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Funeral Planning

Jewish Funeral Customs and Traditions

August 26th, 2011

Judaism teaches that traditional funerals are to be within the days immediately flowing death. There are certain circumstances, such as waiting for traveling family members, that are often allowed, but not encouraged. Cremation is often avoided in the Jewish faith, as to not disturb the natural decomposition of the body. The beliefs and customs taught here by Judaism are based on the Torah. The Jewish philosophy is that one should embrace life and accept death. And that living a praiseworthy life will prepare you for the afterlife.

Funeral Preparation

Dating back to Biblical times, earth burials have become the most commonly practiced burials in traditional Judaism. A Viewing of the deceased is not a custom that Judaism allows. It is thought that looking at person who cannot look back is disrespectful, which is why most Jewish funerals are closed casket services. Unless local laws require embalming, it is often avoided. A simple wood casket made from pine or walnut wood containing no metal is used to carry out the earth burial.

A purification of the deceased body is done by The Chevra Kadisha. This is a sacred society made up of a group of men and women who perform the ritual of cleansing and preparing the body for burial. A white gown with no pockets or decorations, called a Tachrichim, is worn for burial. It symbolizes that when mortals leave this world they take nothing with them, and judgment from God is based on merits and good deeds, not materialistic belongings.

Mourners

In Judaism a mourner is considered to be Kaddish related. This means that the mourners are obligated to observe and conduct the rites of mourning. Parents, spouses, siblings and children of the deceased are considered mourners and it is their responsibility to make sure that proper Jewish funeral rites are carried out.

The Service

Traditional Jewish funerals take place in a temple, synagogue or graveside. Funeral guests dress conservatively. Men wear a head covering called a kippah or yarmulke, and most often a suite and tie. Women are not required to wear head coverings, however, they do not wear short sleeves, short skirts or open toed shoes.

You will notice that most Jewish funerals will not have many flower arrangements other than one or two small casket tributes. Most Jewish funerals ask that a charitable donation be made instead of sending flowers.
Family members (mourners) will more than likely be in a waiting room or in a vehicle prior to the service. This is because it is disrespectful to talk to the mourners before the burial. No condolences are to be offered until after the service is over.

Traditional Jewish services usually last about 20 minutes and consist of several Scripture readings, Psalms, prayers and a eulogy. The Rabbi will lead the congregation through the service beginning with the cutting of a black ribbon. Participation is encouraged throughout the prayers.

Prior to or after the service the mourners perform the ritual K’riah. It is an ancient custom, traditionally tearing garments, but has now evolved into attaching a black ribbon to the outside of the clothing worn by the mourners. A special prayer is said during the cutting of the ribbon: ‘Dayan Ha’emet‘ meaning ‘Blessed is the judge of truth’.

  • The ribbon is worn on the left side if they are mourning a parent.
  • It is worn on the right side for all other Kaddish relatives.
  • The ribbons are traditionally worn for 7 days. However, the mourners of a parent wear it for 30 days.

Burial

Chairs surround the burial site for the mourners to sit. Friends and family will stand or sit surrounding the family during the burial. Prayers are said along with Chesed Shel Emet which is considered the greatest act of kindness to the departed. Where mourners and guests take part in the burial by placing a handful or shovel full of dirt or rocks in the grave.

A Shura is then formed by the guests at the service. It is a double line facing each other forming a pathway for the mourners to pass through and receive words of condolences. This will be the first time that mourners will receive any comforting words from guests at the service. A traditional expression often said to the family during the Shura is “‘Ha-Makom yenahem etkhem b’tokh sha ar aveilei Tzion v Yerushalayim’ meaning ‘May the Omnipresent comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem’.

  • Washing your hands when leaving the cemetery is customary in the Judaism. You may do this at home or before you enter the Shiva home.

Shiva Home

Following Jewish tradition a Shiva is held at the home of the mourners. This is one of the most meaningful traditions in the Jewish faith. The community will offer a meal for the mourners at their home. Family and guests will attend to console and express sympathy to the family.

  • The Shiva is a seven-day period for mourning beginning the day of burial. Mourners will stay home during this time. The only time a mourner will leave home is on Shabbat to attend a service in the Synagogue. Everyday during the seven days there will be three prayer services at the home when the mourners will recite the Kaddish prayer.

