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It’s Never Too Late to Plan

This week we will look at a couple who have had fun, enjoyed life and yet they have not prepared for the future.  A turn of events in life brings them to the realization that their life style needs adjusting and they must think ahead.  Meet the Andersons, Samantha and Bill.

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Samantha and Bill truly loved life and everything in it.  They worked hard and played hard and just never concerned themselves with tomorrow.  The most popular couple in their upper middle class neighborhood, they were the life of every party and were always at the top of the invitation list. And they also liked to throw parties, inviting guests to evening cookouts and swimming at their tropically themed home in Central Florida.  Their happy go lucky nature was infectious and Bill could make a crowd laugh for hours.

Unfortunately, things at home weren’t nearly so much fun as they seemed to others.  Oh, they loved and were devoted to each other but they had never planned for life and were “living on borrowed time” as far as their finances were concerned.  Bill and Sam both worked and had good jobs; Bill was a construction superintendent and Sam was a successful real estate broker, yet they never saved money or planned for a rainy day.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, they had not completed an estate plan, had no will and they had not saved sufficiently for the future.  Funeral planning was out of the question and no evaluation of funeral costs and funeral expenses had been performed, nor had any funeral plans even been contemplated.   The two of them were a disaster waiting to happen should fate rear its ugly head.

Sam was a shopaholic, always picking up unneeded things while Bill was always planning short, yet expensive vacations that they could ill afford.  And, of course, their entertainment expenses were high.  But while Bill acted unconcerned outwardly, he had deep seated fears inside about what the future for his family might be.  His two children were grown and reasonably self-sufficient and Bill also worried that they had developed the same lifestyle habits that they learned from him when they lived at home.

Despite his nagging concerns, life went on in its usual fashion until tragedy struck in Bill’s family.  His older brother, Jack, a good and wise man was killed in a serious car accident.  Upon notification, Bill and Sam hurriedly got ready and were off on the eight hour drive to the old homestead.

Jack bought his parent’s home from their estate when they died and the extended family gathered there for most holidays.  Special birthdays, Christmas, and usually at least one long weekend in the summer brought these two brothers together with their families for fun and frolic, but Bill was always a little bit jealous of his big brother for having the finances to buy the place.  He always loved returning to the family homestead, however, and he was glad it had stayed in the family yet he knew it would never be the same again with Jack gone.

Arriving late in the afternoon, the house was ablaze with lights and a number of cars were parked out front indicating that friends were giving their condolences.  As they walked to the door, nephew Paul came and greeted them with a hug although there were tears in his eyes. He and his dad were extremely close.

Sister-in-law Jean excused herself from her visitors and came to the door, hugging them both.  She was holding up well and she dearly loved Bill and Sam.

“You know the drill, Bill,” she said. “Put your things in your guest room, wash up if you want and then come down and meet some of our friends. We can talk privately when everyone is gone.”

After freshening up, Bill and Sam came down to visit.  They knew some of the visitors and all reminisced about Jack and what a good man he was.  When the visitors left and the extended family was together, Jean asked them to come in the den. She had something she wanted to show them.

“Jack told me many times that he wanted you at my side in carrying out his wishes, Bill”, she offered.  “Here is his funeral plan and I’d like you to review it with me.  Sam, you’re welcome to participate if you wish.”

Sam just sat nearby listening while Jean went over things with Bill.  He was absolutely amazed at the detail of the plan.  Jack had prepared in advance a complete funeral plan, starting with the estimate of likely funeral costs and funeral expenses and the source of the funds to pay for his final rites.  The body already was on hold at the cremation services facility and would be cremated after Bill had the opportunity for a viewing.  The funeral would be in two days and Paul had served as the obituary writer since he was a literary agent.

“I’m really lucky, Bill”, Jean said.  “Jack had his estate plan in order with his attorney and probate will be easy.  I am fortunate that I will be able to live comfortably although it won’t be the same without him”.

Bill hugged her as tears began to flow, and Sam also patted her on the back.  Then, after she sighed, she told Bill that Jack had left a special envelope for him. She went to get it.

