Preparation | Making Your Final Arrangements – You're Never Too Young To Plan…Or Die

This is the first in a series of blogs on preparedness. I felt the need to write these because, though I was a Boy Scout, I didn’t very far up the ranks and my preparedness is extremely lacking. As I research these topics, I’ll be sharing my findings with ya’ll. 

dead cartoon face

Everybody dies. Why not plan your own going-away party?

As I kick off this series of blogs about preparedness, I find it necessary to start out with one thing that everyone will experience and should plan for as weird as it seems – your own death. Nobody gets out of this world alive, so why not take some stock in what happens after you kick the bucket? For those who are creeped out by death or don’t want to have to think about it, you’d be surprised how much peace can come out of knowing exactly what will occur with your family, friends, and your remains after you’re long gone. 

“I’m only in my twenties. Isn’t that a bit early to be making final arrangements?”

For the record, I’m only 25. For those of you who think that’s too young to start planning for your own death, keep in mind that we’re not all going to die in our sleep at age 80+. After having been to funerals for friends who have either died in automobile accidents and have been the victims of other tragic mishaps, it’s extremely evident how little thought most younger adults give to their final arrangements. Most people my age don’t even know what kind of options are out there or how much they’re going to end up costing the family you leave behind – especially since most of them have little to no savings at this stage in the game. 

“I’m not married and don’t have any kids. Why should I start planning for death?”

A big argument I’ve heard against making any kind of final arrangements while you’re young is because most younger people have no significant other or no children to worry about including in a living will. Even if you don’t want to mess with legal details, just writing up some form of letter or other document outlining what you’d want your last wishes to be can not only be extremely helpful for the people you leave behind, but can also give you some peace of mind. If you’re married later and have kids, you can always revise the document and make the necessary legal changes down the line. I’ve been to a few funerals that were completely arranged by someone’s family that was a ceremony I know didn’t reflect the person they were mourning. If you’re not sure whether or not this may be the case, just think what kind of service your mom would plan for you if you died tomorrow. Is that really you? Is the burial in line with your current beliefs? 

“Whatever they choose is fine with me. I trust them.” 

Funeral home casket showroom.

In my experience with loved ones who have died as well doing research and talking with a funeral director buddy of mine, people are at their most financially vulnerable when they’re at their most emotionally vulnerable. Nobody wants to be seen as being cheap and even trying to get the best deal on a casket or burial service is seen as being tacky or even disrespectful to the memory of the deceased. This is a ploy that the funeral industry is just fine with as it allows them to mark up their products and services exponentially. People are taken for a ride especially when the deceased had no final arrangements when in actuality, if they were still alive, they’d more than likely yell “WHY ARE YOU SPENDING SO MUCH ON ME?! I’M DEAD!” Because that voice of reason is nowhere to be found for fear of being seen as cheap when wanting to honor the deceased, some of these funeral homes can get away with highway robbery with drastic markups and unnecessary services. By planning before hand and trying to get the best deal for yourself, you can save your loved ones a lot of attentional time, money, and grief. 

“How many options can there possibly be for final arrangements?”

A natural burial green burial site.

 

The funeral industry is constantly looking at new ways to customize and personalize the final arrangements of its clients. One reason for this is to deliver the most meaningful service possible to their clients, but other one is simply because it allows them to sell your family more products and services. These days, most people in America are embalmed, prepped for a viewing and/or open-casket service in a sanctuary or funeral chapel with them in an air-tight casket, and then are buried inside a concrete vault in a grave in a well-manicured cemetery. The second most popular opinion is being cremated with the cremains (cremated remains) stored in a decorative urn either with the family, scattered, or buried in yet another well-manicured cemetery. Most people aren’t even aware that there are even more options out there. Another form of funeral and burial option becoming more popular with the economically and environmentally conscious is natural burial, also called “green burial.” With this option, the body is not embalmed and is buried in the ground in a biodegradable casket or burial shroud directly in the ground in a “green cemetery” – a burial grounds that resembles a nature reserve for it’s lack of grave markers and landscaping. Other options for burial are only limited by local laws and finances, but doing a just
a little bit of research can go a long way towards helping you decide on what method best reflects your last wishes and/or the amount of money you want to drop on your burial or other funeral arrangements. From being shot into space to being dumped in a hole while wrapped in a sheet, check out your options. 


“Thinking about my final arrangements creeps me out. I don’t want to think about dying.”

A hearse at a cemetery.

Most people, especially younger people, just don’t want to think about dying. They’re in the prime of their lives and feel the most alive, so they feel that preparing for their own death can almost drag them down. For these people, it’s important to remember this fact: everybody dies. Everybody will die. You will one day no longer be alive and your body will either be ashes, decomposing in the soil, or slowly withering away inside an air-tight casket…which will, one day leak and fill with water. Still, when it comes to making your final arrangements, there are two benefits to doing this now: 

1. Making your final plans now will save your family the hassle of trying to figure out what you wanted. Your family will be devastated by your passing – the last thing you want to do is force them to try and figure out what you may have wanted at a price that won’t put clean out their savings. Today, you’re in your right mind and you want the best price. Your family will be beside themselves and won’t want to be seen as being cheap. 

2. At times, some people aren’t as creeped out by the concept of dying as they are about what happens to their bodies after they die. Lots of unknown pieces of information can make people anxious about dying. 

 “Where do I even begin in making final arrangements?”