During the seven days of Shiva it is appropriate to visit the home of the bereaved. You may notice that mirrors are covered, candles are lit, men are unshaven and women are not wearing makeup. This is a tradition that symbolizes the great disruption the death has brought to the family.

 

Funeral Music and Why It Is Important

July 4th, 2011

Funeral Music has a natural way of reaching deep into our unconscious and provide the rich opportunity for healing, while accessing unspoken words, thoughts and feelings. It has a way of soothing and comforting someone in grief, stimulating pleasant memories of time shared with the departed person.

Funeral MusicThere are no rules for funeral music.

Different cultures and religions call for different types and styles of music. However, the music needs to reflect the departed character. Beautiful hymns, classical music, Celtic Aires, country classics or lullabies are the most popular styles. If you are having trouble choosing the right music, here is a list of some of the most used songs for funeral and memorial services. Funeral music works as a gathering and closing in the funeral or memorial service. It sets the time and structure for the ceremony.

Popular Funeral Music

Amazing Grace – Elvis Presley
The Prayer - Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli
Candle in The Wind - Elton John
Con Te Partiro/Time to Say Goodbye – Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman
Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley
I Am Your Child – Barry Manilow
Remember When – Alan Jackson
Over The Rainbow – Eva Cassidy
What  A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Middler

Continue reading “Funeral Music and Why It Is Important” »

Planning a Green Burial

June 30th, 2011

What is a Green Burial?

Planning A Green BurialA green, natural or eco-burial is a burial that allows the body and the burial grounds to stay as natural as possible. No embalming, concrete vaults, or toxins are used. Bio-degradable caskets, shrouds or blankets are used instead of traditional caskets, urns or vaults.

What is the Importance of a Green Burial?

Green Burials cause minimal environmental impact. In nature everything is recycled, there is no waste. Green burials are both an earth friendly, and less expensive option.

Is Cremation Considered Green?

A green burial is often an alternative to cremation. Cremation, however is more environmentally friendly than traditional burials. Using a bio-degradable urn is a good option if you’re considering a green cremation.

Modern crematoriums have made significant reductions in emissions through out the years, making cremation a safe choice.

What are the Costs of a Green Funeral?

The average price for a green burial ranges from $1,000 – $4,000, which usually includes the burial plot, opening and closing of the grave, grave marker and maintenance fee.

Continue reading “Planning a Green Burial” »

Estate Lawyers: What to Expect

June 13th, 2011

Estate lawyers, also known as probate lawyers or attorneys, are responsible for taking the personal representative/executor of a will through the estate planning process. Which means that they are trained to walk you through every step of your estate planning.

Estate Lawyers are equipped to offer legal and educational support helping you to organize and legalize your estate distribution.

Why hire and estate attorney?

If you have a complex estate or family situation that requires detailed planning, hiring an estate attorney to help you is a good idea. A good estate lawyer can build your estate plan, as well as minimize potential taxes and fees, and set up a contingency plan to make sure that your assets are distributed to the correct beneficiaries.

Examples of complex estates and complicated family situations

  • Own your own business
  • Your estate is worth more than 1 million dollars
  • Have a special needs child

Continue reading “Estate Lawyers: What to Expect” »

The Language of Funerals: Funeral Terminology

May 24th, 2011

Funeral Director and Woman Planning A FuneralWhen planning a funeral, you will be working side by side with a funeral director to create a personalized funeral service in which to honor your loved one.

For many, the terminology associated with funerals and used by a funeral director can be confusing. Below is a glossary of the terms used in funeral planning.

Glossary of Funeral Terminology

Administrator: Any court appointed person or body put in charge of the estate.

Alternate Container: An unfinished wood box or other non-metal receptacle without ornamentation, generally lower in cost than caskets.

Arrangement Room: A room in the funeral home set aside for funeral staff and the family of the deceased to make funeral arrangements.

Autopsy: A pathologists medical examination of the organs of the deceased to determine the cause of death.

Attorney in Fact: Person granted power of attorney.

Beneficiary: Recipient of the proceeds of a will or insurance policy.

Bereaved: The immediate family of the deceased.

Casket/Coffin: A box or chest for burying remains.

Celebration of Life: An informal type of memorial service celebrating the deceased’s passing.

Catafalque: The stand on which the casket rests while in state and during the funeral service

Cortege: Funeral Procession.