Returning with an impressive box and an envelope, he knew what it was.  The box contained his father’s coin collection and a gold ring he had received from his father when he was a little boy. Jean said that Jack wanted him to have it as he knew in his heart that Jack wished he had the family house.

Jack sobbed and didn’t know what to say.  After all, Jack didn’t have to show such generosity.  It was a very valuable assortment and the ring was also appraised at great value, but the sentimental value was priceless.  Jack had received it as was customary in families where the father was born in the Old Country, in this case Scotland.

The funeral went well and after a four day visit, Bill and Sam headed home.  While driving, Bill poured out his heart about how they needed to change their lifestyle.

“Sam, we have to learn from Jack and Jean,” he said.  “We’re in our late forties and we have to start saving money and stop living above our means.  I don’t want something to happen to me and leave you with a mess.”

“You’re right, Honey,” Sam replied. “I want to live a long time with you and I don’t want us to end up in our old age in poverty.  Let’s talk to John next door; he’s a great financial planner. Let’s make a plan and stick to it.”

When they got home, they went to work to solve their problem.  John helped them analyze their situation and offered suggestions for how to change their lifestyle and make up for lost time.  It was difficult at first, but once they got into the groove, they were surprised at how easy it was.  And for the first time in months, Bill’s nagging concerns were gone. He felt better than he had in years.

And every night when they turned in for bed, he said his prayers and he thanked God for using the tragedy of his big brother’s death to wake him up.  He promised to stay on course for the rest of his life.

“And Lord”, he asked. “Please take care of my big brother until I see him again.  And tell him I love him.”  Then he smiled as he drifted off to sleep.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.honeyweshouldaboughttheark.com

Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, a 2014 best read selection of American Pet Magazine

 

Things Can Change Quickly

In making a funeral plan, we generally consider funeral costs, determining whether burial or cremation services will be used, obituary writer and funeral clergy selection, and whether or not we need funeral insurance or some other funeral fund to help defray the costs which today can be quite high.  Finally, we also must review our probate and estate plan to insure that our loved ones can live reasonably well after we are gone.

The one thing we never think of when making plans, however, is the death of a child.  We always assume that our children will outlive us and generally that is a correct assumption.  But as we all well know, life doesn’t always work out the way we plan and death never takes a holiday.

Sadly, the warm weather which is here now and the activity of young people who naturally think they are immune from harm can combine to create a disastrous situation.  With school letting out and summer almost upon us, now is a good time to talk with your children, be they five or eighteen, about their need to act responsibly and safely in the many fun activities which summer brings.

Following is a true story which involves an acquaintance of my son while celebrating graduation from high school.  The names and location are changed to protect the privacy of the living relatives of the deceased and to respect his memory and peace.  I tell it not to frighten anyone but to make real for others the need to realize just how fleeting the gift of life can.  And since God has given us free will and with it the ability to make choices, poor choices can sometimes result in bad things happening to otherwise good people.

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Johnny was excited.  He was graduating from high school soon and was looking forward to going away to college in September.  He had a good summer job with a local hardware store and enjoyed helping the many customers who came by daily for needed supplies.  But he really looked forward to his free time in the summer since, living in a coastal town, fun in the sun at the beach or on the water was what he and his buddies would be enjoying.

Swimming, waterskiing and fishing were all in the game plan and, of course, whenever they were near the water there were also plenty of pretty girls.  Boys will be boys, but unfortunately they often do stupid things around pretty girls to hopefully impress them or at least gain their attention.  This would prove to be a big mistake for Johnny, one we’ll learn about shortly.

The final week of school went by and graduation was held outdoors at the school’s football stadium.  It was a great occasion and Johnny and his friends immediately left for the beach home of his best friend, Tom.  Tom’s father was well to do and had a beautiful beach home on the ocean about an hour’s drive from the school.  It was within walking distance of a marina, several nice restaurants and the shops and teen hangouts that are always found in beach towns.  A group of four of them had been invited to spend the weekend and relax and enjoy themselves.  Tom’s mom and dad would be in and out, but they trusted these boys they had known since they were children and it was a very close knit group.  Besides, they were warned that the party would abruptly end if any intemperate behavior was involved.

