Category Archives: Choices

Selecting Funeral Clergy or Eulogist


So you’ve basically completed your own funeral plan. You’ve taken out a funeral insurance policy to cover the funeral costs and funeral expenses that your estate is likely to incur, you’ve selected an obituary writer and drawn up an outline of what you want covered, and you’ve even addressed other funeral needs. But now you are faced with a problem. You are not sure about the funeral clergy requirement and what you want said.

Maybe you’ve had a bad experience at a particular church or maybe you even doubt the existence of a Higher Being. Perhaps you’ve been to a funeral where you thought the comments were not inclusive or they contradicted your point of view. Or maybe it means you have personal decisions about your faith and beliefs that need to be made. Whatever the reason, determining who will officiate at your funeral is important since it will determine how your life is presented to your loved ones and friends as a means of remembrance. Clearing the air, thinking through your thoughts and reaching an answer not only makes it easier for you to finalize your plans, it can also open your eyes and dramatically change your life.

Uncertainty is a common problem for many today. With the nuclear family and the constant relocation of household units during a life’s career, it is more difficult than ever before. Back in the old days, when many Americans grew up and lived their lives within a small geographic area, it was not uncommon for a family to attend the same church with a limited number of different ministers throughout their life. Today, the changes in life have also brought with them the likelihood of attendance at many different churches, often of different denomination or doctrine, and it can be difficult to decide what specific clergyman or woman matches up with you and your beliefs. And if you are not a church goer or are unsure of your beliefs, you need to think very carefully about what you want said at your final ceremony ending life. It can be very confusing and even troubling.

From my personal viewpoint it is sad that there are so many of us today who don’t have a strong basis for our own lives based upon faith in a loving God, a God who gives us hope for the future through His love and grace. But if we don’t, and since our decisions are based upon our free will, shouldn’t we at least ponder the possibility? It doesn’t cost anything and while for some of us it will make no difference, for others it could totally change the direction of your life. It’s never too late for that.

For those of you who are unsure and questioning about your beliefs, I am providing a series of questions about faith which I hope will be helpful to you in really knowing who you are. It will also help you decide whether or not you want a funeral clergyman or just an official with no religious significance. Even if you think you are set in your way, it can do no harm to consider these questions for, remember, the answers are entirely up to you and only you will know what you think about them unless you desire to share the information.

1. Do you believe in God as the Creator of all Life? If so is your belief Christian, Jewish, other? These questions are designed to determine what your actual religious beliefs entail from the perspective of a Creator. It should start you thinking about your place in the Creation.

2. Do you believe in the tenets of the Holy Bible or some other religious doctrinal foundation? Here we begin to explore the documentation with which your beliefs were developed and what they mean to you. This is your foundation for what you believe.

3. Do you believe in Heaven and Hell? If so, what do you see as the differentiation between the two and do you believe in Life after Death? The questions of the purpose of life enter here and the resultant consequences for the way you live your life. You have free will but you must understand that the decisions you make will impact you directly, be it good or bad.

4. If no to the above, do you have a different context of a religion or do you have no religious beliefs? Here those who have another concept of religion will have the opportunity to focus on what really provides meaning in their life. If the resultant finding is a void it will open them up to deep self- scrutiny. Sometimes we can find that we are truly searching for meaning and haven’t found it yet.

5. Do you want a religious ceremony? If not, do you want a secular ceremony with a memorial presentation of your life? Eulogies by family and/or friends? This will clearly separate those who want the religious connotations foremost in their final rites or not. The impact of the family is considered here because the funeral actually benefits the living that are in attendance and, because of this, it may change the way you look at your presentation to others. Example, your wife is very religious yet you aren’t. What kind of conflict does this create and do you accept that or you may even want to change things.

6. Do you have an idea of who you want to officiate or, if not, do you know if qualified persons are available near your location? You may want an officiant, or religious official or clergy, which requires specific religious qualifications or someone instead to officiate which can be anyone you desire.

7. If you are a non-believer, what kind of official do you want and what kind of background do you want presented? This question, after the buildup in prior questions, begs the cold, hard option of non-belief. You may very well find that by this point in the questionnaire your feelings of non-belief have disappeared and you find yourself to be a believer, just uncertain of your specific beliefs. Introspection frequently does this.