Cremains: The remains which is left after cremation consisting of bone fragments.

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What to Expect From Your Funeral Director

May 18th, 2011

Planning a funeral during a time of grief can be a complicated and frustrating process. The family is left to make many decisions and arrangements for the services that will honor their loved one. Choosing a Funeral Home for the service to take place is the first step.
When choosing a Funeral Home there are several different factors to take into consideration, including:

  1. Funeral Costs
  2. Location
  3. Family and Religious Traditions
  4. Type of Funeral

Funeral Services are influenced by religious, cultural and family traditions along with costs and personal preferences. Every family has their own vision and expectation as to how to honor their loved one. These preferences will help to determine whether the funeral will be religious or secular, public or private, simple or elaborate, open or closed casket and whether the remains will be cremated or buried.

Funeral Director and Grieving CoupleFuneral Directors can help make the process less complicated and more relaxing during this time of healing and closure.

What Does a Funeral Director Do?

  • Provides transportation of the deceased to the funeral home from – the hospital, nursing home, hospice house, residence, etc
  • Helps notify proper authorities, family and relatives
  • Secures necessary permits and death certificates that your town or state requires
  • Gathers information and preparing death certificate
  • Prepares and submits obituary to local newspapers
  • Works with Insurance agents, Social Security or Veteran’s Administrators
  • Prepares the body for burial or cremation
  • Assists the family with funeral arrangements and purchase of the casket/urn, sympathy flowers arrangements, burial vault and cemetery plot and other aspects of the funeral service
  • Schedules the funeral service and the opening and closing of the grave with the cemetery personnel
  • Coordinates all the details with clergy including readings and music
  • Arranges police escort and transportation to the cemetery for the family prior to, during, and after the funeral
  • Works with the family to create personal and creative elements in the ceremony to both honor and celebrate the your loved one’s life.
  • Provides Grief assistance and counseling for the family

Continue reading “What to Expect From Your Funeral Director” »

Is “In Lieu of Flowers” a Good Idea?

February 28th, 2011

In Lieu Of Flowers A Good Idea?The death of a friend or family member is always a difficult and confusing time. Families often make requests that gifts be given to charity in lieu of flowers.  This is usually the result of advice from well-intentioned friends or organizations. While a family may want to do something special in the name of the deceased, it is not always appreciated by all. There are many implications that go along with an in lieu of flowers request.  An obituary itself is an announcement of the death and an invitation to friends and acquaintances to attend the funeral.  The obituary is not, however, an expectation of flowers, gifts or donations.

In some cases, an in lieu of flowers request can cause discomfort or embarrassment for friends and relatives. Those who do follow the request may be confused and embarrassed by those who ignored the request and sent flowers. Many people prefer more traditional ways of expressing their sympathy and like to make the decision on their own whether to send flowers, make a donation or send a card.

No matter one’s preferences, in most funerals today there is room for both flowers and charity.  The concept of giving to charity during a times of sadness can help lift the spirits of those left behind.  The comfort and tradition of giving flowers can also help to lift the mood of the day, as well as create a lasting memory of the funeral.  Personalized funeral tributes can spark wonderful thoughts of times spent together.

In any case, it is always very important to consider what the deceased person would have wanted when making certain requests.  Regardless of the request, a funeral is a celebration of life that should be honored according to the wishes of the deceased and their family.
Related Articles:

More on In Lieu of Flowers
How Funerals & Flowers Got Together
Funeral Flower Ordering Tips

Visitation: Healing For Everyone

December 28th, 2010

Memories Of A Dear Friend!

My friend, Patty Chaffin, died a few years ago after a long battle with cancer. Let me tell you a little bit about Patty. Patty and I met at a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Camp (RYLA). Patty was this beautiful redhead with a loud voice and even louder laugh. She was vibrant and full of energy. Everyone who met Patty instantly liked her and most of the time she instantly liked them.

We were both counselors and eventually after a couple of years, Patty became the head counselor. She was fabulous and the teenagers loved her. Patty discovered during this time she had cancer. She came back the next year as head counselor with wigs of every color in the rainbow.