Many think that making your final arrangements is an appointment with the funeral home to look at caskets. Giving your loved ones an idea of what you want can be as simple as writing up a grocery list of things you want and things you don’t want. It can be a letter or a note just leading your family in the right direction. You don’t have to choose between a periwinkle blue steel and mahogany in order to start making final arrangements. It can be as simple as some of my own personal arrangements I’ve made know with my wife and other members of my family:

“Upon my death, if health regulations allow, I desire to have my body returned to my family for final preparations for burial. This should only be the case if I die in such a manner that my body is not severely disfigured or in a way where a home funeral is not possible. If the cause of death makes a home funeral not possible, my body can be washed, dressed in plain clothes, and placed in a burial shroud by funeral professionals where is it not visible. Under no circumstances is my body to be embalmed. If the condition of my body allows, it is my desire for my body to washed and prepared for burial and dressed in plain clothes by my family members and close friends. In a room removed from the rest of the house, those who desire to see my body and spend time saying good-bye and obtaining closure should be allowed to do so, but this decision is to be left up to the individual as the appearance of the body may be disturbing to some due to a lack of embalming. The funeral service is to take place in the home, the body is to be completely covered by a burial shroud. It is my wish to be buried in a natural burial or green burial cemetery with no vault or grave liner. The Shema and other assorted passages from Psalms and prayers are to be recited before the grave is dug. Able-bodied family members and friends are to dig the grave, lower the body into the grave, and shovel the soil back into the grave. If there is any grave marker, it is to be something natural, such as an inscription on unhewn stone or a planted tree.”
 
With a little bit of research and planning, some very simple steps can be made on your part to save your family lots of money and grief as well as give you a little bit of peace of mind.

Society's Smile: What We Use To Fill Our Rotten Bones

This will very easily be one of the weirdest blogs I will ever write, but I’m going somewhere with it – I promise. 

Working in internet marketing, one of my duties has been blogging for dentist websites. While some may think this can be boring, I’ve found that my dentist clients are some of my favorites. Writing for these dentist blogs and writing press releases for dental practices has required a large amount of research into the most modern trends in dentistry. Just like in pop culture and other industries, looking at how customer demand has steered what the dental industry has come to offer has provided an interesting social commentary in itself. Studying what people use to fill in the rotten holes in their teeth has just as much to say about what people are using to fill in the rotting holes in their personality. 

When one begins to dig into the history of dentistry, it’s primitive nature can almost induce the gag reflex. Between using manual tools that look like something from a medieval torture rack to methods used for anesthesia (if the patient had the luxury), the immensely unsanitary and tremendously painful practice still had it’s moments of wisdom. For most of the past 2,000+ years, when someone had a cavity in need of filling or tooth damage in need of repair, the most popular choice was typically gold. Either in the form of a molded casting or a foil, gold has been widely used for its endurance. It’s not poisonous (unlike the lead used in the framework of George Washington’s famous dentures) and it molds easily, it doesn’t wear down, corrode, or break in the mouth with regular chewing. Gold dental work was so popular that wealthy nobles in many cultures would have healthy teeth filed down and gold dental crowns installed as a status symbol. For those who could afford it, gold was a symbol of longevity. 

Silver mercury filling.

As the science of dentistry has evolved, more affordable materials were developed to keep cavities filled for less. The use of dental amalgam was brought into popularity because of it’s malleable nature, strength, and price. Many continue to confuse dental amalgam with “silver” fillings. While silver is one of the metals used in the alloy, most of a filling or crown made of dental amalgam is one of the most toxic metals in existence – mercury. Mercury fillings are also known to expand with age and cause the tooth to crack. Though many different studies have found dental amalgam fillings containing mercury to be hazardous to the patient’s health, they are still a widely available option in most parts of the world because of their affordability and convenience. In addition to these filling being seen as a health risk to those who have them in their mouths, special concerns about mercury being released into the air from cremation have arisen. The temperatures necessary to cremate a body far exceed that of the boiling point of mercury, requiring crematoriums to install advanced air filtration systems or the removal of amalgam fillings from bodies prior to cremation. Dental amalgam containing mercury has been banned in countries such as Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

The most aesthetically-pleasing options for filling cavities and repairing teeth are composite resin and porcelain for ceramic fillings. To date, these are some of the most popular means of filling cavities and fixing damage because of their ability to match the natural color of one’s teeth. Though the best option for those who desire a natural look, these both are the weakest options. Porcelain fillings are known for breaking (if you’ve ever accidentally hit a toilet with a wrench while fixing it, it’s kind of like that – only in your mouth) and composite resin fillings are known to shrink and allow for exposure of the tissue beneath it. Do they look natural? Yes, but at the cost of being relatively brittle in comparison to other materials. 

While all of this seems to just be Dentistry 101 for many, the reasoning behind the lack of gold fillings and crowns really stuck out to me – gold is not as aesthetically appealing as other materials. The material that people used to coat perfectly healthy teeth as a status symbol because of it’s strength and value once upon a time is now seen as unbecoming to the point of having it’s use all but discontinued. Not only is the use of this substance in dental work all but absent from modern dentistry, but patients would rather fill their mouths with mercury – a substance that has been linked to multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s. If that is not their choice for cosmetic reasons, a more expensive and less durable substance is used to achieve a more natural look. 

Sometimes I wonder what aliens in outer space must think when they look down on us. Possibly “Look, these creatures would rather fill the holes in their rotten teeth with a poison substance to save a buck or inferior material substance in order to be more aesthetically pleasing. What kind of people they must be!”