The Profit and Loss of Death

After someone passes away the survivors or survivor needs to make decisions on how they want to memorialize their loved ones. First off you are in a very vulnerable place to start with. Usually the one making these plans are the ones closest to the person who died. Second the funeral home has a job to do and that is to make money. They are a business, point blank.

So you have just had the most traumatic thing every happen to you in your life, in my case losing my oldest child, my only son. Then you have to sit in an office and discuss with some stranger how you want to proceed with services. These people have never met your child, have no idea what kind of person they are and what kind of person the world is losing. They know that the families have a need and they have a product you need at that time. In my case I had very little money and it was a big weight on my shoulders going into this first meeting with the funeral home.

Drew’s death was unexpected, he was 20 years old. He did not have life insurance nor did he have any savings. He was the type of kid that as soon as he got his paycheck it was gone within a few hours. We had talked about saving and how important it was to have one but he was not at that point in his life where he heeded my advice. I had just finished going to school for my Associate’s degree in paralegal studies, we had used most of our savings to help live while I was going to school. That left us in a precarious situation, we needed to look to kindness of our friends and families to help us pay for his services. We were so blessed to have so many people step and up and either donate money or keep our family in their prayers both actions were greatly appreciated.

When they were taking Drew’s body away the day he passed I was asked which funeral home I wanted to use. I had never thought of it before and had no idea which one to choose. The Sherriff officer started naming off a few and I look around to the people in the room and hope someone would just say take him to that one. One of the men from our church mentioned that most people use _______ Funeral Home so I just nod to the officer and that is how the choice went. After the ME is done with his body the funeral home comes in a mini van carries my first born away. They look at me with pity in their eyes because I am sure I looked as devastated as I felt. They gave me a card and told me to call them the next day to make an appointment to speak with a director to make the arrangements. I hold this card for what seems like an eternity when my friend takes it from me and puts it inside my phone case so it won’t get lost. Since Drew was gone from the house it was time for me to go home and start making phone calls to start processing as to what just had happened. My friend takes my mother and myself to my house and explains to my husband Randall that the cards are in my phone and we will need to call tomorrow.

Randall calls the next day to the funeral home and they give him an appointment of 1 o’clock. It seems so close but so far away. I think those were the longest hours of my life waiting for 1 o’clock to come around. The time finally nears and I slowly get dressed. What should I wear? Do I wear something like I am going to church? Would it be horrible if I just wore pajamas? I decide on an outfit and Randall and I set out.

We get to the home and we are greeted by a friendly woman. You can tell they are pros at having the look or sadness in their eyes. I am sure it is a trait they have to work on after working there for some time. Death I’m sure just becomes routine to them. She guides us to a room with a long table and tells us Mr. so and so will be with us shortly. After a few minutes of waiting in this room a gentleman opens the doors and walks over to the table to shake our hands, he offers condolences and sits a manila file folder on the table. My son has now become a file in someone else’s paperwork. I find that so strange, it is surreal to realize this will be the last file ever made on him and it is plain manila not bedazzled, it doesn’t glow. By God, Drew was special enough it should be more than a manila file. If it was me making the file I would have put vinyl on it the very least glittered it.

He opens the plain file folder and starts with the questions; how old was Drew, when is his birthday, mothers full maiden name, fathers name, then he gets to the part that is actually the business part. He explains that Drew is having an autosopy and when the State releases the body we will be able to have services. I ask him how long that will take and he says it depends on how fast the OMI can get to him. He said it usually doesn’t take more than a week to get the body back. GET THE BODY BACK!? I correct him and say you mean bring DREW home. He said of course I mean bring Drew home. Now this is the part that makes the whole situation seem surreal the business part. He pulls out a paper that looks like a menu and on this paper is the different levels of service they offer as a company. Of course, the most expensive one is at the top of the page if you start going lower than you start getting to prices that we could afford. All I think of when I see this paper is that if I truly love the person I am making plans for of course I want the best for them. But to be realistic in my situation I had to flip the paper over to the price that I could afford. It felt like they make you feel less of a person if you don’t have the money to give your family member the best. This is where the profit and loss of death comes in. The funeral home profits and you lose cause of the death.

When I was talking about this to a friend of mine a few days ago she did make a valid point that death is not the only time in our lives that companies profit off of us. How much did it take to birth that child you are burying? Drew was a C-section so he was well over $10,000. Not to mention when the hospital photographer comes around and offers you the photo’s of your new baby. Those photo’s aren’t the greatest quality but we buy them anyways because we don’t want to miss those moments. The problem with profiting off death is this will be the last thing to do for your child and you want to do everything you can to honor their memory. I don’t know how a funeral home can change the way they do things. We have to know how much everything costs but geez it just feels so business like.

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