A considerable number of their friends were also spending the weekend at the beach and they made arrangements to meet after dinner the next night at the Rec Center, a group of businesses in a small shopping center beside the beach that catered to the weekend and vacationing set.  It included a fishing pier, ice skating rink, bowling alley and games center, a dance floor catering to teens and numerous eating establishments and shops. 

Linking up in the parking lot, they decided to check out the fishing pier and see if anything was biting.  They had brought their tackle with them and were dying to try their luck.  Besides, it was a beautiful moonlit night, and from the pier the moon shimmered in the water and looking back to shore the twinkling lights up and down the coast were clearly visible beneath the starry sky.

The girls who joined them really weren’t very keen on the fishing idea, so the boys promised if they didn’t have any luck within two hours they would take them dancing.  The girls smiled and were appeased and relented in their complaints.  After all, if they wanted to have a girls’ night out they would have been better off back home.

After an hour or so the boys were growing impatient.  They had only caught two fish and neither were “keepers”.  And this is when things went awry, for the boys started bragging about who could walk the railing from shore to the end and back the fastest.  Johnny’s friend, Tom went first and completed the circuit quickly with no problems. One of the other boys was next and then it was Johnny’s turn.

The railing was four feet high and it was eighteen feet above the water and while wide enough to navigate for someone with good balance, an occasional larger wave coming in would cause the pier to sway a small degree, enough to affect concentration.  Johnny took a deep breath, climbed up and gained his balance and composure and turned seaward.  Heading down the railing he looked strong and confident.  No one could tell he was nervous but he wasn’t about to “chicken out”.

As he made the turn at the end to return to complete his walk, one of the girls yelled that a big swell was coming.  As Johnny looked back and saw the six footer approach, large for an otherwise calm night, he began to lose balance and the passing wave delivered the finishing touch.  Johnny plunged the eighteen feet into the water and didn’t immediately surface.

Tom ran to the point where he fell, looked down, saw nothing and dove in to search for his friend.  It was pitch black in the water below the pier and Tom dove under several times, coming up empty handed and gasping for air before he finally found Johnny.  His body was limp and his head was at a funny tilt.  Using every ounce of strength that he had, he managed to swim with his lifeless friend toward shore, using the incoming waves to push him along.

Finally reaching the beach, he pulled Johnny out of the water and set him down in the damp sand.  One of the girls ran to the rec center to get help while Tom, a certified life guard with experience in CPR, worked on Johnny trying to get him to breathe.  His valiant attempts were unsuccessful and all he could do was wait helplessly for the rescue squad to arrive.

The arriving medic checked Johnny’s pulse and found none, and he noticed the angle of his head which indicated that his neck was broken.  There was nothing anyone could do.  Johnny’s unbalanced fall had resulted in his hitting the water at a bad angle, resulting in his immediate death.

Tom was devastated and blamed himself.  If only he hadn’t thought up the stupid challenge, everything would have been okay and Johnny would still be alive.  It took him the entire summer to return to any semblance of normalcy, despite Johnny’s parents telling him they knew it wasn’t his fault.  They knew the boys were subject to free will and, in this instance, they had made a bad decision and Johnny and Tom both paid the price. Johnny was dead and Tom would have to live with the memory of a horrible accident at a time when they both should have been enjoying their graduation celebration and a wonderful summer.

Death is unfortunately a fate that we all must face and we never know when it will come for each of us.  And I don’t tell this story to show the necessity of having a funeral plan made for someone in advance as young as Johnny, for even the best prepared of us is not likely to plan in advance for this type of occurrence.  But it is important for us to make arrangements much greater than a funeral plan for all of our loved ones, young and old, and it takes their buy in and their acceptance.

