptune Society and National Cremation Society. But here's the thing. The company performs all the cremations identically and in the same place, its large crematory at 517 Park Street."
• A Comparison Guide: Burial, Cremations and Donation (ScienceCare). Call toll-free: 1.800.417.3747.
• State Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) (ScienceCare)
• How Much Does the Average Funeral Cost? (Parting.com) Funeral prices, like everything else, have increased with inflation. Today, the average North American traditional funeral costs between $7,000 and $10,000. This price range includes the services at the funeral home, burial in a cemetery, and the installation of a headstone.
Caskets vary widely in style and price and are sold primarily for their visual appeal. Typically, they're constructed of metal, wood, fiberboard, fiberglass or plastic. Although an average casket costs slightly more than $2,000, some mahogany, bronze or copper caskets sell for as much as $10,000.
Here is an average price breakdown of some of those typical costs (and I applaud Will Chang for the months of digging this took, with great resistance from the funeral industry):
casket - $2,300
funeral director’s basic services fee - $1,500
embalming and body preparation - $600
funeral ceremony and viewing - $1,000
miscellaneous (hearse, death certificates, obituary, etc.) - $600
grave space - $1,000
cost to dig the grave (sometimes called the open/​close fee) - $1,000
headstone - $2,000
grave marker - $1,000
This article also links to costs in specific cities (providing average $$ figures for specific funeral homes).
• Funeral costs and pricing checklist (Consumer information, Federal Trade Commission). Print out their checklist, and fill in the blanks for all funeral homes you get prices from.
• Economics of the Funeral Industry (PBS, Homegoings, 6-24-13) A few tips (and check out sidebars along left side):
A casket that sells for $1295 at a funeral home will typically wholesale for about $325.
The average rental rate for a hardwood casket for a day long viewing is $1000.
Sealed caskets cost hundreds of dollars more than unsealed caskets, but only cost a minimal amount more to manufacture.
Costco has started offering some low cost options ($924-$2999), and some places offer online coffins kits for approximately $600.
41% of Americans choose cremation.
• 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Funeral Director (Barbara Kate Repa, Caring.com, updated 11-29-16) 1. What Alternatives Are Available for Disposing of the Body? 2. Can I See a Price List Before Making Any Decisions? 3. What Are the Basic Costs Involved? etc., including 9. Are You Locally or Nationally Owned? (Locally owned won't typically have as high markups.)
• How to Avoid High Funeral Costs: 5 Common Funeral Traps and How to Avoid Them (Barbara Kate Repa, Caring.com) Trap 1: Purchasing packages. Trap 2: Buying a costly casket or container. Trap 3: Preventing decomposition. ("Embalming, caskets, and grave liners or burial vaults are sometimes assumed or pushed as ways to preserve a body. In reality, they don't work that way.") Trap 4: Prepaying without precaution. Trap 5: Embalming at all costs. (Read the article for the "how to avoid" part!)
• The High Cost of Funerals: Families Forced to Cut Back (Alanna Nash, The Fiscal Times, 6-25-10) "Today’s median cost [this was 2010] of a full-service funeral — embalming, casket, vault, public viewing, ceremony, hearses — is nearly $7,400. But with expenses of another $2,000 or more at the cemetery (for the plot and the grave digging), the total is approaching $10,000 — plus any monument or marker. “In America, we’ve internalized the notion that the more we spend, the more we love," says Joshua Slocum, executive director of Funeral Consumers Alliance. "The dead are still just as dead as they were before — and you’re still going to miss them just as much.” Not putting yourself out of house and home to bury Grandma doesn't mean you don't love Grandma.
• Save Money on Funeral Costs by Making Arrangements at a Low-Priced Funeral Home and Cemetery (Parting, 1-20-17) Many people don’t realize that prices can vary greatly between funeral homes. This is why you should NOT automatically use the same funeral home you have used in the past UNTIL you check to see if they have SINCE become part of one of the big funeral corporations – as so many have!

