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Final Arrangements…and I do mean final!

Regardless of whether one prearranges for their cemetery and funeral needs (advance planning) or leaves such arrangements to those left behind (at-need), this article will offer some basic guidelines.  When friends, relatives or new acquaintances find out that I work at a cemetery, the questions come with the main question being, “How much does it cost?”

To answer this question, I would have to ask a lot of questions in return, throwing the hot potato back at them.  “How much does a house cost, or a car, or an engagement ring or even something as simple as a dozen eggs.”  What is this guy talking about?  Take the eggs, for example.  Are they plain old, average sized eggs?  Are they jumbo sized?  Are they from free range chickens?  And that is just trying to get to the answer of how much do eggs cost.

A better approach to the question of the price of a funeral and cemetery arrangements is to let a person know that they should not spend any more than is necessary to meet their needs, or their budget.  And a budget is a funny thing as it was just proven during the government shut-down that most Americans are but a couple of paychecks away from being unable to meet their financial needs.  Sadly, a great many of the people that come to us unprepared are shocked at the cost of dying.  They lose the luxury of choice.  If one does not have pre-needed their cemetery and funeral arrangements, have guaranteed insurance money to be available when they die, or they outlive their income, or if they have huge medical bills that empty the money stash set aside for a rainy day, they are out of luck.

So, setting the actual cost aside, lets explore all that is necessary to make complete cemetery and funeral arrangements.  By the way, when it comes to funerals, the Federal Trade Commission requires funeral homes give you a copy of their price list when at a funeral home in person, or give you pricing on the phone when asked.

First, what do you want?  Do you want traditional ground burial at a cemetery?  If so, you will need a grave space, an outer container that the casket goes in, and an opening/closing of the grave.  In addition, most people that select ground burial want to place an above ground monument or at least flush memorials that mark the location of a loved one forever.

At the funeral home, most people that choose ground burial want to have a visitation with viewing followed by a funeral committal service at their cemetery.  A committal service is when you commit your loved one to a final resting place.  In Indiana, a funeral director must be present any time a burial takes place with people gathered to say goodbye.  For a funeral service with visitation, a casket would be necessary.  Also, supporting products go hand-in-hand when a funeral is arranged which may include a register book for guests to sign in, prayer cards and envelopes, flowers and quite often, food and drinks.

When you add all of these things together, the average cost of cemetery and funeral goods and services is around $12-$15,000.  Think of planning a wedding, and all of the costs involved.  From a venue, to rings, to wedding dress and attire for the wedding party, to food and music and photography, to guest lists and places for them to stay, to invitations and more.  Most weddings today run $20,000 and more…generally, a lot more.

A wedding is one of life’s biggest events and the final “biggest event” is one’s funeral.  There are many of the same types of things to arrange as a wedding.  The venue (what funeral home and what cemetery), the announcement (obituary), clothing for the decedent and for family that plan on attending, to music and clergy and on-and-on.  Now days, people want a funeral to be an experience and not just a cookie-cutter service that is just like every other funeral they have ever attended.

There will be a lifetime of grieving and learning to live without the deceased loved one.  A funeral is meant as a chance to gather with friends and family and celebrate the life that was lived.  When a person passes, they do not just disappear from the world and from our memories.  We all have a circle of friends and family that will also be grieving and that need a chance to say goodbye.  Believe me, there is nothing that shouts louder that a parent or child or spouse or friend is gone than to see them lying in state.

Arrangements that funeral homes and cemeteries provide are based on the cumulative needs of any given population.  In NW Indiana, seventy percent of the population still want a traditional funeral service followed by interment or entombment in a cemetery.  The other 30% select cremation.  Sometimes cremation is chosen because of money, sometimes for religious reasons and sometimes for ecological reasons.  Regardless, many of those that go with cremation still want and still need a chance to say a proper goodbye.  For those folks, they still want a traditional funeral service with all the trappings, to be followed by cremation.

Once the cremation is complete, the cremains (ashes) will be returned to the family for final disposition.  That can be as simple as keeping them at home, or letting them blow in the wind, or scattered over Lake Michigan.  But so many people have a need to be able to know where their loved one will be for eternity and want a place of peace and reverence that they can visit when the need arises “just to be near” their loved one.

Calumet Park, recent winner of the best cemetery in the country for 2018, has many, many possibilities that meet the needs, the wants and the pocket book of all who come to us.

Rather than try to make a list of meaningless pricing, you are invited to stop in at your convenience and one of our funeral directors or one of our family service people will be happy to take you on a tour of our facilities, and answer all of your questions.  In addition, they can tailor an event, whether grandiose or simple, and give you exact pricing.  It would be then in your hands to decide if you wanted to prearrange and freeze the price or go home and at least know what you would be up against financially to get what will best meet your needs.

