Ask the Undertaker is a column written by the supervising mortician of Lasting Tributes, Ryan Helfenbein, in Outlook By the Bay Magazine. It covers many topics such as Green Burial, What to do if death occurs out of town, How to create a celebration of life, Veteran Burial Benefits and much more.
Feel free to select an article from past issues of Outlook By the Bay Magazine below to learn more.
Perhaps Frank Sinatra was not only a great singer, but something of a visionary when he sang the lyrics of his classic, “My Way,” in 1968. This song, written by French composers with lyrics reworked especially for Sinatra by Paul Anka, is about a man reflecting on life as his end nears. As the song goes, he walks you through his story of trials and tribulations, but keeps coming back to that famous line: “I did it my way.” Not only has this become an extremely popular song to close out funeral services, but it defines the modern day funeral and cremation experience.
We all have experience with (and opinions about) insurance. It has become a go-to mechanism for protecting ourselves against the "what ifs" that may occur. Car insurance is mandatory to cover part of the accident damages. Homeowners insurance is required to cover some damages to our home. Health insurance is required now required by the government to cover much of our medical treatment. The interesting aspect of each of these is that each one is required to provide protection from the chance that something may occur. However, nowhere is it required for each of us to obtain protection from the one thing in life it is certain we all will face - our death expenses.
A gentleman asked recently when he was preparing his funeral plans in advance, "Why are so many traditional funeral homes still so grim?" Afterward, he explained that when he worked with an undertaker to arrange services for his father there was a gloomy and cold feeling through the entire building. It seemed there was an all-encompassing sadness that pervaded the entire pricess.
After a rough Winter, we all have been anticipating the long-awaited Spring and the official opening of area pools on Memorial Day. This holiday also offers a day off from work and school, when family and friends gather together for an outdoor picnic. But is today's Memorial Day celebration much different from that of our ancestors, or has modern culture pulled us away from its true meaning?
Over the past decades, we have seen the funeral industry change like never before. Quiet whispers during a visitation have now become outburts of laughter with tears to follow, the water cooler and mint jar have become the wine and cheese...
We live in a society that is all about getting the most accomplished in the least amount of time, don't we? Everywhere you look, there is another example of this "more is better" mentally...
Imagine if you will entering a facility and being immediately greeted by someone smiling who even made a light joke about the weather. As you make your way further into the facility, you can't help but notice that your favorite Summer vacation song is playing...
Over the centuries we have seen presidents pay tribute to the veterans who serve our country. The standard for honoring those who gave their lives for their country was set in 1862, when faced with mounting Civil War casualties.
My wife recently had our third child. What we found to be rather interesting is that after the birth, friends and family called and emailed, asking when we could swing by to congratulate us.
When it comes to Halloween, my family has always been the go-to source for unique costumes. Perhaps it's due to my line of work, or simply the fact that this industry breeds creative thinkers. Whatever the reason, we often end up creating the neighborhood kids' costumes.
Part of every funeral director's education involves studying the American history of funeral directing. Directors in training learn about the development of the industry, how embalming got started and the ever-so-interesting topics of grave robbing and devices invented to signal a "premature" burial.
Undertakers have noticed the increased popularity of so-called immediate disposition services, when the body is cremated immediately or buried directly after death. No services. No ceremony. Obviously, we have examined this express means of disposition and asked ourselves why.
Those who have decided to preplan their funerals typically wonder about how to go about it. Here is the first group of commonly asked questions about preplanned funerals and their answers. Another batch will appear in the early Spring issue of Outlook by the Bay.
Undertakers are ready to meet the growing demand for "green burials". Green burials provide a service that truly mimics customs of our ancestors. And it has caught the attention of baby boomers.
You’ve heard the old saying, “Only two things in this world are certain, death and taxes.” Truer words were never spoken, and it seems the costs associated with both go up every year.
More and more Americans are moving from one state to another each year. And now, with the rise of cremation, this creates challenges for an undertaker due to a legal document that is necessary before cremation can take place - a cremation authorization. More importantly, who can authorize an undertaker to move forward with cremation?
It's amazing how fast things have changed in our society today and how quickly people can adapt to that popular product or service. We see this change in the undertaker's profession as well...in the shift of popularity from traditional burial to cremation tributes.
The answer to the age-old question, “Why are funerals so expensive?” is finally being answered. As an industry, we can now say funerals don't have to be expensive anymore.
Today, more and more people are moving away from the quiet, mellow, services offered by the funeral industry. Rather, families want to celebrate the decedent's life in a unique and personalized way, creating a positive memory of how their loved one affected others.
With the baby boomers approaching an age where Medicaid or SSI may become a part of their lives, we as undertakers are being asked more and more how assets can be protected for burial or cremation expenses.
Advanced planning is offered to protect people from the financial shock and emotional decision-making process that occurs at the time of death. In developing this program, it has amazed me to have found so many veterans who are unaware of what burial benefits are due them.
Our job as undertakers encompasses so much more than preparing a loved one for a visitation, cremation ceremony or burial service. Our job is now to walk a family through the process of developing a meaningful celebration of the life of their loved one.
One of my favorite topics is cremation. Cremation is something that is being discussed more and more.The reasons I often hear why people choose cremation, and ones I will address here, are that it is cheaper, it saves scarce land and it is easier.
I have attempted to create a funeral director glossary to help the general public better understand some of the words us undertakers are using today. I am going to touch on five very common terms used today in the funeral industry: First-call, at-need and pre-need, embalming, cremains and inurnment.
From the loss of Michael Jackson a few areas became very apparent to me in the context of my business: the importance of planning ahead, the role of the funeral professionals and how to create a true "celebration of life."
One of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to my industry: who do I call when a death occurs?
Over the past several months I have been receiving many inquiries about prepayment of funerals. One can't help but wonder if it is due to the economic situation our country is facing, the winter blues or people today just wanting to be more prepared and relieve their family from the financial burden in the future. Whatever the reason may be, it is a wise decision as long as it is done correctly.
In this issue of OutLook by the Bay, my question comes from a woman in Easton who asks, "Is green burial offered around here?"
As you can imagine, people ask me interesting questions on a daily basis about my work in the funeral business. Nonetheless, it has made me realize that many people today want to know more about what is available to them and what funerals are all about more now than ever before.