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Green Funerals
See also Home funerals and family-directed funerals

Green Funerals Are Nothing New"There are about 20 'green' cemeteries in America right now, essentially open fields," writes John S. DeMott, in The High Cost of Dying: Funerals, Burials Can Be Expensive (AARP Bulletin). "Markers are made from local rock, and some families dispense with them in favor of GPS coordinates. "Joshua Slocum of the Funeral Consumers Alliance says there’s nothing really new about 'green' funerals except calling them that. 'It’s the oldest, most traditional form of burial,' he says. 'A simple burial in a simple wood box without chemicals or a concrete vault. Jews and Muslims have practiced it for thousands of years.'"
• A Greener Funeral, ways in which you can leave a lighter footprint on this earth by selecting a greener funeral, with links to products, processes, providers (funeral parlors committed to greener funeral care), greener cemeteries, and so on.
• Caring for Your Own Dead (Ann Kreilkamp's interview with Jerrigrace Lyons, founder and director of Final Passages, whose aim is "to re-introduce home and family-directed funerals as a part of family life and as a way to de-institutionalize death, by educating and assisting dignified and compassionate alternatives to conventional funeral practices."
• Plan Your Own Green Death With This Progressive Funeral Parlor (Sandi Hemmerlein, Atlas Obscura, 10-19-15) 'Proprietors Caitlin Doughty and Amber Carvaly have set up shop in Los Angeles to take a “back to basics” approach to death and dying. You could say they’re putting the “home” back in funeral homes by offering options that return control of the dying process to those who are actually dying and care of the dead body to the family of the deceased.' On the same duo and process: Our Bodies, Ourselves (Rebecca Mead, New Yorker, 11-30-15). A funeral director wants to bring death back home. You can find them at Undertaking LA and at The Order of the Good Death.
• A Will for the Woods: A Documentary About Honoring Death and the Earth (Nell Minow, Huffington Post, 8-28-14). Nell reviews the award-winning documentary, A Will for the Woods.
• Go for a Green Burial: 5 Ways to Make Your Death More Eco-Friendly (Gail Rubin, Sixty and Me, Feb. 2017) Jewish and Muslim burial is naturally green. Kosher caskets are made of soft pine or poplar wood, with no metal parts – totally biodegradable. There are eco-friendly coffins, such as woven willow, seagrass, or bamboo caskets, made of easily renewable materials that decompose naturally. These caskets can be lined with unbleached cotton and used for burial or cremation. For those who choose cremation, biodegradable urns come in a wide range of materials, including handmade paper, sand and gelatin, cornstarch, bamboo and recycled paper. And so on. See also Gail's Comparing Conventional Burial and Green Burial (11-17-13), on the humongous amount of concrete, metal, and embalming fluid that goes into the earth each year (as reported by science writer Mary Woodsen).
• Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial by Mark Harris. "By the time Nate Fisher was laid to rest in a woodland grave sans coffin in the final season of Six Feet Under, Americans all across the country were starting to look outside the box when death came calling." Book's website, and excerpt from chapter on the natural cemetery.
• Home Funeral and Simple Burial Information Sheet (Midwest Green Burial Society) How to clean, prepare, wrap, and move the body.
• My mushroom burial suit (artist Jae Rhim Lee, TED Talk, 7-2011). Can we commit our bodies to a cleaner, greener Earth, even after death? Naturally — using a special burial suit seeded with pollution-gobbling mushrooms. Here's a transcript of her talk. See also Would You Let Mushrooms Eat Your Body after Death? (Jessica Xiao, The Humanist, 2-18-16) "Lee and Ma are the inventors of the “mushroom death suit,” which they’ve branded as an “infinity burial product” offered by their start-up Coeio. This bodysuit is made of a network of mushroom spores that feed on the human body after death, detoxifying the body as it decomposes. The suit, which garnered interest with Lee’s popular 2011 TED talk about the prototype, is now ready and will hit the market later this year. At $999, the suit carries a relatively low price tag compared to the thousands that can be spent on a traditional funeral. Traditional burial services use formaldehyde, fillers, and cosmetics to preserve the body, all of which can impact the health of morticians and funeral service workers. Traditional burial also requires substantial space and resources (steel and wood for caskets, cement for burial vaults)."
