What happens at a funeral home……


I am going to break it down:  I had a friend tell me that I should break down what exactly happens, so I will try to do my best.

When the funeral home receives a death call, the funeral home calls it a “First call”. This could be from the hospital where the deceased is at. A Nursing Facility. Or a family member. Hospice care. They will tell us that so and so has passed away and they would like to use our services.

The person taking the First call will then ask some questions, such as: Name of the deceased, age, location of death, time of death (if speaking to a medical facility) doctor signing the death cert. (if speaking to medical facility), deceased address. Persons name who is calling. The name of Next of Kin. Is there going to be any viewing and if so, do we start the embalming when we bring the deceased to the funeral home? We will then set an appointment time. We also let the family know that they need to bring in certain things at that time, such as: Deceased’s full name, date of birth, place of birth, was deceased a veteran, if so bring in discharge papers (they are entitled to a flag and military services), social security number, parents full names and mother’s maiden name, etc. Also to bring in the clothing that the deceased will be wearing and any insurance policies the deceased may have.

Arrangement time: At this point the family will come in to make the funeral arrangements. We will ask all the information for the death certificate (age, date of birth, date of death, location of death, veteran or not. ethnicity, nationality, place of birth, parents names, etc.) Then we will go over what type of viewing, if any that they would like. There are many different options available. You can pretty much choose whatever you like . There is the traditional 2 day viewing with the third day the funeral service. You can have you viewing at the funeral home, and then have the service at church only then process to cemetery. One day visitation then next day at the funeral home, then to church then cemetery, a few hours of visitation at the funeral home and all services conclude at the funeral home, no church, no cemetery, etc… the possibilities are up to the family and what they want and what they can afford.

Once the viewing and funeral dates are set, it is time to choose a casket. Casket range in price from $750 – $10,000.00. You can pick a cloth-covered casket, a wood casket or a metal casket.  We do have some on display but we can also order others if you chose to do so. Then there is the vault (if burial) again, these range in price from $625 – $10,000.00.

Then on to the other things, like prayer cards. Do you want a sign in book? Military service (if deceased was a veteran and has proof of Honorable Discharge). Would you like the flag draped on the casket or folded? DVD presentation, specific music to be played? how many copies of the death certificate? Do you have a minister, priest, reverend, that will be doing the service and if so have you contacted him yet, if not, please do so asap to make sure that the dates and times you have set up are good for him. Or do you need the funeral home to contact someone for you to do the service? How would you like the printing done on the prayer cards (spelling or nickname). Family to sign a General Release form so the funeral home can do the removal from location of death (hospital or  other medical facility). If it is to be a cremation, the next of kin (only) must sign the cremation authorization forms.

On to the cemetery: this is NOT part of our charges, these are separate. You must physically go to the cemetery to purchase a plot, if the deceased did not already have one. If the deceased already has one, you will still have to go to the cemetery to sign paperwork and pay, if there is money owed. If purchasing one, you must go there to pick one out and pay the fees. There are also fees called Opening and Closing and those fees are typically NOT included when purchasing a plot. These fees run from $900 – $1500, depending on the cemetery. The cemetery usually requires a vault, as I stated earlier you can do this at the funeral home, but you can also purchase one thru the cemetery if you wish to do so. Also, the minister, priest, reverend, etc will  expect a donation from the family, typically between $150 – $250. We can add that on to the funeral charges and give the church  a check or the family can directly hand the clergy or church the check. We can also add in whatever amount is due to the cemetery (we will call the cemetery after the family has chosen or gone to the cemetery and verify all information and give them day and times we will be arriving for the funeral). We will write a check for the cemetery as long as the family is to pay us the full amount due to them. And on the day of the funeral we will hand the check to the cemetery so the family does not have to worry about it. Also, do you want an organist? If you do, then that is also another donation usually $75 – $150. again we can write a check for it if you pay us or you can hand it to them yourself. Limo’s. Do you want to rent one, two? If so, there are charges for them. Depends on how long you will be using them. Where would you like the Limo to pick you up at? Home, funeral home, church? Would you like to order flowers thru the funeral home or would you like to use your own florist?

Once  the family has all that worked out and we have all the days and times set. The cemetery has been taken care of, we will begin our work: Do the removal (if not already done), Embalming (if required) transport to crematory (if cremation) Faxing the necessary authorization forms to crematory if cremation (obtaining a medical examiner permit for cremation if needed) – Order the casket, the vault, call the cemetery to verify all days and times. Order the flowers (if ordered thru us), order the limo’s. Set up the hearse for that day (driver), call the doctor of the deceased to see when we can get the death cert. signed. Verify the clergy. Find an organist (if family wants us to) call the church to verify times. Burial permit needs to be typed and signed. Checks need to be wrote. Funeral home’s records need to be updated with new call, payments entered, receipts wrote. Printing to be done (prayer cards) The sign boards need to be completed for the outside of the building and the inside (hallway) make sure a sign in book is taken out for family. Call our cleaning company to let them know days and times of visitation at funeral home and day of service so they know when they can come clean after each day of viewing and after the funeral service (if at funeral home). Employees to work to greet guests.  If there was an insurance policy, then we have to call on the insurance and get all the necessary information, get all the paperwork ready for the family to sign (beneficiary) and notify them of any of documentation we need for the insurance company). If cremation and family purchased an Urn, we will have to call and order that urn (and have any engraving proofed by the family – one the cremated remains are delivered back the funeral home, we then fill the urn and contact the family).