Call 219-769-8803 to arrange a personal meeting with one of our professional staff members.  And remember that is better to have your arrangements and not need them than to need them and not be able to afford them.


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Lets go shopping for graves and caskets…

“Let’s go grave and casket shopping.”

Did you ever wake up on a bright, warm sunny spring day and turn to your husband or wife and say “What a nice day.  Let’s go grave and casket shopping.”?

Probably never is my guess.  Nobody likes to think about death in general, and specifically, their own death.  For many families, discussing one’s own mortality would not show up on a list of their top 100 things to talk about this week.  Until a death occurs.  Then, making cemetery and funeral arrangements jumps sorrowfully to number one on the list.

By pre-planning for your funeral and cemetery needs, you can relieve your family of having to make important financial decisions during a period of great stress and grief…a time when people aren’t thinking very clearly and may not know what to do because you never made your wishes known.

It’s easy to say, “Throw me in a bag in bury me in the woods,” which is a direct quote I heard once from a husband who was dragged by his wife to the cemetery to look into prearranging for their final wishes.  It was good for a laugh, but even he knew that his comment had zero merit.  But it is important to realize that the ritual of a funeral and/or memorial service isn’t for the deceased but for the living. It is a time when friends and family can gather together to grieve openly and to provide support for one another.

Pre-planning your funeral may be very informal, and as simple as filling out a Family Estate Planning Kit that is free from Calumet Park for the asking, and sharing your wishes with a family member. More formal arrangements in the form of a preneed contract can be set up with a Family Service Counselor or funeral director at Calumet Park Cemetery, Calumet Park Funeral Chapel in Hobart or Merrillville, or Rendina Funeral Home in Gary.  You can design exactly what meets your needs and financial situation.

And for those who want to relieve their family of the financial burden that goes along with making cemetery and funeral arrangements, you can take advantage of Calumet Park’s no interest payment plan that allows one to freeze the price and have their money trusted until needed at 1st Source Bank in Valparaiso.

Pre-planning, when done properly, can provide you with peace of mind because you know that your arrangements are ready when needed, and pre-funded, which means no worries about getting what you want if a death occurs unexpectedly and your bank account is not sufficient to meet the costs of even a simple funeral.  As with nearly all products and services, inflation drives the cost of funerals up yearly.  Preplanning and prefunding your final wishes ensures that your funeral is paid for at today’s prices.

While many people assume savings or life insurance will cover their final expenses, funerals must be paid for upfront, while many life insurance policies or bank accounts are not accessible to families until well after the funeral services are rendered.



By pre-planning your final wishes, you can:

  • make all the arrangements during a time of peace and not leave them to your family during their time of grief
  • make your wishes known
  • control the cost of your funeral and protect from inflation
  • ensure that personal records are organized and easy for your survivors to locate
  • protect your insurance so that it provides for your survivors and not for funeral expenses
  • provide protection in case the need arises before it is expected

Most people are not aware that over 150 decisions and tasks must be completed within the first 24-48 hours after an individual’s passing.  By arranging ahead of time, you can ensure that your loved ones will not have to wrestle over those details and decisions during their time of emotional upheaval.   The opportunity to know that everything is taken care of will allow proper remembrance and the first steps of healing.

All of your arrangements are guaranteed with Calumet Park and Affiliates preneed program and will be carried out just as you have directed.  You and your family will feel comfortable knowing that, when the need arises, all is taken care of and they can spend time celebrating a life that was lived and leave the grieving to the future.  Few people ever get over the loss of a loved one but a funeral helps to transition from life with a loved one to life after a loved one passes.

Pick up your phone today and call 219-769-8803 to speak to one of our professional and caring Family Service Counselors or funeral directors.  You have nothing to lose by at least allowing yourself a little time to have your questions answered, and if the answers meet your needs, you can make it possible for you and your loved ones to never have to talk about the subject again…until a death forces you to face the issue.  Be like so many of your neighbors who say “It is better to have it taken care of and not need it than to need it and not have it!”


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A matter of priorities….

top 10 list 2010-resized-600

If you were asked to make a list of the top 10 things that you would be spending money on for major purchases over the next twelve months, I would venture a guess that cemetery property and funerals would not appear for most of the readers of this newspaper.
A better question would be, “How many of us could write a check, right now, for all that is needed for a traditional funeral service with a visitation and for cemetery expenses?” Some of the decisions that are challenging to make on the worst day of your life when not already known are:
What cemetery to use? Would you want a single grave or a family lot? Would you want a final resting place that has a simple, flush memorial or would you need to be able to put up an above ground monument? Would you prefer a private mausoleum or to be part of a community mausoleum complex to ensure a clean, dry, above ground space for yourself or your loved one? Which funeral home? What type of service, from religious to military to nondenominational, or no service at all? What type of casket – wood, or metal, and at what price? Would you want to be cremated, or have a traditional service with a viewing and visitation? What about pall bearers, and music, and flowers, and scripture or other readings? Who will do the eulogy? So many questions with many having nothing to do with the elephant in the room…how much does it cost?