8. What part does your family play in this decision? Again, as alluded to earlier, most people want their family to be proud of them and if your non-religious option causes heartache and sadness from those you love, you may want to look inward and address the cause.

9. Are you still considering where you really stand on your beliefs and do you need help and guidance in addressing your needs? If you are now in turmoil because of the earlier questions, that is a healthy sign that you really aren’t sure where you stand. As long as you are alive it is never too late to open your heart and soul to love. As for help; there are many good people available who will help you find yourself and your place.

10. Finally, what kind of image of yourself do you want to project to be remembered by? Bingo, the image you want to reflect, once you fully realize what it is, is what you truly want to be. And that’s the purpose of the questionnaire, to help you identify the truth about yourself.

I hope that those of you who took time to address the questions have learned something about yourself. I used it myself long ago and it really got me thinking about what I want to leave behind as my personal legacy to those I love. The questions forced me to look at myself openly and honestly in evaluating my beliefs and, in my case, they made me a better Christian. While I thought I knew the answers before I began, I found that my desire for having a funeral clergy of my Christian faith, one in tune with my individual views of many differing alternatives became clearly important. Whatever your particular faith, I hope it might have a similar result for you and, for those who either don’t acknowledge a God of love and grace or have doubts about Him, I hope this might open your heart. There’s a wonderful life ahead for all of us and it need not be limited to our life on earth.

Have a wonderful week and God bless you all.

James Dick


Book page:

Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark portrays my family life with animals living with and near me at my farm in North Florida. Animals are truly a gift from a most gracious Father above.


Baby Boomers Look for Individuality in Final Rites Of Passage


Recently while surfing the net I read an article by Martha White, a writer for, in which she discusses how baby boomers are looking for ingenuous ways to present their personality through their final arrangements. Even in death, they want to show who they were and what they enjoyed after they are gone.

Being a boomer myself, it made me sit back and think about my own life experiences as well. I’ve been blessed to have a full life with lots of great memories. Even though I expect to have many good years left ahead, it made me ask myself the question: How do I want to be remembered and what would best represent me? After all, when I’m called from this world to be with my Savior, the most important things I will leave behind are the memories of my life for my loved ones. Material things are just earthly “stuff”, meaningless in God’s big picture of things, but the memories of how we lived our lives is our real legacy,

Some boomers want to create special effects to help leave that lasting mark. As an example, take the sports enthusiast. For the football fan, an urn with the colors and logo of their favorite team might be the ticket while the NASCAR fan could have an elaborate car model urn with the number of a favorite driver. In the case of a traditional burial, perhaps a special engraving on the casket or favorite colors for the casket liner could be used. Depending on local requirements, a special etching on the tombstone might be another possibility, thereby leaving a lasting impression to be seen by anyone visiting the grave site. Using imagination, anything is possible.
Whatever the choice, those left behind are the ones who will experience the ceremony. The addition of special touches planned by the decedent while still alive will certainly add a personal touch. Its memory will grow even more significant with time, when special and unique images stay vivid long after others have faded away.
In my life’s circumstance, with the love of horses that I acquired from my wife, I want things to be very simple and efficient but also unique. I have decided to be cremated with my ashes placed in a special urn. It will be emblazoned with a dark stallion on one side and the American flag with Infantry crossed rifles beneath it on the other. It will proudly recognize both my love of horses and my love of country and the Army which I proudly served as an active duty officer.

While this will eliminate the hurry to conduct a funeral, it will allow those in my family to gather and remember my life after the initial impact is over. The event should be a celebration, not a sad and grief-stricken moment. I would like it to take place in the comfort of my home and I hope there is laughter and good cheer. I see the end of this life as the beginning of a joyous eternal one.

On that day, my ashes will be spread across the pasture where our horses spend most of their time. Once completed, a special bronze plaque will be affixed to the barn near the entry flagpole which is lighted and proudly displays Old Glory 24/7. Now here’s the kicker, the plaque will contain the following statement: “James Dick’s ashes are in the pasture. May the horses run with him in death as they did while alive. RIP.” The words might change, but you get the idea and I think it will make people smile and laugh. Laughter is a great remedy for sorrow.
Why did I offer this personal example? I use it to clearly point out that each of us boomers is an individual with unique life experiences worthy of being shared. We want to be able to vividly express them, and creativity at the end of life is a wonderful way to do so.