The plan I am talking about is one that can only come through individual faith. Having faith in God through His Son, who died for us, is the only way we can truly plan for our future.  For our ultimate future is not in this world, but rather an eternal one involving our life everlasting with the Father.  Teach your children wisely so that they have a plan in place whenever that fateful ending to life happens.  It is the only way to truly live.

God bless you all and have a safe and happy summer, but always put Him first. Your life depends on it.

James Dick

Hawthorne, Florida

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark or

www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick

 

A Lesson in Saying Goodbye (Part Two)

After looking at an expensive funeral for a man of means last week, we now turn to a more modest example which shows how final rites can be done tastefully and with great respect and honor for a decedent without large expense.  As we will see the key is in a well thought out funeral plan, involvement of those who are close to the decedent in providing assistance and input as well as active involvement of the decedent while he is still of sound mind in finalizing the funeral plan .

 

Robert Hendricks was pondering the bad news he received.  A hard working pipefitter with the nearby renowned shipbuilding company, he just learned the cause of his cold and hacking cough that wouldn’t go away; he had terminal lung cancer.  The doctor informed him that it was advanced and that the odds for successful treatment weren’t high but that he had the option of aggressive treatment if he desired.

Robert thought about it and decided not to bankrupt his family in a losing fight for his life.  His resources were limited but his family would be able to survive on the savings that he had accrued as a thrifty man.  After all, his home was nearly paid off and he didn’t want his family to possibly lose their home to false hope.  He would leave things in the hands of the Lord. 

That night after dinner and with the teens asleep, he sat down and told his wife, Judy the bad news.  She asked him to set up an appointment for the two of them with the doctor.  She wanted to hear the details herself since she wasn’t convinced that giving up hope was the best option.  She just wasn’t ready to give up her husband.

Robert said he would honor her wishes, but he remained firm that he wouldn’t go through the treatment if it was likely futile.  While not happy, Judy said she would support him in his decision if it was the best option for the family and with that, she began to softly cry and while she hugged him tightly.

The meeting was held a few days later and, as Robert had told his wife, surviving for the long term would require a miracle.  The doctor said he probably would have two or three months of reasonably good health before his condition deteriorated rapidly.  Life expectancy was estimated at six months, maybe more.  Unfortunately, aggressive treatment would only delay the inevitable by no more than six months.  Even Judy’s desire for him to fight the cancer had to undergo a reality check after hearing this.

Robert’s employer processed his retirement quickly and allowed him the option of maintaining his health and life insurance under the most favorable options allowable.  He also immediately paid him for unpaid vacation and sick time and granted early disposition of his annual performance bonus which would have been distributed normally about three months later.  This gave the family a nice cushion to go with the savings that Robert could draw from while allowing Judy and the teens to handle the future.  Her job along with his savings and the pension benefits would make things doable.

Robert and Judy asked the teens, Billy and Suzy, to come in the den the next night for a family pow-wow.  The kids knew something was wrong but they both broke down when their dad told them why he was retiring early.  He hugged them both and told them that he loved them and that God makes the decision when it’s time to come home to Him.

“Think of it this way, kids”, he told them. “I’ve had a good life and I’ve watched both of you grow from babies into wonderful young adults.  You both have part of me in you and that will never change and my spirit will be with you always, just like God.”

He told them that their mother would need them to be strong and helpful and that they shouldn’t be sad because he knew that he was right with his Lord.  Besides, he was going to live each day like it was his last.  He was going to exercise regularly and eat well; he would do everything in his personal power to stay active and alive as long as he could.  He also knew that his good nature and upbeat personality would help.

A few days later when the emotional pain was not so acute and the entire family was beginning to accept reality, Robert asked Judy to help him draw up a funeral plan and his wishes for inclusion in his final rites.  He said he wanted it to be inexpensive yet respectful, something that would show the love of a simple man for his family and his God.