You can spend as much or as little as you want, but spending is something that you or your loved one (or the state if you have nobody to tend to your funeral) will do. Last year, the average spent on a funeral service and cemetery needs was between $12,000 and $15,000. Most people are shocked at the price when they are not prepared what it costs to die. Simple cremation is not so simple and averages around $2,500 when all is said and done, and that is when you take the cremains (ashes) home. Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville offers a free grave space for cremation families to allow them to have a dignified final resting place that offers loved ones a place to visit.

There is nothing wrong with taking ashes home, but it does pose the question of what happens to them after you are gone? And, it prevents others who cared about your loved one from visiting a grave to place a flower or just “talk about things” within the immediate proximity of the mortal remains of a friend or relative. Worse: what if they are stolen or last in a natural disaster?
Sadly, death does not announce itself. Whatever your financial position is on the day you are called to make arrangements, that’s how much you will be able to spend. If you are interested in saving money (a lot of money for many), locking in prices, ensuring that your family will be able to be together in your memorial estate, conserving your insurance for the real reason you have been paying for it all of these years (to take care of your family after you are gone), arrange for small monthly payments with no credit turn-downs and zero interest, see that your wishes are carried out and be blessed with real peace of mind, then you may want to look into pre-arranging.

It costs nothing to sit with a trained professional and be educated on these decisions. For some, it may be a little frightening to approach the subject, so they figure if they ignore talking about death, it will ignore them. Reality check time: death is real, and the transition from being with the important people in our lives and not having them there is sometimes marred by one’s inability to provide a proper send-off. When this term is used, do not let any cemetery or funeral home employee “guilt” you into doing something that is not good for you in your time of weakness and grief.
Cemetery and funeral workers should really be called “funeral planners” as death is really a life event for those left behind. Having a proper send-off for one family can look completely different to another. That is the real reason that people should think about prearranging as it allows one the freedom to make sensible or exotic choices that meets their needs and financial position. A good cemeterian or funeral director is there to guide you along the path of planning a funeral and final placement of a loved one for eternity. These a personal decisions that are made simpler when guided by being made aware of the many choices in the local market. Then, and when done on a pre-need basis, you can pick and choose what is right for you and your family.


You met and spent a lifetime together…does it make sense to plan final arrangements together and then forget about it until a time of need?

At Calumet Park and its affiliates, you would be able to arrange for all of your final expenses, or put together a plan that will let you chip away at these expenses a little at a time, when you are alive and able to act. At Calumet Park Cemetery, Calumet Park Funeral Chapel and Rendina Funeral Home, you are driving the arrangements bus. Your needs are all that matters, and making a call (219-769-8803) now is a great first step to get details on how you can find peace of mind in this area of your life.

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More important than you think…

More Important Than You Think

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For some people, working at a cemetery seems downright weird, and even morbid. I have even had relatives ask me if I am tired of digging graves which is usually said tongue-in-cheek. Or is it?

Original Mausoleum

Original Mausoleum

Truth be told, I do love my work. There are a lot of cemeteries and funeral homes in Lake and Porter Counties, and they are all staffed with caring and truly good people. In fact, most funeral directors and cemeterians that I have come to know since I met with my first family to help with their cemetery arranges back in 1988 would do the work for free if they did not have financial obligations.


We do our best to be empathetic and professional when working with families who either want to make prearrangements or have to meet with us to make arrangements due to an immediate loss in their lives.
How do you write an upbeat column in an upbeat BLOG about a parent who just lost a child to drugs, or a cop showing up at your door to tell you that your wife was killed in a car accident? All parents who have ever had a child go off to war prays to never get “the knock”.

Stop right now and think of the hole that would be left in the lives of your loved ones if God decided today was your day. You are more important than you can possibly imagine, even when you may not feel that important. Lives change dramatically when a death occurs, and someone has to be there to help those left behind make the immediate transition from wife to widow…from child to orphan?

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No matter how many people surround a new widow at the passing of a beloved spouse, all the decisions that must be made in a very short time are decisions wrapped in questions that she will have to make. Would he have wanted a public funeral service with all the trappings or would he have wanted a private, personal goodbye with just immediate family present? Would he want a casket made of wood or metal? What cemetery would he have wanted to be buried at? Or would he have wanted to be cremated and blown to the wind? How much will it all cost? Where will the money come from? What guilt feelings will regulate my decisions in these matters?