What does this mean to the funeral services industry going forward? It means that professionals in the field must be forward looking and able to think out of the box. No longer will their customers just accept the standard offerings of services and continue to pay top dollar for them. This new trend is still in its infancy, but it will certainly grow. We boomers usually get what we want and are rather demanding about it.
The boomer market is a financial force to be reckoned with as well. This category of Americans, born between 1946 and 1964, began reaching retirement age in 2011 and the numbers will significantly ramp up quickly. It makes up over one quarter of the population and as its age progresses, the need for final memorial products and services meeting their demands will also increase. With nearly two and one half million Americans dying each year and related spending approaching twenty billion dollars, it is easy to see their importance.

Meeting the demands of this trend is where an organization like can really be of assistance. This fine online professional group is not a funeral home trying to sell you a pre-packaged program based upon what provides the best profit margin and within their limited operational parameters. Quite the contrary, Shared Sorrows assists you with tools to develop and implement your own plan and provide you with cost effective and efficient ways and vendors to do so. In this way, you can make the plan you want and have it ready to go when it is needed. You can keep your money earning and compounding while knowing that when your days are done, those left behind will know exactly what to do.

God bless all of you and enjoy the rest of your life, boomers. God expects us to enjoy this precious gift He has given us. Live it to the fullest.

Written by: James Dick, Hawthorne, Florida


Burial Liners or Vaults: What are they & Do I Have to Buy one?

The Funeral Director has just told you how much the funeral will cost, then there is the cost of the casket and the cemetery plot—but now you find out that the cemetery requires the purchase of a liner or vault.


What’s The Difference? A liner can best be described as a concrete box with no bottom. Its purpose is to distribute the weight of the dirt that will fill the plot after the casket is in place. It also prevents the plot from caving in over time as the casket deteriorates. A vault is a fully enclosed concrete “box” that has been treated to keep moisture out. It is significantly more expensive.

Do I Really Have to Buy One? The simple answer is “yes” cemeteries generally require the purchase of a liner.

What about the costs? The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule allows you to buy these items from a third-party vendor. If the cemetery is not owned by the funeral home, then ask the funeral director if the funeral home has liners for sale. We recently saved a family $100 with just this one suggestion! Online ordering is generally cost-prohibitive because of the shipping costs though you may want to check what is available in your area.


Selecting a Cemetery

Not all cemeteries are created equal—so investigate before you buy. Today let’s talk about selecting the right cemetery and then next week we can talk about selecting the right plot.

First of all, though I will refer only to “cemeteries” here, I’m including similar properties as well. You may wonder, “what’s the difference between a cemetery, a memorial park and a memorial garden? It’s really pretty simple: a cemetery will generally allow upright markers whereas the park or garden generally require flat markers. Flat marker requirements were adopted because they reduce the incidence of vandalism and grounds maintenance is much easier.

The most important thing I want to know about a cemetery or memorial park is the status of their perpetual fund—that is, the fund that will pay for the care and maintenance of the grounds. Do they have one? Who holds and controls the funds? How much of that fund is being used each year? A number of cemeteries across the USA have largely depleted their funds—and their cemeteries shows it! One final note here—generally the perpetual fund will not pay for maintenance to your plot, this remains your responsibility.

Next, “it’s all about location.” A family I know lived most of their lives in one city in the southeast. In later years, everyone moved away—leaving one daughter to fret about “moving away from mom” who had been buried there years earlier. Ultimately, they had the body exhumed and moved to another city! Here are a few questions to ask:
How often will we realistically visit the cemetery?
Is this a location that will remain central for those who plan to make regular visits?
Is the section of the cemetery where plots are available pleasant and well-maintained?
Is it far away from streets where it might be more subject to vandalism?
Is there room for other family members in this area if they wish to be buried here?
Is the plot in an area where regular foot traffic will be walking directly on or near it?
Will you charge me extra fees if I purchase a marker from a third-party provider?

Finally, I recommend you inquire about fees and requirements. Do not assume that once you have purchased a plot your obligations are over. Most require a crypt or liner which you can generally purchase from the cemetery, the funeral home or a third-party provider. Checking out your options can save you a lot of money!