Beating the deadly cost of dying: The do-it-yourself funeral
It's one thing to live cheap, but have you ever thought about dying cheap?
It's hard. The average Utah funeral costs around $10,000.
A few years ago I told you how to die for free. Dial 801-581-6728, and tell the University of Utah School of Medicine you want to donate yourself to science.
The school picks you up, returns your ashes, and in between you help advance medical science. Total cost: Zero.
OK, you're bashful. You don't want med students poking at you. You can still save money. Just conduct your own funeral.
Seriously. Your family can provide your coffin and prepare the body. With the proper permit, your family can even haul you to the cemetery.
Cheap burial is harder -- no law requires a coffin or vault, but almost all cemeteries do require vaults because they keep the ground level.
Still, there are many ways to cut corners. Kathleen Owen, Harrisville, is anxious to help you find them.
Kathleen is a member of Funeral Consumers Alliance (www.utahfunerals.org) which promotes lower-cost funerals.
They're fighting an uphill battle. In the United States we've developed a culture where we call the funeral home, let them take over and just pay the bill.
Kathleen and her husband spent a year and a half in New Zealand and saw several home funerals. They were simple affairs, with the family preparing the body, sometimes even supplying the box.
It was more personal and cheaper, so when her husband, William, died a year ago, she did it.
"He died at home, and my daughters and I, we cleaned him and dressed him, got the casket and we put dry ice under him. We had a viewing at home.
"That's how it used to be done all the time," she said. "Many people throughout the world do that, and still do."
Needless to say, waiting until you have a dead person in the house is not the time to say, "So, what's next?"
So plan ahead.
You can file your own death certificate. "You download the form on your computer, and fill it in and they (at the Weber/Morgan Health Department) are very prepared for that," she said.
No law requires embalming. No law requires a sealed casket. No law even requires a casket. If you want to buy or build a simple pine box, you can.
You can even have the viewing at home.
"I found people very worried that we had a dead body in our home because he wasn't sanitized," she said. "People need to understand that when a person dies, they don't suddenly become something you can get sick from. The danger was no bigger than when he was alive."
The www.utahfunerals.org website has a lot of information and links. It includes a survey of what funerals cost at Utah funeral homes, lists options you are not required to have and gives a list of sources for caskets, dry ice and moral support.
"Give them my number," said Kathleen, who can be reached at 801-605-8883.
She understands that, when the time comes, it is hard not to spend a lot of money. Americans equate cost with love, but she spent around $2,000 and her husband ended up just as loved and just as buried as if she'd spent $20,000.
"Anyone who wants to talk to me, if anyone wants help with planning or information," she said. "We just felt so strongly, my husband and I, that's how we wanted to do it, and it was such a positive experience doing it."
The Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. He can be reached at 801-625-4232, or firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at www.standard.net.