There is no discrimination as to age, sex or situation in life when the grim reaper does his dirty work. It is because of the many decisions that must be made that so many of us have decided to work in this business as it is in our power to help our friends, neighbors and family navigate through all the legal requirements of getting a person officially out of the book of life and put in what some have called a repository of bodies, or simply put, in a permanent and final resting place.

Speaking for our staff of friendly Family Service Counselors and Funeral Directors at Calumet Park and Rendina Funeral Home, we love helping families during their time of need. Even more satisfaction comes when we are able to educate families on all that is involved in these end-of-life decisions, and then help prearrange for the inevitable. We get to help families save money by freezing the price. We get to help families “charge it” with a minimal amount down and never a penny of interest when prearranged. We get to help people arrange what is right for them by showing them available options and respecting their decisions without trying to push them in any direction that would not be good for them.

So, writing an article that is upbeat on such a downbeat topic is difficult, but knowing that an education in funeral and cemetery arrangements is truly a gift to those who will take the time and courage to meet with us before a time of need is satisfying in its own right.

I invite you to call or stop in at your convenience to find out for yourself what is available at Calumet Park and its affiliates. Both the cemetery and funeral home are recognized nationally as being outstanding in all ways and maybe it is time for you to see for yourself. A tour of Calumet offers a chance to eliminate many of your fears about cemeteries and funeral homes, and if you feel you could benefit by getting your burial estate in order, we would be more than privileged to be of service. Call 219-769-8803 and like us on facebook at mycalumetpark.

Equal under God, and the blood of our great uniformed protectors…Calumet Park and Rendina welcomes all in their time of need.


Visit our website at calumetparkcemetery.com

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Making Sense of Pre-planning a Funeral


In 1988, I helped my first family with prearranging their cemetery property.   It was with a nurse and her husband, and she died shortly thereafter. She didn’t know that she was ill when we sat down and discussed her options, or at least she didn’t share her condition with me or with her husband. When he came in to sign the final papers the day after her death, we were both in a state of shock. His shock was understandable from anybody’s perspective, having just lost his wife at a relatively early age. But mine…my shock was more from the point of view of “Holy Smokes, people really do need this stuff, and the “when” is purely up to them as to when arrangements should be made.” She showed a lot of courage to come in and get things taken care of herself and her husband, and not leave it up to anyone else.

Twenty seven years later and it takes a lot to shock me now. After you have shared so much with so many people for so many years, it feels like all the ways to die have passed through my heart. I still cry with people, and some say that is not totally professional, but I cannot see these people as “business”. I see the pain and the loss and the confusion. I cannot know how they feel and yet I have watched so many people go numb as they waded through the challenge of making cemetery and funeral arrangements right after tragedy is crushing the joy from their soul…

In all of these years and with all the families that have prearranged for a funeral, I have never had one family say to me that they wish they hadn’t prearranged. It is such a gift to have everything taken care of in advance; and paid for. Questions about burial, or cremation, or crypts, graves, niches, caskets, vaults, and so much more can be decided upon from a perspective of being of sound mind when you seek help before a time of need.   This is in direct contrast with those who think they are invincible so they won’t need it at all, or too young and won’t need cemetery arrangements for years to come, or old and willing to thrust the decisions and cost upon their kids, or other family, Or sadly, if nobody has the money, they are ok leaving the state (all of us as tax-paying citizens) to pay for their funeral.

There is a part of a wedding ceremony when the priest or minister gets the man and the woman to agree to some pretty incredible promises to love, cherish, obey etc. til death do they part. Unspoken but also part of a wedding is a promise to either divorce or bury each other. Wow, talk about in your face! What are the other choices? I met a lady recently who was married 65 years, and she was here to complete the arrangements for her husband. Men tend to die first, but not always. Her son was with her, but he was getting long in the tooth himself and together they tried to figure out what would fit their financial circumstances and still honor the decedent. Neither Mom nor son were in a position to spend very much, and were both amazed at what it costs to die in 2015.

Some good news is that Calumet Park Cemetery, Calumet Park Funeral Chapel, and Rendina Funeral Home will work with you to develop a final goodbye that meets your emotional needs while not breaking the bank. Besides taking payment in full for pre-need contracts, it is possible to make your arrangements in advance, freeze the price, put as little as 10% down and Calumet Park will finance the rest with zero interest.

What might this mean for you and your family? I had a lady that came in to help her mother complete her arrangements just recently. For her own graves that she bought 20 years ago for $1200, the current value for the same space is $9450. That is quite a savings achieved by thinking ahead and securing the desired location at the going rate in 1995.

