Death is Not Failure

Death is Not Failure

As I am preparing this newsletter, I am awaiting a call from a longtime colleague with the knowledge that it will be the last time we have a chance to talk.  Recently diagnosed with multiple brain tumors that are inoperable she has chosen to let her life run its course and to enjoy what quality time she can for as long as the tumors allow.  Tragic, sad, emotional; you bet, but not a failure, as far as we can tell, on anyone’s part.  Remember I said before, death is not an option.  Fortunately, her healthcare providers understand this type of terminally ill planning.

In this day and age so many healthcare providers feel like they have failed if they are unable to cure their patients.  They frequently continue to offer alternative treatments when they know that the chances of doing anything truly helpful are miniscule.  They talk about end of life planning matters extending life, but not about the quality of that life.  They are also confronted by patients and/or loved ones who want “everything” done.   They offer treatments that they themselves would not take were they in the same condition.  The healthcare professionals’ role in life has always been to make people better, to cure them, and when they can’t they feel inadequate or like they have failed so they keep trying even as hope wanes.  It is a reasonable response considering their training focuses on the cure.  But, death is just a part of life and it is sometimes best to accept.

As you might guess, the call came before I had finished this.  I was floored.  In fact my friend was ecstatic when I spoke with her.  Hard to believe isn’t it?  She kept telling me how wonderful it is to have time to talk with people who love her and who share with her what a difference she has made in their lives.  She said that this truly has been the best experience of her life and she is so pleased that her life will be ending this way because she never really thought that she had made a difference in anyone’s life.

She’s living fully in the moment.  She is making plans for the “celebration” of her end of life, when she is gone and where to scatter her ashes.  And given the advent of the Internet and advanced technology tools today, there are many new memorial technology options for cremations.  She has made peace with what is happening to her and is embracing the experience better than anyone I have ever met.  Surely there are down times but to everyone with whom I have spoken who has spoken with her they all are getting the same vibe.

Death for her is not a failure but truly is an experience she is cherishing.  Talk about acceptance!  And yes, she has her advance directives in order.

The bigger question is when will you:  Have ‘The Conversation’ And Give ‘The Gift’

Courtesy of M Jane Markley Consulting 

 

Death and Burial Rituals

Burial Rituals

Death and Burial Rituals

The Business of Death

Around the world, every day, every hour, every second, medical treatment is unable to prevent death. When doctors, nurses and hospitals can do no more for a patient, another industry steps in.

World population Estimate – 7,142,797,806

There are bodies everywhere.

World Death Rate: 8 deaths/1,000 population 55.3 million people die each year 151,600 people die each day 6316 people die each hour 105 people die each minute ~2 people die each second

Burial Rituals:

Traditional Western Customs:

The two most common methods for the disposal of corpses are:

Cremations (Burning the body) or
• Interment (Burying the body)

Today, the average North American traditional funeral costs between $7,000 and $10,000.

• Fee for the funeral director’s services: $1,500
• Cost for caskets: $2,300
• Embalming: $500
• Cost for using the funeral home for the actual funeral service: $500
• Cost of a grave site: $1,000
• Cost to dig the grave: $600
• Cost of a grave liners or outer burial vaults: $1,000
• Cost of monuments: $1,500

Islamic Customs:

• Muslims try to bury their dead ASAP.
• Family or community members wash and shroud the body in scented water and clean white cloth.
• The body is positioned so that the head is facing Mecca. The average adult Islamic funeral, before the cost of burial, was $6,550 in 2009, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

Tibetan Buddhist Sky Burial:

• The traditional Tibetan Sky Burial involves a corpse being dismembered by trained professionals and left outside (in one of the 1075 sky burial sites) for animals to feast upon. Today, 80% of Tibetans choose to have Sky Burials.

Green Burials in the U.S.:

• Going “Green?” People are forgoing traditional methods for environmentally friendly burials.
• Why expose the Earth to unnecessary embalming chemicals or steel caskets.
• Opts for biodegradable caskets or having your remains turned into an artificial reef? Factoid: Americans currently bury around one million tons of steel caskets each year.

Ngaben:

• Balinese cremation ceremony is performed to send the dead onto their next life, and is considered a sacred duty.
• The dead are placed inside a coffin, which is then placed inside a structure resembling a buffalo or temple.
• The structure is carried to the cremation site and set aflame. In group ceremonies upwards of 60 people’s remains were cremated at one time.

Ghana’s Elaborate Custom Coffins:

• In Ghana it is popular to bury loved ones in coffins that represent certain aspects of them, generally either an occupation, or something they loved.
• For example, a farmer might be buried in a coffin that was built to resemble an ear of corn, or a businessman could be buried in a coffin resembling a plane.

Famadihana – The Turning of the Bones:

• The Malagasy people of Madagascar have a famous ritual in which every five to seven years, the family has a celebration at its ancestral crypt.
• The cloth-wrapped bodies of the deceased are exhumed and sprayed with wine or perfume, before being brought out for family members to dance with while a live band plays.