With a pad of paper and a pen they wrote up a plan for the employment of cremation services, a ceremony at their church and the spreading of ashes in the pretty little creek that ran through the woods at the rear of their rural homestead.  It would be simple yet tasteful and they would ask their close friends and neighbors to be a part of the ceremony by providing home grown seasonal funeral flowers for the service at the church.  It was indeed a closely knit neighborhood.  After the ceremony he wanted a country style funeral meal held outdoors in their beautiful meadow adjacent to the creek.  Arrangements were drawn up for a large canopied tent sufficient to hold a good crowd.

Robert actually had nearly six wonderful months after the plan was established before his health deteriorated.  He used the time to spend having fun and enjoying life with his family and friends.  He was relaxed, at peace with the world and he found it to be the happiest time of his life. 

Three months later on a Wednesday night at home with family and friends, he passed away peacefully.  Knowing that his time had come, he pulled an envelope out of the adjacent bedside table drawer and handed it to his beloved Judy.  It contained a handwritten copy of the plan they had devised and a significant sum of money.  He whispered to her that the money was to cover the cost of things; she wouldn’t even have to use the funeral insurance policy proceeds that he took out years ago.  Judy could use that money for other needs.

On the following Saturday in the early afternoon, a large crowd gathered at the Congregational Church.  Everyone in the small community knew Robert.  He was known as an honest man with a big smile and a strong belief in his God, a fine worker and loving husband and father.  Even the President of the Shipyard, a company with several thousand employees personally attended.  He said he had something he wanted to present as part of the ceremony.

The flowers throughout the church were home grown.  Many were native wildflowers from the meadows and they presented a rainbow of color and aromatic aromas that lifted spirits and filled the air.  The minister was decked out in his black robe with red trim and the choir was magnificent in their bright red robes accentuated with a silver accent.

After the short memorial message, scripture and prayer and a few heartfelt comments from Robert’s two children remembering the good times with their dad, Hank Spangler from the shipyard came forward with a rectangular object covered in cloth.  Taking the lectern, he unveiled an engraved plaque with a picture of Robert and a short description of his devotion to the quality and timeliness of his work, a level of performance which was rewarded by Robert being selected as a member of the company’s Wall of Fame, an honor not held by many as Spangler demanded perfection for recognition.  The plaque would be conspicuously placed on the honor wall in the company’s main entrance hallway. 

Throughout the service, the urn containing Robert’s ashes was prominently displayed on a table by the lectern; it had been carried in by Robert’s two children. Made of white porcelain, it was painted with a seagoing ship on one side and a simple gold Cross on the other.  It simply contained his name, year of birth and death, and the statement “I’ve gone home to my God.”

After the ceremony, most of the attendees followed the family with police escort to the Hendricks’ home where they assembled for the trek with family to the stream with the children again carrying the urn, accompanied by their mother and Reverend Jones.  Upon arrival, Judy Hendricks kissed the urn, said a few private words to her departed husband and removed the lid to the urn, sprinkling Robert’s remains in the fast moving clear water.  A backdrop of the sound of rushing water under a deep blue sky and the shadows from the surrounding woods accompanied the crowd’s unrehearsed “God bless you, Robert”, as his remains washed away.

Neighbors did most of the work for the funeral reception and it was truly a feast, a feast of celebration for a good Christian man.  There were portable folding tables provided by the church and a local school covered with checkerboard tablecloths and loaded with ham, turkey, fried chicken, assorted vegetables, baked goods and coffee and tea.  There was enough to feed the Army and all in attendance found the beauty and simplicity of this day honoring a simple but very good man to be exceptional and something they would never forget. 

And all who knew Robert were of the same opinion; they knew that from somewhere in Heaven above he was looking down and smiling, knowing that his loved ones and friends had honored his memory just the way he wanted.

Who says final goodbyes at the end of life have to be expensive and stuffy?

Have a wonderful week ahead and always remember to Praise His Holy name.  See you next week.

James Dick

Hawthorne, Florida

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book site: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, a Best Read for 2014

 

Final Disposition of Remains: Part II – Traditional Burial

After discussing the benefits of cremation services last week, we now turn to look at the most widely accepted method of disposition of remains, traditional burial. For those who prefer this timeless action, nothing describes it better than first-hand experience. Following are some of the things I personally experienced as a boy that have always made a traditional funeral and burial most appealing.