So, it costs nothing to be educated on all that is involved in making cemetery and funeral arrangements. There is so much more to be gained by exploring the possibilities, and nothing can be lost because you don’t have to do anything until the time of need is upon you. I invite you to call and set up a meeting with one of our no-pressure Family Service Counselors. They will work with you to develop a program that is just right for you and let you know the current prices for your choices. From that point on, it is up to you as to whether or not you want the peace of mind that comes with getting your affairs in order. You can do everything at once which gives you the greatest protection against inflation, or you can piece together a final goodbye a part at a time to avoid hurting your budget and still know that you are chipping away at an expense that set the meter running on the day you were born, and will continue to run until you stop it by making your arrangements.

Be brave and call 769-8803 for a private meeting. Drop-ins are also welcome.

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Funerals…as simple or as elaborate as you choose….


Call us at 219-769-8803 for a personal and private meeting to get your questions on funeral planning answered.  If we knew the day of our death, almost everyone would become involved in the planning of their own funeral.  Luckily, we don’t know the when, but we can do something about what our final goodbye will look like and how much will be spent.

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Sometimes it costs you more to get what you don’t want…


Years ago, I bought a Porsche 944.  I wanted a Porsche 911, but there was no way that I could afford one, so I settled for the 944.  Within four months, it seemed that all I saw were 911’s until I went back to the dealer and asked how I could upgrade.  Not counting the fact that the payment was way higher on the 911, it cost me a small fortune to get out of the cheaper Porsche.  But, my heart was set on the 911 and the heck with the cost; I went with my heart.


I was reminded of my car buying experience the other day when I overheard one of our family service counselors talking with a husband about the monument he had erected for his wife who passed away a few months earlier.  It seems they were married for a long time, and they did everything for each other.  It came across as a true love story, and in passing, the gentleman mentioned how much he regretted buying a small monument for his wife.  It bothered him every time he came out to the cemetery to visit her grave.


The family service counselor responded to this moment of emotional outreach with the suggestion of upgrading to a monument that the husband felt would be more fitting of the life he and his wife shared.  To meet the needs of the husband, a monument of greater stature and significance was arranged for, and the family service counselor could see the tension being released from this man’s face as he finalized the purchase.  In matters of the heart, money is secondary to getting what you truly want.  The fact is that you should have your final wishes designed and paid for in advance to avoid anyone from spending on something that you don’t want.

When looking at the laws written for this business, you will see the word disposition used quite heavily.  Very clinical sounding, right?  Who has the legal right of disposition is a question that must be answered when you go to your cemetery of choice to sign an interment/entombment/inurnment order.  Regardless of the name given to the document, the form is to be signed by the person who is determined to have the legal right to dispose of a human body, and what form that disposition will take.

Sadly, in many cases where there is disharmony in a family, the one with the love in their heart for the deceased is not always the one who has the right to make decisions on final arrangements of the decedent.  Quite often, the person with the legal right of disposition acts out of spite, or dislike, or down right hatred.  The courts do not make their judgments based on relationships but rather on who fits their mold of how things should go.

Ah ha!  Doesn’t sound so nice when you come to realize that disposition is a word that, as far as a cemetery or funeral home is concerned, means ‘how will you dispose of the body…the mortal remains… of that person you are being asked to sign for’.   In fact, the state has written laws on the right of disposition that defines the order of priority when it comes to disposing of the human body.  You can pick up a copy of this Order of Priority at any funeral home, cemetery or from Calumet Park Cemetery by calling 219-769-8803.  In fact, just a few short years ago the State of Indiana passed into law a bill that allows the individual to decide who will dispose of their body.  It is called a Funeral Planning Declaration and you can pick one up at Calumet Park Cemetery, 2305 West 73rd Avenue, Merrillville, Indiana 46410.

There is a lot of legal gobbledygook that must be trudged through when a person dies.  That is what your funeral director or cemeterian handles as part of their service to you and your family.   Taking care of the legal side of things when a person passes is only a portion of the challenge that is faced within hours of a death by the person found to have the legal right to make such decisions.  Making decisions as to burial or cremation…cemetery and funeral home…traditional ground burial or above ground entombment…private or public visitation…and on and on and on…is challenging to say the least.

Every decision comes with a side of doubt when you, as the body in question, did nothing to help make life easier for those left behind.  When you die, your problems are over.  However, for those left behind, the 72 hours following your death will be made more painful and confusing when they do not know what you would have wanted, or how much you would want to spend, or how little there is in the bank account to spend on your funeral.  As I write these words, a family service counselor is distraught over having to deal with a person with no money, and no right to do anything even if money were not an issue let alone being able to have a proper goodbye for her loved one.  So sad!

