By Larry Teren
It doesn’t pay to die- no kidding. Even with prepaid burial plots accounted for, a service and funeral procession could easily go for close to six thousand dollars.
When Dad passed away a couple of years ago at a nursing home, Ma and my siblings decided he should go out in style. He had been cooped up in the nursing home for several years , unable to get up and even walk around the place. The last few months were the most miserable for him and us as well. Funny thing about death. It doesn’t matter what dreaded disease a person has, the death certificate usually reads, “heart stopped.” Unless, of course, the person is blown up to bits in a terrorist attack.
Dad passed away in the middle of the night at the nursing home between Friday and Saturday. Saturday night we met with the representative from the funeral procession operations we chose. The fellow started out with the cost of the casket. This followed with an explanation that there was an additional cost for the funeral procession hearse to the cemetery- like Dad was gonna drive himself? He then asked us if we would like to be taken during the funeral procession to the cemetery in a limousine. I asked, “how much is it?” He replied, “three hundred dollars.” So we thought about it and liked the idea. Being wary, I asked if this included the ride back, thinking it would be a wisecrack to lighten the proceedings. He replied, “no” and said that it would cost a total of five hundred and thirty dollars if we also wanted a ride back in the same limo. I then asked him how much a very long thick rope would cost because my solution was to tie a rope to the back of the hearse and we could all stand behind it holding on while the funeral procession hearse inched forward across the city to the cemetery.
When both of Ma’s parents died as well as a favorite Uncle, they had graveside services- no long speeches in a chapel. Now, it would be a chapel service for all of my parents’ friends to attend and reminisce. This was marking new territory and it made it quite difficult to try to not turn the service into a comedy routine. I had visited Dad in the nursing home almost every day of the week for several years. I did most of the grieving then, while watching tv with him.
When my parents had purchased burial plots in 2000, they didn’t bother to read the small print. It indicated that the cost of cemetery service covered interment only on Monday through Friday. If Dad was to be put in the ground on Sunday, it would cost extra. It worked out okay because we had to wait for three siblings to fly in for a Monday burial. The one thing that Dad did do right was pay for perpetual care. What that meant was that two or three times during the spring and summer, an alien with a lawn mower sidled up to his grave marker and gave the errant grass a trimming.
As for a grave marker itself- that was another long term investment. By the time we were done arguing how many lines should be used for his epitath, the size and composition of the monument, the price balooned to over three thousand dollars. And this was for a marker that stood barely thirty inches off the ground.
The funny thing about all this is that Dad was not officially dead according to the City of Chicago when he was put to rest. When it comes time to go, make sure you gasp your last breath in a hospital. The medical personnel will put the sheet over your head, walk out to the computer at the closest nurse’s station, log into the local governing body website and declare you a goner. But when you exit while in a nursing home, no one is in a hurry to get a doctor to sign off on your demise. That’s a loss of revenue for the facility. So, things get dragged out a bit. The patronage worker for the City of Chicago “That’s All Folks!” Department is in no hurry to chase down the doctor who wrote in his records that he lost a paying customer. It takes four weeks after Dad’s burial of making calls and begging to finally get the city worker to put down his donut and record that Dad stops breathing.
You know what they say- “you can’t keep a good man down.”