Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Funerals: Pay yourself first


Maybe it's because I lost my dad as a little kid.
Maybe it's because I lost nearly my entire family by the time I was 16.
Maybe it's because I was little Orphan Black before I was middle-aged.
In any event, for most of my life, I've been obsessed with the rituals of death and dying.
I've never been able to make sense of it. I feared it. I wondered how people survive under the ground without a coat in the winter.
The worms go in/The worms go out/
The worms play pinochle on your snout.
In any event, I've struggled determining how best to play out the end game.
Particularly, I've wondered, why do people spend so much damned money on funerals?
When my beloved mother died, she had saved $15,000, most of which went to put her withered butt in the ground after an excruciating and exhausting illness. She never got to spend that money on a Caribbean cruise or a nice wardrobe. The money got pocketed by the nice folks at Butler's Funeral Home who had previously made a cool hundred thou off our family in less than three years.
I couldn't get over the waste of spending a long weekend in September standing in a room with that sickening sweet smell of over-fertilized flowers, greeting the same 20 people in front of a woman who clearly wasn't enjoying the party, a woman I barely recognized as my old sainted ma.
Ever since, I've struggled to come to terms with my own beliefs on how best to dispatch the remains of the day.
Most recently, I've had to do some thinking on the subject due to the fact that most of my Press Club friends have left this Earth in quick order and I am now helping a friend plan her husband's funeral. The friend is not well off. She just came into a tiny bit of money and I didn't want her spending it all on Bob's funeral. Bob's still alive, in palliative care, and he's still lucid. He'd rather Doris spend her money on Lottery tickets or a Soda Stream.
Bob isn't religious in any way and has been a bit of a rascal most of his life. In fact, I'd speculate that God would only allow Bob into Heaven on probation.
In any event, he'll be going somewhere: heaven, hell, the Carleton Tavern in the sky pretty soon.
He's made it clear, he'd been happy to skip the funeral, collect a $100 and proceed to the Wake to virtually tweak bums.
As for Doris, well, Doris is a mess. She's been looking after Bob for more than a decade and she's wiped out, and fragile. I wanted to help her avoid the whole funeral home upselling, the time when people use your grief to make you feel guilty for not getting the $10,000 casket.
So yesterday, I went online and arranged Bob's funeral.
I couldn't be happier.
You just go onto the site and fill out the form. Do you want the bargain basement funeral which pays for the basics: transport, cremation, certificates, urn, etc.? Or do you want a service thrown in? A visitation?
It's all there, itemized for the world to see.
There is no mystery to the process. Basically, it's like buying a car. You can get an upgrade from cloth to leather, a simple radio or Bluetooth.
So I got the forms, gave them to Doris, and it's done.
Bob's getting the Blue Plate special for $1,800 -- tax in.
His CPP death benefit will more than pay for that.
Now we just need a body.
That will come soon enough.
Bob, meantime, is having a ball, kicking up his heels on the best painkillers of his life, planning out his final days -- could be days, could be months, knowing Bob, it still could be years -- but at least, Doris doesn't have to think about hanging about in a smelly and expensive funeral home, paying hundreds for a pricey limo ride, greeting people she couldn't stand in life in a Congo line and feeding them.
Screw them, I say.
If they didn't visit you in life, they have no business visiting you in death and eating all the food.
Meanwhile, Bob will be spending his final days in the lap of luxury, watching the Blue Jays and telling war stories in the dining room of a final days place.
I think it's awesome.
Bob's thinking of donating his organs. I've suggested he give his body to science.
He's a walking Wikipedia of what happens to your body when you treat it like Ernest Hemingway -- or Hunter S. Thompson.
Maybe he should have himself shot out of a cannon.
That would be awesome, and probably a lot less than Butler's Funeral Home.
I wonder if Basics has that option.
In this battered economy, they always say "pay yourself first".
This should also apply to the months before you meet your Maker.

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