We Did it For Love
(A personal story shared by a member of FCA of Utah)
In the past 4 years I have been in charge of burying both of my parents, a very close friend who had almost no family, and my mother-in-law. My brother made a simple wood casket for my dad, and it felt so good that we did the same for my mom a year later. On the inside of the lid the kids, grandkids and great grandkids wrote sweet notes with a sharpie. After each funeral we put the casket in the back of a suburban with all of the flowers and took them to southern Utah for burial. What a joy it was for me to take my dad for his last drive to his beloved hometown and drive fast over a short dirt road. We moved the little backhoe machine out of the way and my brothers lowered my dad down into his grave with ropes. I know Dad was smiling.
A year later when my friend died, my brother again made a simple wood casket that we painted to look like my friend's cherry red 1964 GTO. He wasn't a religious guy and didn't have much family or many friends so it was just a graveside service with military honors. Money was very tight, and after doing my parents funerals I had learned a lot about what I could do on my own. I paid to have him embalmed and stored at a mortuary so his sister could arrive from Washington, but that was the only real expense I paid to the mortuary ($700-$800). I purchased the cement vault from the veteran's cemetery and paid them for the grave digging and headstone. The mortuary had me sign some papers as if they were turning the remains over to another mortuary so they wouldn't be liable, but that didn't intimidate me at all.
When my mother-in-law died my wife was afraid of push back from her siblings so we didn't do her funeral the "Redneck" way we had done my parents, even though I know my mother-in-law would have approved. Her funeral cost 3 or 4 times as much as my parent's funerals and while it was nice, I missed the satisfaction of handling the details myself and showing the love and care that our involvement brought to the process.
I found the mortuary (Memorial Estates) to be quite helpful and willing. Of course I knew, or thought I knew exactly what I wanted each time. If I had known of your organization sooner I would have had a much shorter learning curve. They weren't quite sure what to do when I didn’t want anything but embalming for my friend and told me that it was the first time they had done that for an individual. So they timidly asked to me sign a form as though I was another mortuary. Each time the first thing they told me was that it is not required to have the deceased embalmed and explained what the process should be if we made the choice to not embalm.
Each of these “do it yourself” experiences was very cathartic for me, for my siblings and other family members and friends. I know some people thought what we were doing was odd, but not in a disapproving way. Knowing our family they were surprised, but certainly not shocked.
For my family, the more involved we were, the easier the grieving process became...and sitting down with a mortician to plan stuff is not involvement. We were happy to save money but that is not why we did it. We did it for love.