• Aquamation: A Greener Alternative to Cremation? (Marina Kamenev, Time Science, 9-28-10, on an approach being tried in Australia)
• Which tree would you like to become? The Capsula Mundi project is in start-up phase. The idea: our departed loved ones are placed for burial in an egg-shaped pod, "an ancient and perfect form, made of biodegradable material. Ashes will be held in small Capsulas while bodies will be laid down in a fetal position in larger pods. The pod will then be buried as a seed in the earth. A tree, chosen in life by the deceased, will be planted on top of it and serve as a memorial for the departed and as a legacy for posterity and the future of our planet."
• Centre for Natural Burial (locate a natural burial site, operating or in development)
• Greener Funerals (learn about and find eco funerals and memorial services, greener burial choices, greener cemeteries (by state), greener burial products (eco-friendly caskets, biodegradable urns, burial shrouds.
• Passages International, a biodegradable funeral product wholesaler, with products such as eco-friendly caskets, biodegradable urns, scattering tubes, keepsakes and remembrances.
• Dying to Be Green (Susan J. Tweit, Audobon Magazine on Green Funerals)
• Shrouds and Caskets: Honoring Nature in Death as in Life (sources of shrouds and caskets for green funerals, Midwest Green Burial Society)
• FAQs about green burial (Midwest Green Burial Society)
• Green Burial Council FAQs and Fiction
• A Guide to Green Burials (Reader's Digest)
• Green Planting: Eco-Friendly Burials Catching On (Frank Nelson, Pacific Standard, 5-14-09). "The numbers are still small and even proponents admit to a whiff of fad, but backers of green burials see their way of death as the wave of the future." Every year the death care industry "buries millions of tons of valuable resources — wood and metal coffins, and concrete grave liners — along with embalmed bodies containing countless gallons of toxic formaldehyde." But "cremation, with its discharge of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and other airborne pollutants, including a few nasty ones like mercury vapor from teeth fillings, is not especially kind to the environment either."
• Natural Transitions (a nonprofit resource center providing education about conscious, holistic, and green approaches to end of life, including family-directed after-death care)
• Options for Green Burials on the Rise (Newsweek, The Daily Beast, 8-26-10). More Americans are choosing to decompose directly into the earth.
• Green Options (People's Memorial). " The Industrial Revolution brought us formaldehyde-based embalming and the rise of the modern funeral industry with a plethora of manufactured merchandise–caskets made of painted steel, precious metals or hardwoods; concrete burial vaults and granite cemetery markers. . . In most cultures, what we now call green burial was standard practice."
• Green Cemeteries in the US & Canada
• Update on Green Burial Movement (stats on environmental damage done through current funeral practices, in terms of trees used for timber, concrete used for vaults, embalming fluid containing carcinogen formaldehyde)
• Memorial Ecosystems (green cemeteries--leaders in conservation burial--see their FAQs)
• Forest of Memories (natural burial funeral and cemetery associations)
• Important Facts To Know About Green Burials (Everplans)
• Natural Burial Company
"Green burial provides us with a way of getting in sync with the natural process of death, decay, and regeneration, rather than having to stave it off, as conventional deathcare demands." ~ Joe Sehee, Founder/​Executive Director, Green Burial Council
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"For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?" ~Kahlil Gibran