The best advice I could give to anyone after being in this line of work for so many years is to think about your own inevitable passing.  What would you want to happen to your body?  What kind of funeral service do you want?  How much money do you want to spend or how much money is available to be spent?  Money and dignity have little to do with one another.  You can have a surprisingly beautiful final goodbye without breaking the bank or taking food off the table.  But to do this, you are the one who needs to make the decisions.  Since none of us know the time or day of our eventual demise, when would be a better time to pay a visit to Calumet Park but now, while you are still able to?

As the title of this article states, sometimes it costs you more to get what you don’t want.  If you don’t want a public extravaganza, don’t let it happen by arranging your own funeral.  If you don’t want a very expensive mahogany casket, come in and arrange for the casket that you do want.  If you don’t want cremation (or if you do), take a couple of hours and sit with one of our family service counselors and seek their advice.  It is always better for you to have things prearranged and then forget about it until the time of need rather than have a need and force others to try and figure out what you would have wanted, and how they will pay for it.  Last year, the average cost of one complete funeral and cemetery arrangement was around $12,000 to $15,000.  The spread in price has to do mostly with the casket selection.

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If you always secretly wanted to be in a mausoleum, come in and find out how affordable it is rather than be buried in the ground and later be disinterred and put in a mausoleum when your secret somehow surfaces after you are gone.  Let your family know what you want.  You can prearrange exactly how you want things to go, and how much you will spend, and you can do it with interest free payments at Calumet Park Cemetery on a pre-need basis.  Wait until after a death, and no payment programs are available and choices may be limited.

Look at it this way, if you know you are going to use Calumet Park Cemetery when the time comes, do you think it would be wiser to arrange now, at today’s prices, or to leave it to your family?  Sure, you will still end up here at Northwest Indiana’s most beautiful Memorial Park, but at whose expense?  Call us now for a no obligation look-see at what your funeral will be like, and if you want to do everything at once, or piece your final arrangements together in smaller, more affordable segments, you will be the one in charge.

Truth be told, most cemeteries and funeral homes would rather have you wait so you will pay the going rate at the time of need.  This is especially true during these times of low interest returns on investments.  Calumet Park has a pre-need program to help us plan for the future needs of the community.  By having a feeling as to how many people will use us based on actuarial statistics and other boring stuff, you have the opportunity to have your money put in trust at today’s prices which may make the difference in your getting your cemetery version of a Porsche 911 or a 944…both good but one markedly better.  Call now at 219-769-8803 and visit our website at calumetparkcemetery.com

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Filed under Calumet Park Cemetery, Cremation, elder law, feature stories, Preneed

Why should I prearrange? I have insurance for that…


“Come on, Dan.  All you guys want to do is sell graves and stuff.  Why should I prearrange?  I have insurance to cover my funeral.”

If you haven’t said it, let’s face it, you have at least thought it.  The above conversation came over lunch with a friend recently.  I’ll call him Jim, a fictitious name, and I will share the essence of our conversation as we munched on our fries and drank our cokes.

“Is that why you bought your insurance, to pay for your funeral?” I asked.

“Well, no.  But I have plenty of insurance so my wife and kids will be OK when I die,” answered Jim.

“It’s none of my business, but I’ll ask anyway.  How much insurance will your family receive when you kick the bucket?”  I mentioned that we are friends, right.  I would not talk about kicking the bucket with anyone but a close friend.  It is pretty hard for Jim and me to succeed at insulting each other after all the years we have been friends.

“You are right, it’s none of your business, but I will tell you anyway.  They’ll get 250,000 big ones.  That ought to hold them over for a while.  Even after all my final expenses, my wife will still have a chunk of change left over,” said Jim.  “She always jokes that when I die, she’ll probably run off with her travel agent.  At least I hope she’s joking when she says that.”

“First, Jim, have you ever sat down and done the math on the suitcase full of cash you plan on leaving them, provided the insurance is still in place when you die?”

“What do you mean, still in place?”


“I see it every day, Jim.  People come in thinking that they have insurance, and it was either borrowed on for some valid reason, or it was a term policy that did not get renewed, or they got too old for it to be cost efficient to be continued.  Many people over 65 think that they have insurance and find out too late that it’s not there when they need it.”

“Well, it is there now, so what is this math thing you mentioned?”

“Look at all your expenses as they are today and divide them into your $250,000 and you will see how long the money will last.  I congratulate you, Jim, because most people that come in with a valid insurance policy when a spouse dies have, on average, $50,000 worth of insurance.  Then they want these big, fancy funerals and $12 – $15,000 is used up immediately to bury the husband or wife.  Another chunk of the money goes to prearranging for the remaining spouse and very little is left to live on,” I said.

“Wow!  When you break it down, the way we spend money, there would only be enough for my wife and kids to live the way we do now for…I don’t know…maybe four years, five if you factor in the money they won’t be spending on me anymore.  Damn it, that is right about when my little one will be going to college!”