Space Burial:

• Money can buy you anything, even a burial in space.
• The first of these burials took place in 1997 and contained ashes of 22 people (including Timothy Leary and Gene Roddenberry).
• Cost, depending on how far you want your ashes to go, $1,000 – $12,000.

No Longer Practiced

Sokushinbutsu:

• Originating over 1000 years ago, Sokushinbutsu was practiced by a sect of Buddhist monks, and resulted in self-mummification.
• Process that involved eating nuts, bark, and drinking poisonous tea, and took over 3000 days to complete.
• Though hundreds of monks tried, only 16 – 24 were successful.
• Sokushinbutsu is now illegal in Japan.

Hanging Caskets:

• Though now a long lost civilization, The Bo people of the Hemp Pond Valley in Southwest China’s Gongxian County, would use two wooden poles inserted into the rock to suspend caskets containing the dead on high cliff faces.
• Over 160 coffins were placed along the cliffs and natural caves. Today locals refer to the Bo as the “Sons of the Cliffs”.

Sati:

• Now banned in India, Sati was the practice of recently widowed women throwing themselves on the funeral pyres of their husband’s bodies.

Contributed by “The Business of Death

End of Life Conversations and Understanding

End of Life, Death, and Dying

Death and End of Life are

the Great Equalizers

No matter what we believe, what we have or have not studied, how young or how old we are, the end result of life is death. All of us are going to die. All of us will have the same journey to reach a new level of being. Therefore, it would be a great opportunity for compassion to understand those around the world, no matter what color, what country, or what religion, to realize that we are the same – and we are going to do the same thing as every other. Yes, unfortunately we will all die some day.

How will that affect what I think, how I treat others? What if someone wants a cremation rather than a funeral? Can I accept that concept? (For example, cremation is the norm, not the exception, in Asian countries.) How do I feel about the burial of a body within twenty-four hours, with no cremation or embalming? How do I feel about some religions that do not allow women to come to the funeral of a man?

There are as many different customs and rituals to plan a funeral as there are different religious belief systems. Many times I hear of funeral directors that are doing amazing things to help their families that have a different funeral ritual than what many in America have called “the traditional” memorial service. It would be impossible to learn all the rituals, but that may not be important. Perhaps the bigger question is have you as a funeral director thought of your own comfort level to the rituals common in other cultures or belief systems?  Ask yourself if you are opened minded enough to foster different services, and to be at ease during those services.

To help ponder these end of life planning matters here are a few questions and exercises to help you discover your comfort level.

1. When is the last time you had a service in your funeral home that was different than you traditionally hold? For example, did you serve a family that was Hindu but you are traditionally a Christian firm? How did that service make you feel? Comfortable? Out of place? Wishing it was over quickly?

2. When you are presented with something that is out of your comfort zone how do you cope with the situation? Do you have systems in place to help you process the new information?

3. What resources do you have in your community to help you learn about other cultures and their burial practices? Would you be willing to have someone from a different culture come and teach you and those you work with about their rituals and needs?

4. How can you expand your services to include “new” forms of service to families you have not ministered to before?

5. Can you discuss with friends and colleagues what they have done to incorporate the needs of other cultures? Can you be open and dialogue about how comfortable/uncomfortable you can be with opening your business and your psyche to something different?

Funeral Service is a great profession that gives service to people in need. If you can find great compassion for that ritual you do not know about, or agree with, you will not only be assisting your families, but yourself. Because, after all, we are all going to do the same thing –die, right?  It is the people left on earth who make it look like we are not doing the same thing…but we are!

In today’s world, we need to find our commonness, that which makes us the same, rather than focus on differences. You are in a rare business to recognize you are the one that can create harmony and understanding across cultures. You, of all people, know what we are like in death, and that we all face it alike, and all those left behind feel the same grief and loss.

© 2010 Kelasan, Inc.

Why Cremation Memorials Are Popular

Cremation Memorials

Cremation Memorials Help the Bereaved

Psychologists and counselors have been researching the effects of grief and loss with more frequency over the past century.  They are finding tangible positive effects of bereavement on the family members.  The positive healing effect can be explained when it is recognized that art expresses that which cannot be expressed through just words.  Grief often lies beyond words, beyond simple explanations of our conscience minds.  It is in the unconscious that expression of deep wounds and tragedy of loss is found.  Grief cannot be reduced to the rationale.  Art can speak to us and facilitate the connection with what is going on inside of our minds as we grieve to help us through the process.

Julie A. Burn, Director of Cremation Services for the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, says today’s families have more choices than ever before. “It’s important for families to take the time to grieve their loss and to find a way to remember the life that was lived, regardless of whether they are choosing cremation or traditional funeral and burial,” Burn said. “Today’s cremation services offer many ways to honor the deceased, and so I would encourage families to be sure to ask the funeral home and the cemetery what their options are for creating tributes and memorials that are personalized and have meaning to them.”

