I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

– Maya Angelou

The Commemoration of a Life

Your funeral could be a dignified, solemn, and even spiritual experience for those who participate in it. While funeral services vary according to people’s religion, culture, and tradition, there are certain steps you can take in anticipation of your passing to lighten your family’s burdens and help them to focus on the celebration of your life.

Prepare an Estate Plan

A comprehensive estate plan will help your loved ones to distribute your assets in an orderly, cost-effective, and timely manner at the time of your passing. This may relieve some of the tension involved during this sensitive time and prevent potential disputes between family members. Wills, trusts, and health care directives will assist you in accomplishing these goals. A Minnesota estate planning attorney will help you to put together an estate plan tailored to your needs (see What To Consider When Estate Planning).

Decide How to Cover Funeral Costs

Funeral prices vary significantly depending on your needs. In Minnesota, average funeral costs range from $600 to $30,000. Basic funeral services include funeral planning, securing the necessary permits and copies of death certificates, preparing the notices, sheltering the remains, and coordinating the arrangements with the cemetery, crematory, or other third parties. The cost of a funeral may also include caskets, flowers, a cemetery plot, obituaries, etc. Many people choose to have their funeral costs paid out of their estate to avoid burdening loved ones, especially those who are struggling financially.

Choose a Disposition Method

The funeral industry is experiencing significant changes. Many options are available now besides traditional burials. Below is a list of some methods of disposition:

  • Earth burial: The body is placed on the ground, generally in a casket, and requires a cemetery plot and a monument or marker.
  • Entombment: The body is placed above the ground, in a crypt within a mausoleum.
  • Cremation: Through the application of intense heat, the body is reduced to bone fragments. Cremation can occur after a funeral or memorial service. The cremated remains are given to the family for final disposition. Options for disposing of the remains include burial, entombment, scattering, etc. Keep in mind there are certain restrictions in Minnesota regarding the disposition of cremated remains. For instance, it is not allowed to scatter cremated remains in any waterway. You should check the local regulations and zoning rules before scattering ashes on public land.
  • Direct cremation: The body of the deceased is collected from the place of death and a cremation is conducted immediately with no service.
  • Alkaline Hydrolysis: Also called bio cremation, resomation, flameless cremation, or water cremation, alkaline hydrolysis is an eco-friendly process of disposal that produces less carbon dioxide and pollutants than cremation. The body is placed in a tank filled with a mixture of water and lye, and subjected to intense heat. Like cremation, the only solid remains are the mineral ash of the bones. The powdered ash is returned to the family for final disposal. Although alkaline hydrolysis is an unusual disposition alternative, it is legal and available in Minnesota.
  • Green burial: Often, green burial is less costly than typical burial. In a green burial, the body is buried in the soil (in a casket or shroud made of biodegradable materials) allowing its natural decomposition. Generally, the body is unembalmed or embalmed using formaldehyde-free fluids. The burial must be done only in a green burial cemetery, which is available in the Twin Cities.
  • Whole body donation: This is a form of non-transplant anatomical donation made under the Darlene Luther Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. The deceased’s remains are used for educational and research purposes. The University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic receive whole body donations through an Anatomy Bequest Program. The donation lasts between 2 and 18 months. The donor’s remains are cremated, bio cremated, or buried after the donation process. Generally, there are no costs associated with whole body donation. However, there may be expenses associated with transportation, the filing of death certificates or other required documentation, or the professional services of a funeral home.
Choose a Type of Service

Choosing a funeral service will allow you to plan a memorable funeral that reflects your ultimate wishes. The way you plan your funeral services may vary depending on your family’s traditions, cultural background, and religious views. You have several options available to commemorate someone’s life, including Traditional Funeral Services, Memorial Services, Graveside Services, and Life Celebrations.

  1. Traditional Funeral Services typically include visitations, a service, and a procession to the cemetery.
  2. In Memorial Services, the life of the deceased is commemorated without the presence of the deceased’s body.
  3. In Graveside Services, the commemoration takes place at the cemetery, either in a chapel or beside the grave, immediately prior to the burial.
  4. A Life Celebration may be a less somber alternative to a standard funeral. It is considered a more personalized approach to commemoration. It may involve a special theme relevant to the deceased and it may not be conducted in a funeral home.

Whichever manner you choose to commemorate your passing, this will be a unique occasion when family and friends gather to remember you and to transition to life without you. You may want to ensure giving your loved ones a special moment to mourn your departure and to embrace those memories that would remain with them for the rest of their lives.  

The song is ended, but the melody lingers on . . .

-Irving Berlin

  While we live our lives, we can prepare to make the most of our one last impact on loved ones: our funeral. A funeral doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable experience. Thinking and discussing the options available to us may help overcome some fears and anxiety around passing. After all, passing is a step nobody can avoid. Why not make it memorable and meaningful to those we love?