Once the body is at the funeral home, embalming begins  (if required, not direct cremation) then the body is dressed and casketed. The casket it is then set up in the room (chapel) and if a flag needs to be draped, we will drape the flag or if a folded flag, we will place in the casket. Any jewelry the deceased is to have one will also be done at this time. Make up is applied before cakseting, usually, then the hair is done if need be. If the deceased was not a vet, then of course no flag would be needed. Then the flower deliveries start. The casket spray will arrive and will be placed on the casket. Other flowers will be set up in a certain order when delivered. (there is usually a casket spray that will be place on the foot end of the casket, then other arrangements from the immediate family will be place at the head of the casket on a stand and or the foot of the casket. If the family brought in any pictures they want displayed those would be set up as well. The DVD presentation will be set up and ready to go for the family when they arrive as well. Is the family Catholic?, if so a candle is lit and place next to the casket. Any other items that are to be place in the casket will be done at this time as well, such as a rosary or a bible or any other important things the family wants. The music is all set, if the family did not request certain music or bring in a CD of their own, we will play our music. The sign boards are placed in the halls and outside.

Family arrives (family hour, if family chose to have a family hour) –  If the family has brought in any other items, this is the time we would place them in the room (before they go in) If the family has brought in any picture boards, we have some easels and will place them in the room for the family. The Director will then walk the family into the room. Make sure all is okay and then leave the family so they can have their time with the deceased. If the  family has any requests at this time, we will do so at this time.

Once the family has had their time, we will open the chapel doors so that arriving guests may go in to pay their respects. Depending on length of visitation, we will not bother the family unless they need us for something.  Sometime during the later part of the day an employee will ask the family if they know who the pall bearers are or to please start to think about who they would like to have as pall bearers. Also we ask if they are planning on having a luncheon after funeral services and if they are would they like the Director to announce  it to the visitors during the funeral service? Also, we ask if there are any items in the casket that need to be removed before closing the casket? An employee will make a list of all items to be remove and what will stay in the casket. We will ask the family what flowers they would like to go to church and cemetery on day of funeral. All of this must be documented so on day of funeral we know exactly what is to be done!!

Day of funeral  – people arrive, minister, priest, etc. will arrive. All paperwork must be ready, such as burial permits any checks that need to be taken to church and cemetery. At the time chosen by the family the clergy will begin the funeral services (if at funeral home) he will speak for a while then if any family members, friends, etc want to say a few words they may at this time. Once this is all done, the Funeral Director will then speak on behalf of the family and thank everyone for attending, and explain what is to happen next, such as, the family would like to invite you to a luncheon at so and so following all services. He will then give directions to everyone to exit to their vehicles if riding in the procession and to turn on bright head lights and to stay as close to the person in front of you as possible. He will then explain that this concludes the services at the funeral home and all are welcome to pass by the casket to pay their last respects and exit the building. After everyone has passed the casket we will ask the family if they would like to stay in the room while we close the casket and give them a few minutes to say good-bye. We will then remove any items from the casket, close the casket and move out into the hall so the pall bearers can gather and carry to the hearse we will also gather any flowers that will need to go with the deceased and place them in the hearse. Once this is completed the procession will start and all will follow to church and or cemetery. The family will usually come back later in the day or the next day to pick up all the other flowers and items that were taken out of the casket, if they were not given while closing the casket (if the family did not want to witness the closing of the casket). They will also be picking up the cert. death certificates if they are ready for them and any receipts or paperwork.

So, hopefully I remembered everything. I am sure I left something out somewhere, but this pretty much sums it up. There is alot of work that goes into a funeral. Like I have said before, their are times sensitive items that need to be taken care of asap! There are alot of behind the scenes work to be done. It is important for us, as well as the family, to understand that these things need to be done. So when I complain about families not calling me back with a day or a time or who there clergy is going to be or why are they waiting to go to the cemetery……it isn’t just because I feel like complaining. It is an effort on every employee as well. If one person does not do something, then it creates a domino effect. Alot of the time, I will be complaining about our ‘star’ employee and friends will say “well, just don’t do it, don’t do her work and let her take the blame”, I wish it were that easy. You can’t just NOT do something, as you can see from above. It will only affect the family that we are serving and it is not their fault we have an employee who chooses to not do her work properly. Thankfully there are “some” of us that do know what we are doing!!