It is expected that the Funeral Directors become an active part of the presentation of the Cremation Memorial in order to facilitate these benefits.

The Funeral Directors are expected to:

  • Become educated on the processes involved with creating the memorials
  • Gain a personal confidence in the company creating the memorials
  • Getting the sample of the cremated remains to the artist
  • Receive back the remainder of the cremated remains when the work is complete

Adding the additional service as an option to the families adds an additional source of income to add to the bottom line of the business.  The artisans producing the memorials typically recognize that the contributions of the Funeral Director are essential in making the transaction.  When the Funeral Directors have invested time into learning about the product and are able to represent the benefits to the family and confidence in the company handling the cremated remains that is when the families really consider the option.  Additional value is added to the families when the handling of the cremated remains is taken care of too.  The samples of remains are sent to the artist and the remaining cremated remains are received back when the work is complete.

Types of Cremation Memorials

Several new memorial technology options have been used as a medium to incorporate cremated remains, for example:

Memorial Diamonds

Man made diamonds are molecularly identical to naturally occurring diamonds.  By recreating the forces of nature to the primary element of all diamonds, carbon, a diamond can be made.  General Electric first pioneered this technology in the mid 1950’s.

By using the carbon from the cremated remains or a lock of hair, memorial diamonds can be created to forever encase the cremated ashes in a unique and beautiful memorial.

To create the memorial diamond, the carbon is heated to extremely high temperatures.  This step removes the existing ash and converts the carbon to graphite with the unique characteristics and elements that will create the diamond.  The graphite is then placed in a press capable of replicating the forces in the earth, heat and pressure.  The pressure needed is nearly 1,000,000 psi and the temperatures are up to 3000 degrees centigrade.  In approximately 70 days, depending on the size of the memorial diamond you wish to create, the resulting rough diamond crystal grows.  When the rough diamond is ready, skilled diamond cutters facet the memorial diamond according to the families’ selection.  The diamonds can be inspected and graded by trained gemologists, the same process used by the world’s finest jewelers.

These memorial diamonds are typically available in sizes from .25 ct. to 1.5 ct.  The colors that these memorial diamonds can be created range from blue to red to yellow to green.

Keepsake Jewelry

Keepsake jewelry is a small urn that can be worn as jewelry or hung in a display.  It has a small area inside to hold a memorial to the loved one, like cremated remains for example.  Keepsakes were first introduced by Madelyn Pendants in 1992.  Joni Cullen and Lisa Saxer-Buros created keepsakes when they lost their friend and mother Madelyn Saxer.   From Madelyn Saxer’s zest for living and her ability to embrace death, the concept of the Keepsake Pendant was born: A symbol of continuing love, a reassuring remembrance to keep close to one’s heart.  In creating the pendant line, they had a simple purpose: to enable others to cope more easily, to hold a source of comfort in their hands and to find peace in their hearts.  The keepsakes were initially intended for cremains but Joni and Lisa soon realized that was limiting the benefits of the keepsakes which also hold locks of hair, funeral flowers and other personal items.

The death care industry has used the term Keepsakes for so long now that it has come to be synonymous with all Cremation Memorials.  When Madelyn Pendants started marketing the keepsakes there were no other cremation memorial options available to the families.  They had to coin the term because there was not a name for the niche yet.  The acceptance to the keepsakes has been steadily growing since they were introduced.  If initiation is flattery then Joni and Lisa have been flattered.  Today there are a number of companies producing and marketing keepsake jewelry.

Keepsake Urns

Once keepsake jewelry started to catch on there was a recognition that the families could benefit from Cremation Memorials.  The urn companies began introducing lines of small urns.  The small urns, keepsake urns were designed to hold a portion of the cremated remains.  The funeral directors and urn resellers were able to fill the need of the families to provide a way to create multiple memorials to the loved ones.  Family members do not all live around the same cemetery or crematorium, in fact they often live in different cities and states.  The families still have the natural need to for a memorial.  Cremation urns fill this need perfectly.  Families often request several keepsake urns for all the family members.

Cremation urns come in as many forms and shapes and made of as many materials as urns have come to be found in.  And the variety is increasing.

Cremation Painting

Cremated remains are combined with the paint used to create a memorial painting.  The artists can paint a portrait of the loved one, a landscape or still life that invokes memories of the loved one.  Because the art is individually commissioned the size, form and subject can be personalized to the families needs.  This is one of the newest Cremation Memorial mediums that have come available to families.  It is testament to the even larger variety of memorialization options that families will be presented in the future.

Memorial Pottery

Pottery work that incorporates cremated remains into the clay or into the glaze that become the memorial.  As with the Cremation Paintings, the pottery form of memorialization takes on a very personal nature.  The individually commissioned pieces are designed to reflect the essence of the loved one as well as contain the cremated remains.