You might Consider a DIY Funeral because:
- it's creative and useful;
- it's unique, personalized, and easily adapted to specific circumstances;
- it's a way to help out family and friends;
- it brings people together at a difficult time;
- it saves lots of money;
- you will probably have a better quality product than the one you could buy.
Add your own reasons!
Here's how it started for us: a dear friend of ours was dying and our community wanted to help his wife with the funeral arrangements ...
Our friend had already arranged for someone to make his casket and he and his wife, a registered nurse, were determined he would die at home, if possible. The only real need was transportation to the place of burial. Didn't seem like a lot to ask.
The funeral provider was unwilling. He said he would pick up the body, take it to his mortuary, fill out the forms for the death certificate, then transport it to the cemetery for $ 3,000. We said we wanted him to take the body directly from home to the cemetery. He said he was not willing to do that. This seemed odd to us so we checked with the government agencies and learned we could get a permit to transport the body ourselves. We could also get the death certificate and a burial permit through the local government agent. There were some rules to follow but nothing too difficult. Maybe two or three hours work.
That was the beginning. Before we knew it, we were committed to a diy funeral. It felt good to be able to do something for our friends. Not only would the funeral be done according to his wishes, it has saved her somewhere between $ 5,000 and $ 20,000.
People who have just lost someone they love are, understandably, not up to the job of organizing a funeral so they hand the job over to a professional -- and then they pay for it.
One way to make sure this doesn't happen is to plan ahead. Our friend did just this when he asked a close friend to build him a coffin. She agreed.
At first, it seemed possible she would not have time to finish the casket. So we contacted someone in Prince George who makes simple caskets for a very reasonable price.
He is Brent Goerz, a social worker at the PG hospital, who decided, a few years ago, to start building simple, natural coffins (he prefers to call them boxes) in his home workshop. He has had many adventures starting his business and even tried out for Dragon's Den (a Canadian reality tv show, called Shark Tank in the US) where wealthy entrepreneurs sometimes invest in business ideas. Great show, but the dragons didn't see enormous profit in supplying simple burial boxes, one to a lifetime. Luckily, Brent is more into helping families than making a lot of money. You can learn about him and what he does, here (also, check out his blog):
Having ensured a suitable casket was on the way, we sat down with a funeral provider for an hour and
This is What He told us (see THE FACTS below for what the regs really are in British Columbia and most other places):
- no one but a registered funeral provider (or family, if they do it within 72 hours) can prepare a body
- no service can be held in a public building with an unembalmed body present (therefore the service would have to be held at the grave site)
- a registered funeral provider is the only person who can arrange for a death certificate
- he would remove the body to his mortuary, store it there while the paperwork was done, then move it to the burial site (this 2 or 3 hours work will cost the widow $ 3,000)
- moving it to the burial site from the place of death is "not possible" either for him (reason unstated) or for us because "it is illegal to transport an unembalmed body" except, of course, for registered funeral providers.
And on it went. The message was hire ME or don't bury your friend.
This sounded unreasonable to us. At the very least, the Canadian and British Columbia governments appear to have been hornswoggled by lobbyists for the funeral industry. Not to mention, every funeral we've had anything to do with since 1995 (the year of the supposed changes in legislation) has broken one, or many, of these regulations.
I mentioned this to Mr. F. Provider who said, "I will not work with you, then. You are putting yourself forward as a funeral director".
THE FACTS: Next business day, we called Funeral Practices BC, the agency charged with regulating these matters in the province of British Columbia and learned that almost every single thing this guy had said was completely untrue. The number is 1 888 777 4393
if you'd like to talk to them yourself.
For example, anyone is perfectly free to direct funerals as long as he or she doesn't charge! And there is no way a body needs to be embalmed, nor are there any rules around where services can or can't be held, or even the timing of the burial (within 72 hours is recommended but not required). It also doesn't matter who prepares and transports the body (although a transport permit must be acquired). In short, you can create a funeral according to your own traditions, preferences and budget as long as you follow some simple rules. It's a step by step process that does require some organizational skills but nothing spectacular.
That's when we decided to do the entire project on our own.
Did it turn out perfectly? Not a chance. Nobody complained, though. In fact, most people really liked the funeral and it saved the widow a small fortune. And we'll get better!
Update 2012: We have done several funerals since and each has had it's own challenges but has been successful in its own way. One interesting detail is that some people are shocked and many are fascinated. Maybe we're starting a trend!