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Being Left Behind
Photo: Christophe Libert
As a Hospice Chaplain, I am often called in the middle of the night to comfort a grieving family who has just lost a loved one. On one such occasion the following incident took place.

A particular family member who was very distraught, slipped quietly and unnoticed out the back door of the home as the mortuary arrived at the front door. After loading the body into their van, the mortuary attendants drove off with the sobbing woman chasing behind them on foot for several blocks.

Although this is an unusual occurrence, it accentuates the fact that none of us are really ready for the icy fingers of death to snatch away those we love. Even when we know it is coming, we are still traumatized when the moment arrives. Death catches us off-guard and our head reels. Numbly, we attempt to function but it is extremely difficult because we are in shock.

For this reason there are a number of things to know in advance. Decisions can be made ahead of time that will make a difficult time less stressful when it occurs.

First, decide whether you want cremation or burial. Almost all mortuaries today provide both services. Cremation is generally less expensive and contrary to what some people believe, it is not against any biblical principle to use this method.

If you do choose cremation, think about what you want done with the cremated remains. Would you like the ashes placed in a mausoleum, a burial plot, an urn in a private home, or scattered (and if so, where)?

Prices may vary drastically. In the same city, the cost of direct cremation may range from $500 to $1,700. And, there are additional charges for many other services connected with a funeral or memorial service, such as caskets, urns, transportation, death certificates, music, guest book, memorial cards, minister’s fees, police escort, etc.

Making decisions ahead of time regarding what you want at the funeral or memorial service and doing some cost comparisons now, may save you, or your loved ones, thousands of dollars and a lot of stress at the time of the death.

If you’ve decided on burial, the cost of a casket may be prohibitive. However, there are “casket outlets” that sell direct from the factory to the consumer at reduced prices. Check the internet or yellow pages for listings.

In our complex society, there are many details to work through when a loved one dies, in addition to what we’ve already considered. 

Here is a partial list of business that must be taken care of:

Contact Social Security for benefits
Locate documents such as wills or trusts
Locate Life Insurance Policy
Contact employer for death benefits
Contact Veteran’s Affairs for benefits
Cancel credit cards
Forward mail
Contact utilities
Contact banks 

Putting together a list of these numbers and filing important documents in an easily accessible place that loved ones know about, will greatly ease the traumatic ordeal of death for those left behind.

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By Kathy A Lewis. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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