718. Funeral coverage

718funeral

Quite frankly, Herbie couldn’t afford to die. Funeral expenses were atrocious. He needed funeral coverage. He took out a policy that cost him twenty-two dollars a month. He arranged an automatic payment from his bank account.

The thing that ever so slightly worried Herbie was that if he died during the first year he wouldn’t get a penny. Not a cent. Not that he’d get it anyway because he’d be dead, but his wife wouldn’t get any compensation for the funeral costs. And then once the first year of payment was up, everything would be covered. Within reason, you understand. His wife couldn’t order a 24-carat gold coffin.

Everything went fine for several months. In fact, everything went fine for eleven months and two weeks. Then, as the first anniversary of payment approached, Herbie started to worry. He started to stress. Every little chest creak was an oncoming fatal heart attack. Every little twinge in the head was an aneurysm. Every little spasm was the onset of cancer.

Herbie discovered that the anniversary date of payment was a Friday the 13th. Friday the 13th! How terrifying is that?

Let’s face it, by the day before the anniversary, Herbie was a blithering mess. He had to survive a mere twenty-four hours. His dear wife suggested they go to the park and feed the ducks. It would take his mind off things. So they did that, although Herbie didn’t go anywhere near the duck pond as he didn’t want to fall in and drown. He didn’t walk on the grass in case he slipped and broke his neck.

AND… he survived! He survived! He survived!

A week later he got a letter. The last bank automatic payment transfer hadn’t come through. His funeral costs wouldn’t start to be covered for another month.

38 thoughts on “718. Funeral coverage

  1. Susanne

    Oh no! Will he make it? I think you need a sequel.

    I was pondering funeral costs just the other day as I was having my driver’s license renewed and the lovely clerk asked me if I wanted to donate my body to science. I wonder if I did that could I avoid the whole stupid funeral/burial business altogether? Something to research on a quiet Saturday night.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      I’ve been wondering exactly the same thing. I THINK they give the bones back after they’ve finished with the rest. So bone disposal still becomes an expense. Don’t take my word for it. I’m still trying to find out!

      Reply
      1. Susanne

        And of course the NZ laws/practices could be entirely different than those in the Great White North. Why couldn’t you give the bones to science, too? You know, have your skeleton reconstructed and donate it to a medical school too?

        Reply
        1. Bruce Goodman Post author

          I suppose the Medical School needs only a minimal number of skeletons? I know when I was in Boston, the nuns all donated their remains to Harvard Medical School – and quite a few months later the bones were returned for burial – because I did quite a few funerals. But this might have been at the wishes of the nuns, I don’t know.

          Reply
    2. The Furry Lollipop

      I’ve donated my body to the University of Southampton. They keep hold of it for three years, then cremate it and give the ashes to the family, if they want them. They also hold a memorial service every two years, and invite the families of those who have donated. I’d thought about it for years, then when my daughter’s father died last year, and I saw her struggling with the funeral, I made my mind up.

      Reply
  2. Cynthia Jobin

    A sterling Bruce Goodman finale!

    My Dad was a funeral director/undertaker when I was growing up, and we lived upstairs from the funeral parlor, directly across the street from the Catholic church and rectory. When my mother was dying of cancer, my parents sat me down and asked me to have them cremated when they died. (They, of course, knew what a rip-off the whole rigmarole was). This was significant, because in our small town it would be scandalous for a Catholic to be cremated. They could imagine what would be said, but of course they wouldn’t be around to hear it!

    I carried out their wishes. The expense was reasonable, and their cremains are buried together in the Catholic cemetery. There was a Memorial Mass, rather than a Funeral Mass. When my partner died a few years ago, cremation was also the choice, and her ashes scattered out by the Isles of Shoals between Maine and NH, where we had enjoyed so many good times. (My archives have a sonnet about that: “Into Something Rich and Strange.”)

    I’ve already made similar arrangements for myself, and paid for them. It’s not all that hard to do.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Thanks for that, Cynthia. Catholic cremation, of course, is no longer frowned upon, whereas when I was growing up it was a different story. Regarding donating to medicine: I’m always reminded of W.H. Auden’s Ballad of Miss Gee!

      Reply
      1. Cynthia Jobin

        That Auden poem is enough to cure anyone from considering donating to a medical school, as far as I’m concerned. There’s something more than distasteful about the image of young “scientists” cutting up and pawing around and gawking at Miss Gee’s body…something terribly undignified and inhuman. The fire of cremation is a natural element, but the use of a person’s remains by other persons for their own purposes–however “scientific”— is something else again. I don’t worship Science anymore than I practice institutional Religion, so I won’t be donating myself to the boys at Harvard Medical School….I know them only too well.

        Reply
  3. thecontentedcrafter

    I too have looked into funeral costs – for me it is not important, but for my family and friends it appears to be – so my directions have been taken care of. I am to be cremated and my remains will be interred in a biodegradeble, floatable thingy [pretty much full cost of entire process around $3000] and set out to sea westward in the evening to the hopefully fully blasted live version of Harry Chapin singing ‘All My Life’s a Circle’. Much dancing is to occur and just a little imbibing ………… Unlike Herbie I have no funeral insurance – or any other insurance actually – so nothing to worry about there. This story is a well wrought lesson in ‘Be careful where you place your attention – for you’ll get more of it!’ 🙂

    Reply
    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Pauline! I always remember at my father’s funeral, the undertaker solemnly asking Mum: “Mrs Goodman – Do you wish the flowers to be buried with the coffin or laid on top of the grave?” “Oh God no,” said Mum, “I’m taking them all home.”

      Reply
  4. Shubha Athavale

    Ha Ha!! Herbie is a worrier!! Cremation is best, Hindus have been doing that for thousands of years! And I liked what your Mum said 🙂

    Reply
  5. arlingwoman

    Wow, my head is spinning now with body donation and cremation and funeral expenses. My parents had discussed and agreed to cremation and when my father died, we put his ashes in a wooden box his best friend had made. There’s one for Mom as well. But there’s a headstone and a grave in the cemetery, too. I prefer the floating away on something or maybe being dug into the garden…

    Reply
  6. Keith Channing

    Quite frankly, when I’m finished with this body I shall have no interest in what happens to it. If anyone can make use of any parts of it, all well and good, if not – meh. Even if I were to express preferences and wishes, I’d have no way of knowing whether they had been honoured, so again – meh.
    However, funerals are not for the dead, they are for those left behind, and for that purpose, both my wife and I carry funeral expenses insurance.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Agreed – funerals are for the living… which is why those who work in the funeral industry are greedy for the money of the living grieving. The whole thing is horrifically expensive. I think we should all take a stand and refuse to die. That would send shivers down the spines of those money-grabbing undertakers….

      Reply

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