I took another bite of my burger and sat for a minute thinking.  This was a friend, and I never wanted to bother him with buying cemetery property, but this looked like a good time to bring it up.

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“Jim, I don’t know if you know it, and shame on me if you don’t, but we have a free grave space for you and Carol worth $1000 at Calumet Park.  Or, you could use the $1000 as a credit toward something of greater value here at the cemetery.  I’d like to sit down with you two sometime in the near future and explain all that is involved in making arrangements.  A lot of the benefits to you have nothing to do with saving money.  Of course, you are such a cheap son-of-a-gun that I know you like saving money.”

“Hey, hey now!  I was going to treat lunch today, but…”

“Just kidding, Jim.  But seriously, people do this; make prearrangements for their cemetery and funeral needs, every day.  I have yet to have any person in 20 plus years of doing this work where a person came in after burying a wife, or husband or child and said I wish I wouldn’t have prearranged.  By way of contrast, I have had a lot of people tell me they wish they would have made advance arrangements instead of waiting until it was too late.  Just to know for sure what a wife would have wanted would have been worth it.”

“I know.  Every time Carol tells me about one of my old classmates who have died, we think we should do something, but who wants to talk about death?”

“Jim, I am in the business and I don’t want to talk about death.  I look at my job as doing the best I can to help people through a couple of the worst days of their lives.  It really does make me sad when they can’t afford to do what they really would like to do because they thought they had it covered with their insurance.  Even the wealthiest person has to meet with a funeral director and a cemetery person to make arrangements when someone they are responsible for dies.”

“Let me ask you, Dan, how much does an average funeral cost?  I remember when my mother died, she had a couple of days at a funeral home, then we went to church, then out to the cemetery.  How much does something like that cost?”

“Everybody is different. But, the average last year was around $12,000 for one person.  You can spend as much as you want, but that was the average.  What your mom had is what is called a traditional funeral, and prices can be all over the place due to casket choices, type of vault, and what cemetery is chosen, and where in the chosen cemetery someone decides upon.  We have graves for as little as $1000 and as much as $19,500?  And Jim, if you and Carol decide on some other cemetery than Calumet Park, you can still use our funeral home.”

“You gotta be kidding?  $19,500 for one grave?”

“Jim, it is like they always say in real estate about the three things that make the price what it is.  Location – location – location”

“For $19,500 I would want a view of the Swiss Alps as a backdrop to my $19,500 grave and I would want the Beatles singing ‘When I’m 64’ at my funeral.  And I mean all of the Beatles!  Reincarnate or clone, but get me the Beatles! ”


“That’s why a lot of people preneed.  They want to make an intelligent choice and not be at the mercy of an unscrupulous grave salesman when they are forced to buy out of immediate need.  You would be surprised how many times people overspend due to feelings of guilt.  Maybe they just had a fight and the wife drives off and is not paying attention and is slammed by a train.  Or a husband feels bad that he didn’t pay enough attention to his wife when she was alive.  And the worst to me is when a child dies and they both go overboard on funeral costs.”

“I guess I can see how that might happen.  I cannot imagine what I would do if something happened to one of my kids.”

“Jim, I remember one lady whose husband took a trip to Colorado.  He liked the mountains and she didn’t, so once a year he would go to the Rockies to refresh himself.  Anyway, he was killed by some random bad guys.  After the funeral, she gave some of the insurance money to family for a down payment on a house, she bought lots of jewelry, she gave a bunch of money to the ASPCA and guess what?  She was broke within a year and couldn’t even manage the price of the grave next to her husband.  Jim, I asked her why she spent all the money that her husband made sure she would get from insurance in case he died first and guess what her answer was.”

“I don’t have any idea.  What did she say?”

“She said that she would not have had the money if her husband had not been killed.  To her, it was blood money and she only wanted her husband back.  And get this; she was blaming herself for his death for not going to the mountains with him!  She felt that he probably would not have been murdered if she was with him.”


“Ouch!  OK, listen, let me talk to Carol and we will set up a time to sit and talk with you.  It can’t hurt to at least find out what we both would want and how much it will set us back.  You know that I just started the new job.  Do you have a payment program?”

“Jim, I prefer to think of prearranging as a great investment that increases in value the longer you live.  And the good part is Uncle Sam doesn’t get to collect a penny of capital gains taxes on the higher value when you die.  I know you did a bankruptcy a couple of years ago, Jim.  It doesn’t matter.  Everyone is approved for our zero interest financing, so all you need is 10% down and we’ll send you a payment book.  In fact, if you can’t do everything at once, we can do a little at a time until everything is taken care of and your money is trusted until it is needed.”


