Why spend a lot of money on a funeral?

Since I sat with my first pre-need family back in 1988 to the present day, one of the questions that is oftentimes asked is, “Why spend a lot of money on a funeral?”  This is a good question, and it deserves a good answer.  Of course, there is no right answer, but the simple answer is, “Don’t!”

There is no reason that anyone should spend big money on a funeral.  There is also no reason

for people to spend big bucks on fancy cars, real gems and jewels instead of costume jewelry, or big houses with four bathrooms.  Logically, why do any of these things?  After all, if a car runs, it will do what it is supposed to do, which is to get you from Point A to Point B.  I cannot justify in my mind spending so much money on a diamond engagement ring.  I mean, come on, a CZ looks the same, doen’t it?  But not to my wife!  And for your big houses, well…you can only go to the bathroom in one at a time, so why do you need four or five toilets?


My real answer to anyone who asks about why they should spend a lot of money on a funeral, especially since they will be dead and won’t see it anyway, is more of a “bounce it back to you” type of answer.  You should spend as much or as little on a funeral as will meet your needs, both financial and emotional.

This is not a cop-out of an answer.  In fact, I remember one of the first clients I ever had as a new cemetery salesman.  He was a janitor his entire life, and never really made a lot of money.  But sitting at his dinner table one night, after hearing about mausoleum crypts, he turned to his wife and saw a tear on her cheek.  He asked her what was wrong, and after a long hesitation, she said she would really like to be able to be in a mausoleum, but she knew they could not afford it.  He turned to me and said, “Write it up.  I’ll figure out how to pay for it.  I never gave my gal much in life, but by golly, I will give this to her.”  He did, too.  He walked the highways picking up trash to recycle so he could make his payments.

This story sounds corny, but those were his words.  People used to really say things like “gal” and “golly”.  For this family, spending a lot was the right thing to do.  You see, we all buy things because of our emotional make-up.  The red blouse instead of the black one… the 86″ flat screen instead of a trip to the Alps…the steak at the finest restaurant in town instead of a burger at the fast food joint.  None of these are right decisions or wrong decisions…they are just decisions based on our wants and needs at the time we engage in making them.

You see, a funeral is not for the deceased.  Oh, sure, he or she will be there.  But the reason for the funeral goes way beyond the legal need to dispose of a dead human body.  A funeral is for those left behind.  It is a chance to acknowledge that someone has died.  It gives friends and family an opportunity to join together, and share stories of the goodness of the deceased which is, in a larger sense, a chance to share the goodness in all of humanity…at least for a little while.

Yes, a casket is a vehicle to carry our loved one from the funeral home to the grave.  After a couple of days, nobody will ever see it again.  Compare that with a wedding dress.

Wear either one of the dresses shown above and a minister will pronounce you man and wife if you will each say “I do.”.  If a person’s wish is to keep things simple, then any outfit will do.  However, the emotions that surround all the hopes and dreams that a young bride sees as she looks into the future with her special guy makes the search for the right dress justifiable and a necessity.  After all, you only get married once, right?

So, when considering a funeral, you should do some soul searching and as long as the expense does not hurt those left behind, and I don’t mean cutting down on someone’s inheritance, then you should be able to select the service and casket and cemetery that fulfills your idea of how you want the final event in your life to be.  Keep in mind, people gather at a funeral to celebrate a life that was lived.  By allowing a funeral planner, your funeral director, to offer suggestions that touch your heart, give yourself permission to splurge.

You spend your entire lives working hard and taking care of the kids and each other and your parents etc., etc.  This is one time that you should be able to get your way.  If your way is a simple pine box with no service, then arrange for such a final day.  If you want the world to know that you walked this planet and meant a lot to a lot of people, then make a big splash and follow Frank Sinatra’s lyrics when he sang, “I did it my way.”


For information on pre-planning your funeral, call 769-8803 or log on to calumetparkcemetery.com

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