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4 Responses to “What happens at a funeral home……”

  1. I have a general question regarding the flag. Hospice has been called on my step father (age 93). He was in WWII and he was honorably discharged. He has alzheimers and no other living relatives that could help with where he was enlisted/where he was discharged. My mother tried to fill out the form, but couldn’t because she simply doesn’t know these things they are asking and he is not able to give us any info. When he passes, she just wants the flag to be draped across the casket. Do we have to have “the form” filled out in order for the funeral home to do this for us? Will they not do it without it? Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this. You really shed a lot of light on the funeral/burial procedure for someone that doesn’t know where to begin.

    • Hi! The funeral home ‘should’ be able to let you borrow a flag just for that and after funeral they would just take it back. That is how we do it. Altho, the funeral home can also apply for a lost discharge for you too.. Depending on how they apply, we do it online and print the form and have the next of kin sign it. It does ask for some info that you may not know, just like you said your mom does not know but you can leave whatever you dont know blank and send it in that way. If and when after applying for lost discharge, which if funeral home does do it for you, will be after the funeral, the funeral home then can give you the flag. But, yes, they should let you use flag to drape casket.. Depending on the funeral home they “may” just give it to you.. at my place we do require to have a dd-214 (discharge) before we will let family have the flag. The reason being is that we apply for each flag thru the post office. There is a flag application that we fill out and that requires a copy if discharge, we take it to post office and they file it and give us a flag. Alot of funeral home just buy their own flags but some still require a discharge. Did your step dad ever belong to a VFW or Post in your area that you know of? If he did and you really really want that discharge you could always ask if they can help you and they could try to do the research for you.. Good Luck! Im also sorry to hear of your step dads illness.. in my experience Hospice is vey helpful and kind. Please let me know if you have anyother questions.

  2. Hey Bizz, just wondering about when removing a body and taking it to the funeral home in preperation for the funeral/viewing etc, what happens if the deceased has actually passed on from an infectious disease such as AIDS or Hepatitis C and under workplace health and safety for funeral staff preparing the body, can embalming and viewing still take place? In Australia here, if a person dies from AIDS or Hepatitus C, the casket has to be sealed during the service and no viewing is allowed for health regulations.

    As well here, for highly infectious diseases like TB, the body isn’t even allowed to be removed from the body bag when placed in the casket. In this circumstance without removing the bag, the body has to be certified by a doctor that it is actually that particular person the bag before it’s released to the funeral home. Is the process similiar in the US as well?

    It’s interesting to read that a lot of children’s funerals there are followed by cremation too. Here, a lot of families prefer cemeterial burials with a white casket in a children’s cemetery. Unless the parent has passed on at the same time and the kid is often buried with them in the adult cemetery. I live near an old pioneer cemetery and it hasn’t taken any more burials since the 1970s but if a family plot already exists there then the local council will consider a burial in that plot.

    I just wonder, too, how people can eat so much at funerals, I totally agree with you there. A lot of the larger family-run funeral homes here often use a caterer (at the family’s expense) for the luncheon following service, but the three funerals I’ve been to in the past few years, the family had a wake/luncheon at their house which makes it easier for the funeral people too I would imagine.

    (I reckon with that front window of your funeral home at eye level to the street and everyone having a stickybeak, you should do something at Hallowe’en to scare the shit out of them:)

    • thefuneralbizz Says:

      amanda, here in the U.S. a body can still be embalmed and viewed if they pass from a contagious disease. when doing the removal, preparing the body, embalming,etc…extra precautions are taken. those with contagious diseases can also be cremated. up to the family. we use the same precautions as if the person were still alive and say were to have surgery or need to draw their blood. it is interesting to know that other countries do things so differently. the only thing the funeral home MUST know is “if” the deceased had any contagious diseases. and of course to alert the funeral home staff to take extra precautions when working with the body. the crematory must also know if the person died of contagious disease. there is actually an area on the cremation authorization asking whether or not the person died of a contagious disease. we MUST mark the correct box!

      I would say 9 out of 10 children are buried. but usually when i speak of cremation, it is usually a fetus, that was not full term yet and mother had to give birth. or if the baby was just born or born dead. they are so tiny then it is usually uncommon for a family to go thru the whole funeral process, buying a casket a vault, paying a cemetery, etc…..

      you wonder how people can eat so much at funeral home? ME TOO! as a matter of fact…the family i had today did just that! i had read your comment early this morning before even leaving for work, just did not get a chance to approve it or comment then, so when i saw ALL the food in the lounge and EVERYONE in the lounge (there were 5 people in the chapel with the deceased and propbably at least 20 in the lounge) i kept thinking about your comment and couldn’t wait to get a chance to answer! they weren’t the nicest of families either! and on top of it, they are having a luncheon tomorrow after the funeral service…i just do not understand it! i have had people in my family pass away, and never ever did we ever have that much food! maybe and i mean a slight maybe we had a box of cookies and maybe some donuts! even though these people bring in all this food they STILL have the luncheon following the funeral!!! ridiculous! some have the luncheon at a restraunt, some at hall, some at their home.

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