"When I die don’t bury me
In a box in a cemetery
Out in the garden would be much better
I could be pushin’ up homegrown tomatoes."
~ Guy Clark, Homegrown Tomatoes

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
~ The Book of Common Prayer


Home Funerals and Family-Directed Funerals


See also Green Funerals

Organizations important to home funerals
• National Home Funeral Alliance
• Green Burial Council
• Funeral Consumers Alliance (see its FAQs).
• International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA)
• Natural Burial Alliance
• Natural Death Centre (UK)
• Natural Death Care Centre (Australia)

• A Front-Yard Burial, No Matter What (Campbell Robertson, NY Times, 10-22-13, from Stevenson, Ala., Journal). James Davis buried his wife in the front yard to fulfill her dying wish. "Let Patsy rest in peace" says a sign near the road.
• A daughter tries to reconcile her mother’s last wish: to have her ashes shot up in the sky (Janna Bialek, Washington Post Magazine, 6-18-15) July 4th was the only time all the kids got together, so it was important to her. And now she wanted to be cremated and shot into the Iowa sky with one of those 4th of July rocket launchers.
• Home Funerals Grow As Americans Skip The Mortician For Do-It-Yourself After-Death Care (Jaweed Kaleem, Huffington Post 1-25-13). A moving article.
• The Definitive Guide to Funeral Flowers (Memorials of Distinction site UK)
• Creating Your Own Funeral or Memorial Service: A Workbook by Stephanie West Allen
• Stephanie West Allen on creating your own funeral or memorial service, regardless of age of state of health. She gives a great list of reasons why.
• Caring for Our Own Dead (Ann Kreilkamp's interview with Jerrigrace Lyons of Final Passages (("I call myself a death midwife," birthing death) in Crone Chronicles). Or go directly to Final Passages, Lyons' website.
• Families Turning to Do-It-Yourself Home Funerals (video) Mike Sugarman, CBS5, interviews Jerrigrace Lyons of Final Passages ("I call myself a death midwife"), a video that shows the dignity of the home viewing, or read the story here. There's a more detailed interview, Caring for Your Dead (Ann Kreilkamp's interview with Jerrigrace Lyons in Crone Chronicles).Or go directly to Final Passages, Lyons' website.
• A Family Undertaking (an Elizabeth Westrate film, POV, PBS, 2004) This video explores the growing home funeral movement by following several families in their most intimate moments as they reclaim the end of life, forgoing a typical (expensive) mortuary funeral to care for their loved ones at home. Far from being a radical innovation, keeping funeral rites in the family or among friends is exactly how death was handled for most of pre-20th century America.
• What is a home funeral?
• Living Funeral (Wikipedia), a gathering centered around someone who will soon die. Also called a pre-funeral or, in Japan, a Seizenso.
• A movement to bring grief back home (many grieving families are opting to bypass the funeral industry), story by Rachel Cox for the Washington Post 2-5-05
• Bringing Funerals Home (personally decorated caskets shown in videos of home funerals, Sacred Crossings)
• My Ideal Funeral . Tenderness. Trust. Mortician Caitlin Doughty closes with a luminous photo essay on home care (Fortnight, 3-5-12). A series of photos shot in Topanga, CA, showing Caitlin help a family wash, dress, and shroud the dead, then take her to a grave and put her directly into the ground to let her body decompose naturally. Photos by Darren Blackburn.
• Do It Yourself Funerals, transcript of a session of NPR's Morning Edition, The End of Life: Exploring Death in America (reporter Jacki Lyden interviewing George Foy, father of a deceased infant, Lisa Carlson, president of Funeral and Memorial Societies of America, Jan Berman, daughter of a woman who died of AIDS, Thomas Lynch, mortician, poet, and author)
• Crying and Digging: Reclaiming the realities and rituals of death (Nancy Rommelman, for Los Angeles Times Magazine, 2-6-05)
• Everything you need to know about funerals, cremation, burial, embalming, green funerals, and much more (FAQs, many helpful articles from Funeral Consumers Alliance)
• Home Burials Offer an Intimate Alternative (Katie Zezima, NY Times, 7-20-90)
• Home Funeral Directory
• Organizations in several states that help consumers navigate a home funeral (Funeral Consumers Alliance)
• Crossings: Caring for Our Own at Death
• Home funeral directory (resources for home funerals or family-directed funerals, by state)

Books and Stories About Family-Directed Funerals



If you purchase anything after clicking on an Amazon.com link below, we get a small commission, which helps support the costs of maintaining this site.

A movement to bring grief back home, a Washington Post story by Rachel Cos, suggests sources of more information on family-directed funerals.

Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love, Upper Access, 1998, by Lisa Carlson. A complete guide for those making funeral arrangements with or without a funeral director. Covers funeral law state by state. $29.95 from the Funeral Consumers Alliance or $18.87 from Amazon.com. Available at many libraries.

Celebrating a Life: Planning Memorial Services and Other Creative Remembrances by Faith Moore (foreword by Letitia Baldrige)

Funerals Without God: A Practical Guide to Non-Religious Funerals by Jane Wynne Wilson, a handbook geared to humanist ceremonies in Great Britain, where they are more common.

Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death by Joshua Slocum and Lisa Carlson

Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial by environmental columnist Mark Harris (a well-written and informative survey of the costs, processes, and effects of various burial options (from traditional funeral with embalming to cremation to various eco-friendly green-funeral options, including burial at sea or on one’s own land), with graphic descriptions of embalming, rotting, etc.

Living Into Dying: A Journal of Spiritual, Practical Deathcare for Family and Community, 2002, by Nancy Jewel Poer. $23 from crossings.net or from Amazon.com

Planning a Celebration of Life, A Simple Guide for Turning a Memorial Service into a Celebration of Life

Rest in Peace: Insider's Tips to the Low Cost Less Stress Funeral by R. Brian Burkhardt

Crossings publishes a resource guide containing “educational, inspirational, and practical tools” needed to plan a home funeral. Available for $55 at crossings.net.

Dying: A Book of Comfort

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Planning for a Funeral
(Advice from the Federal Trade Commission)

1. Shop around in advance. Compare prices from at least two funeral homes. Remember that you can supply your own casket or urn.

2. Ask for a price list. The law requires funeral homes to give you written price lists for products and services.

3. Resist pressure to buy goods and services you don't really want or need.

4. Avoid emotional overspending. It's not necessary to have the fanciest casket or the most elaborate funeral to properly honor a loved one.

5. Recognize your rights. Laws regarding funerals and burials vary from state to state. It's a smart move to know which goods or services the law requires you to purchase and which are optional.

6. Apply the same smart shopping techniques you use for other major purchases. You can cut costs by limiting the viewing to one day or one hour before the funeral, and by dressing your loved one in a favorite outfit instead of costly burial clothing.

7. Plan ahead. It allows you to comparison shop without time constraints, creates an opportunity for family discussion, and lifts some of the burden from your family.

BUY NOW: Dying: A Book of Comfort

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