My first personal experience with a funeral and burial came upon the death of my father. I knew what a funeral was, of course, but I had never been required to attend one before. Things were chaotic in those first days after his death with my mother torn between trying to handle the grief and depression upwelling in both her children and within herself while also having to attend to last minute funeral planning issues, filing for her funeral insurance claim, insuring that funeral costs were met and accomplishing all other funeral needs. Thankfully, a close neighbor friend stepped in for Mom and took care of all of the activities of the household.

Being only nine, Mom kept me away from much of the action, including the viewing of my father’s body and the visitation at the funeral home. She felt it would be too traumatic for me and, looking back on things, I think she was right although I was upset at the time. I spent most of the two days prior to the funeral trying to reach an understanding of why I was facing the death of my father who I loved so much. Why me and not someone else?

The actual funeral, while somber, was very touching and moving. My dad didn’t want a church funeral; he wanted the sole memorial to be held at the gravesite and I remember being bundled up on a cold December in the pale afternoon sunlight and stiff breeze to sit on the first row under the canopy where the body would be soon be placed.

Suddenly, the hearse carrying his body pulled up, and a group of his close friends, now acting as pallbearers slowly and very deliberately removed the gleaming dark wood with silver rail casket from the vehicle and carried it with dignity to its place on the stand over the freshly opened grave. I will always remember that moment. Here was the body of my now deceased father at center stage, with a large entourage now entering or surrounding the canopy area as our family minister in his finest church robe stood in front of the coffin almost at attention with the Holy Bible in his hands. The momentary peace and solitude and the quiet reverence of the audience, all looking directly at the casket was so dignified and honorable that I didn’t even think of crying at the moment. My heart welled with pride instead knowing that so many people thought so highly of my dad..

I don’t remember a lot of the rest of the funeral except the moment when I joined my two siblings to individually place a single flower on the casket before our departure. I remember vividly looking at that container and thinking that my father would be placed below ground in this solid and dignified casket which showed our love and respect for him.

The several snapshot moments, while short, have been everlasting in my heart and mind since that day. It is one of the reasons why I understand the importance to so many of the traditional funeral. And later, when I had the opportunity to experience the viewing at the funeral home of another dear relative prior to burial, I realized why so many demand an actual viewing of the body for one last time. It is truly marvelous what cosmetics and chemicals can do to make this possible. Clearly when you see the body of someone you care very much about, looking close to normal but without the smiling eyes and joyous facial expressions remembered, the closure needed to get on with your life cannot be escaped.

So I guess it all boils down to this. If your primary concern is the dignity and honor of the ceremony, with the pomp and circumstance of the casket’s carriage and presence and what it adds to the memory, then you will probably opt for the traditional funeral and burial. If, however, cost is a major concern and the funds to be expended require tight constraints, then you can certainly see where cremation services might be more appropriate. But, in the final analysis, whether it is a traditional funeral or the use of cremation services, the choice is yours or that of your remaining loved ones. Make it wisely and plan ahead and you can rest knowing that your family will not be faced with the uncertainty of trying to guess what you wanted. That is one of the best memories you can leave behind showing your care and love for them.

God bless you all and remember, next week we will have a Christmas surprise for you and particularly your children. I hope you will enjoy it. See you then.

James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, now available at my book website
www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark
website: www.northfloridawriter.com

 

Final Disposition of Remains: Part I-Cremation

Something that most of us don’t like to think about is planning your own funeral. Often looked at as being a morbid subject, it is nonetheless an important thing to consider now so that your family doesn’t have to determine what you wanted after you’re gone. Use of a funeral planning list is a good way to approach the issue. It allows you to prepare a general estimate of anticipated funeral costs and funeral expenses and, more importantly, to designate the final disposition of your body.