At the end of camp, we have what is called RYLA’s Own. This is where the kids in teams or individually do cheers, songs, skits or whatever to describe their experience at camp. It is amazing to see what these kids come up with and most are outright hilarious. Justin, one of our youth who happened to work part-time at a pharmacy, came up to the microphone. I thought, here we go, this will be funny. It wasn’t. Justin spoke from the heart. He told the group that if they didn’t realize it Patty didn’t feel great. As a matter of fact, her health outlook was pretty grim. This sixteen year old boy with tears running down his cheeks thanked Patty for her positive outlook and energetic passion. There was not a dry eye at RYLA.

Visitation: Honoring The True Spirit.

Okay, that was a great story. What is the point and what does this have to do with visitation? Well, Patty eventually died. However, Patty had one of the most magnificent visitations I have ever seen. Patty wanted a party and that is what she had!

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Cemetery Monument and Headstone Options

September 28th, 2010

Planning a funeral seems like a difficult task.  With all different types, shapes, sizes, flower placement styles and cremation burial options available it can seem impossible to select a memorial that is meant to enshrine your loved one’s memory for eternity.  In the next several sections, different types and styles of cemetery monuments have been described that should make selection during a difficult time easier.

Companion Monuments

Companion headstones usually sit on a family plot and are meant to memorialize more than one person.  While these monuments are typically meant for two people, they can be enlarged to allow for the names of more family members.

Companion headstone with vase and traditional companion headstoneCompanion monuments can come in an upright or flat style.  We will mention all the flat, slanted and bevel styles further down in this article.  When thinking of purchasing this monument, consider whether or not you would like to be able to place flowers on the headstone.

There are many flower options that exist for companion monuments.  One such option is an interconnecting vase between the two sides of the companion headstone.  Another option is to have one large double monument with flower vases on either side.  There can also be an inlaid space at the top of the monument that allows for flowers to be easily placed on top.

A final option could be a monument with no designated space for flowers and one could purchase a wire flower saddle.  The wire flower saddle straddles the cemetery monument at the top and allows for easy flower placement on an upright headstone.

Individual Monuments

Individual MonumentsIndividual monuments are meant to be memorials for one person.  As with companion headstones, individual markers come in flat or upright styles and have flower placement options.

There can be two separate vases along either side of the  individual marker, an indented space can be made available at the top of the headstone, or a wire flower saddle can be placed upon the individual gravestone.

Individual headstones have space on them for a design, the name and dates of your loved one.

 

Bevel, Slant, and Flat Monuments

Bevel and slant headstonesBevel and slant cemetery monuments are meant to sit at the head or foot of a grave.  A bevel monument is flat and a slanted monument sits upright at a slight angle.  The design of the bevel or slant monument is to allow one to read the marker when approaching the grave memorial.

These headstones can be small enough for just one name or large enough to be a companion monument.  What makes the slant and bevel headstone different from a traditional flat marker is that a base is located beneath the monument.

Flat headstoneThis allows the marker to be lifted, making it more visible and also keeping lawnmowers back. Flower vases can also be placed at one side of these markers to allow for convenient flower placement.

This type of monument is large enough to put an engraving of a small design, as well as the  full name and dates of your loved one.

Flat markers, like slanted and bevel cemetery monuments can be small enough for just one name or enlarged to be a companion style.

They are similar to slant and bevel styles except that there is no base located beneath the monument. They are at ground level allowing lawnmowers to mow over them.

Continue reading “Cemetery Monument and Headstone Options” »

Funeral Pre-Planning

October 28th, 2009

Funeral pre-planning or “pre-need” funeral planning gives you the ability to arrange your funeral in advance without the added burden of urgency during a time of great stress and grief. With funeral pre-planning, you will be able to make your wishes known to your family and relieve them from the burden of arranging your funeral service and burial.

There are three major elements involved in pre-planning a funeral: financing, the funeral service and the burial location. When pre-planning, you can focus on one element, all the elements, or parts of any of the elements.

Financing

Determining how to pay for your funeral is the most significant aspect of a funeral. Many families choose to pre-fund their funerals

Pre-funding is arranged by purchasing or instituting one of the following:

  • Burial Insurance
  • Final Life Insurance
  • Pre-need Insurance
  • Annuities
  • Funeral Saving Accounts
  • Life Insurance
  • Trust Funds

Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages. Before deciding which option suits your situation best, talk with a financial planner or funeral director to obtain all the facts including tax-liability and risk.

Funeral Services

Pre-planning the funeral service involves deciding several of the funeral service details such as the following:

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