Just then the waitress came over with the check and as I live and breathe, Jim picked up the tab.  We never did get to talk about the Cubs and their constant lousy team or the Bears upcoming season, but I think we had one of the best talks ever.  Seldom do Jim and I get beyond surface conversation but this day was a good day for us; and for his family as he now understands that insurance is for the living, not to be spent on the deceased.

Call 219-769-8803 for information on preplanning and go to our website at calumetparkcemetery.com

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Filed under Calumet Park Cemetery, Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville Indiana, Calumet Park Funeral Home, feature stories, Preneed, Uncategorized, Veterans benefits

Are you kidding me? Who’s gonna do that?


Imagine this scenario.  You go into a new car dealership tomorrow.  You sit down with a salesman and you tell him or her that you want to buy a car and you have $25,000 cash in an envelope.  You will agree to give them the cash now but your condition is that you don’t want to take delivery on your new car for ten years. And, you want the current model at the time you choose to take possession.  For instance, you want to give them $25,000 today and when you walk into their door in the year 2023, you will want to be able to pick up a 2023 car, not a 2013 model.

Thus, “Are you kidding me?  Who’s gonna do that?” or something less polite will be your answer to such a proposition.

Well, there’s your first reason why you should consider pre-arranging for your cemetery and funeral needs.  We will do exactly that…we will help you arrange exactly what you want as your final goodbye and you can pay for it in 2013 dollars.  If you don’t need to make use of your arrangements for 10 years, or 20 or 50, you will never pay another dollar and the savings to your family will get bigger and bigger the longer you live.

Reason number two as to why you should pre-arrange is that you can make arrangements with Calumet Park for a small down payment and monthly payments for up to 60 months with zero interest.   Who is going to lend you money for free?  Seriously, who?   When you wait until you need it, cemetery and funeral arrangements must be paid for on a cash basis.  After all, a cemetery or funeral home can’t send mom or dad back to you if you don’t “pay up”.  Don’t pay your house or car payments, they take your house and car back and don’t refund a penny of your money.

A third reason for considering pre-arrangements is the opportunity to make cemetery and funeral arrangements together.  As a married person, think of all the decisions you have made together throughout your lifetime.  I can’t tell you how many times the following phrase has been overheard at a funeral luncheon:  do you think she would have liked the service (or casket etc.)?  The only one that can tell you what they like or would have wanted is the person you are married to.  Give each other the chance to do that by deciding together.

For single people, who will take care of things when you are gone?  If you don’t tend to them yourself, then you are shifting the responsibility to someone else.  Sure, they will handle things, and sure, they will help out of love for you, but is it their responsibility?  And could they afford to pay for a funeral.  Ask the person who would be in charge if they could write a check right now for $10,000 for your funeral.  In fact, could you write a check right now for your funeral?

Reality checks hurt, don’t they?

A fourth reason to consider preplanning is to conserve your insurance and let it be used for the reasons you bought it for in the first place.  Life insurance is actually for those left behind.  It’s not called death insurance.  Insurance is meant to replace lost income and let those you love continue their lives in the style and manner that you helped them be accustomed to while you were alive.

One of the most important reasons for planning ahead is to avoid emotional overspending.  Sometimes out of guilt, but mostly out of love, people tend to overspend on funerals when they must meet with a funeral director immediately following the loss of a loved one.  By having things arranged, your survivors will accept all of your decisions at face value as you are the one that picked out the casket.  You are the one that decided on the kind of funeral service you wanted.  You are the one who decided on cremation, or burial, or entombment.  Pre-arranging amounts to a declaration of your right to have exactly what you want.

Peace of mind has a great deal of merit.  To feel the peace that one experiences knowing that everything is done in the manner desired and at the price you want to pay is worth a great deal.  Leaving your loved ones with the knowledge that you got exactly what you wanted is worth overcoming your fears or superstition.  It is a wonderful gift to leave behind…a gift that won’t be appreciated until the time of need is upon your family.

If you have any questions or wish to learn more about pre-planning, call 769-8803 and remember to find us on facebook at mycalumetpark, and if you are a veteran, Calumet Park Cemetery and Funeral Chapel has a very special program designed just for you that may save you over $5000.

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Filed under At need, Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville Indiana, Calumet Park Funeral Chapel in Merrillville Indiana, Calumet Park Funeral Home, feature stories, Funerals

Questions about cemeteries or funerals?

If you have questions about cemetery arrangements or funerals, send them to me and we will do our best to help answer them. Thanks for visiting this post.  We will continue to give you important information and stories that will enlighten you regarding this topic.  Send your email questions to dmoran@calumetparkcemetery.com

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Filed under Calumet Park Funeral Chapel in Merrillville Indiana