While most Americans in the past have thought of in ground burial as the appropriate ending to their life, cremation services are becoming more popular these days for many reasons based upon economic and lifestyle changes today. Rapidly rising cost of burial at a time when many are facing tighter family budgets is one. Increasing concern for environmental issues and the limited availability of needed space is another. Let’s take a look at each of these separately.

At the time of death, the remaining family is faced with many expenses that they are often not prepared to deal with. While some have burial insurance to help, many do not and when you add this to the impact of a slow economy the situation can become quite dire. In such situations it is critical for the survivors to find a means less expensive than traditional burial which will both fully honor their loved on while showing the respect due.

Cremation services, wherein the body is reduced to ashes quickly under high heat and regulated conditions, are becoming commonplace today. The remaining ashes are usually placed in an urn which can be either simple or ornate and given to the next of kin for disposition as desired by the family. Some keep the urn intact as a permanent memorial while others scatter the ashes in a special place of remembrance. Others even have the urn placed in a mausoleum or even buried with a marker for the spot.

Cremation services allow for delay in final disposition of the body if needed, such as when gathering the family together is made difficult by distance and time constraints. The need to quickly hold the final ceremony can be deferred as long as needed since public health issues are eliminated once the cremation process is completed. In some cases, the next of kin may desire to retain the ashes intact and since the urn contents are not dangerous to the environment and are portable in weight and size they may even be retained during a family move. Many keep the ashes nearby as a lasting memory for sentimental and emotional comfort.

Environmental concerns involve another factor which brings favor to the cremation services concept. With burial space more limited and with concerns about the impact of embalming chemicals over time on the environment, particularly in times of large increases in population, cremation services offer an option more in tune with a “green earth” campaign, yet the potential for burial in a more traditional funeral remains available without the normal concerns. There are even “green designated” burial plots in many locales which bury remains in a manner which does not interfere with the natural landscape. One such facility exists here in North Florida in Paynes Prairie where to the naked eye it is hard to imagine that human remains have been interred.

The primary concerns voiced about cremation usually involve religious traditions and the dignity of the mourning process. With regard to the religious issues, it is necessary to inquire of the particular church or denomination to find out what church doctrine calls for. As far as the dignity of the mourning process, cremation can easily be applied to a traditional funeral. The principal difference would be the use of the urn, small and easy to handle in place of the bulky casket. The desire of the family is the only governing factor; there is no universal one size fits all guiding rule that applies.

In closing, following is a primary list of potential areas for saving by use of cremation. Savings can be maximized if funeral home activities are not needed. This also assumes that the traditional funeral and interment of the remains are not required. They are, however, in no ways precluded solely due to cremation. I would personally want a funeral ceremony, but many of the cost savings listed below would still be achieved.

Areas for potential savings:

Elimination of expensive casket
No embalming required
Funeral home staff charges eliminated
Funeral or church fees reduced
Visitation charges eliminated
Transportation fees reduced
No plot or mausoleum crypt
No vault or grave liner
No grave opening and closing costs
Headstone and/or marker not required

Here in North Florida the cost for a streamlined cremation can be found for as low as $895. Even with additional services but no casket or burial, the cost is usually found in the $1200 to $2000 range. Compare this with the current costs of a formal funeral and burial in the traditional sense where the cost can easily by in the $7000-$10000 cost range and up. But the bottom line: it’s entirely up to you.

Next week we will discuss the traditional funeral and its components and, then on the following week I have a big surprise. I’ll tell you more next week. Until then, God bless you all and God bless America.

James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
Author, Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark
Website: northfloridawriter.com
Author site: outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

 

The Reality of Christianity: I Am Second

Writing a blog for a funeral planning site can be challenging. While it is important to discuss all aspects of funeral needs including selecting funeral clergy, determining whether burial or cremation services are best, even whether or not an obituary writer or eulogy writer is needed, none of these things do anything for the inner self or soul, both of the decedent to be who is planning in advance, or for his or her family, left behind to carry out the request of their loved one as well as carry on without that special person.

Two weeks ago we talked about the need to recognize the importance of God in our lives. He is the one who can best help our loved ones deal with the uncertainty, grief and depression that will likely surface in a time of sadness and loss. His love and caring, gained through our opening of our hearts to Him, will not only help us while we are still here but will certainly positively impact the future of those we love.

Fortunately, while I thought about how to really “bring home the message” that was broached in my earlier discussion, I came upon a wonderful Christian web site that is clearly a tool for making God’s wishes clear. It is called I am Second, web address iamsecond.com, and it is designed to inspire people to put God first in their lives, to live for Him and, in so doing, follow His guidance on dealing with both routine and major problems that we will face in our lives. None can be more critical than the feeling of aloneness and fear that we all sometimes face, and these fears can often translate into grief and depression. And no subject can be gloomier than planning for your demise or participating in a service for a departed loved one.

Founded by Norm Miller, the Chairman of Dallas-based Interstate Batteries, I am Second was initially developed to lift the Dallas-Fort Worth area to a higher recognition of God’s purpose for us and now has grown to other areas of the country, including Central Florida. Being a good organizer, Miller has set up a leadership team to guide its growth and development, including a working relationship with e3 Partners, a communications production organization that has developed written and video material and tools for use by those who are seeking answers to questions from God. These materials use true stories from real people who found Jesus, decided to put Him first in their lives and, as a result, dramatically changed themselves and have been saved by Christ’s grace and redemption.

What types of people are participants? Well, they include athletes, actors, business leaders and political types as well as regular people like us and our next door neighbors. Also included are people mired in bad habits and a disastrous life style including drug addicts, alcoholics, even prostitutes, you name it and someone meeting the description is probably here. You see, God loves all of us and he wants us to seek Him out, pray and work to change our ways through our love for Him, and put Him first in our thoughts and actions. If we make Him first and relegate ourselves to second, the wonders He can work in, for and with us are incalculable. And while one might think that this is asking too much, remember that the Lord sent His Son, Jesus Christ to earth as a mere mortal to suffer a horrific death as a man, not as God, with all the pain and suffering that a man would feel, so that by dying for us we might find eternity with Him. All we have to do is put him first in all that we do. He’ll take care of the rest.

The stories told in the videos represent almost every imaginable struggle. They include such issues as abortion, abuse, anger, cancer, affluence, divorce and many more. They show how any of these things, including some which seem on the surface as positive factors, can become just the opposite when not handled the way God wants. And each of the stories shows the pitfalls of that lifestyle and its detrimental impact. Eliminating pitfalls and sorrow which can be avoided through Him will play a leading role in precluding much grief and depression which would otherwise come with ultimate regret. You see, God wants us to live happily and we can truly only do this if we have Him in our heart and put Him first. Otherwise, our riches, our passion and even our weaknesses will ultimately consume us.

I am Second also spends time dealing with many of the questions that we have regarding faith. Some of the same people who tell their stories about how God has changed them also offer their views on a variety of these questions. This is an excellent approach since it offers real life, not theoretical, examples of what God has to say about these questions. Some of the questions are:
Does God care about me?
How do I know everything that happens in life is God’s doing?
Why is Jesus the only way to Heaven?
Why does God allow bad things to happen?
How do I become second?
And these are just some of the subjects with which we can be helped. Looking over this short listing, I think we can clearly see how the power and the glory of God and His son, Jesus Christ, can lift us up with brightness, joy and light, just the opposite of gloom and doom, grief and depression. And when we are faced with our own pending demise, or with the loss of someone close to us, we will see it as a road to glory above with Him and a time for celebration.

I would highly recommend that all of us who want to develop a deeper relationship with Our Heavenly Father should consider taking a close look at iamsecond.com. It’s open to everyone, it can be a strong inspiration to those seeking to really get close to God and it can help you understand that He is first and we are designed to glorify Him in our lives by being “Second”.

Have a wonderful week ahead and I’ll look forward to meeting with you again next week if the good Lord is willing. Bless you all and God bless America.

James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
www.northfloridawriter.com

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