Funerals run financial, emotional toll - East Valley Tribune: Columns

Funerals run financial, emotional toll

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Stacie Spring is a general assignment reporter for the East Valley Tribune. Contact her at (480) 898-5645 or sspring@evtrib.com

Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 4:00 am

Last week I saw something that pulled at my heart. A family was at a local business in Tempe, hosting a carwash to pay for funeral expenses. It was an occurrence that's not unusual around here, I've been told.

Funerals, memorials and the costs of dying can be astronomical. I know. I lost my Grandma Ev earlier this month.

While this family was hoping to raise enough money to cover the costs of a funeral (they needed a couple thousand within a few days), fundraisers aren't guaranteed to cover everything.

It made me so thankful that when we had so many considerations just a few short weeks ago, having financial stress wasn't one of them.

My grandma wasn't a fancy lady; she just did well with what she had. Her family was the most important thing to her and she was surrounded by us when she passed. She lived in her house for 52 years. The house was paid for decades ago.

First, I want to say that I love my grandma. She helped raise me. She taught me how to sew and to grow flowers. She encouraged both my obsessive reading and my early attempts at writing. Her quiet demeanor meant that she could be my confidante. She listened closely to my dreams, worries and challenges. She helped me chase down the ice cream man every summer and attended every one of my band, choir and dance recitals.

That's why, when she left us, I wanted to do everything in my power to preserve the memories I have of her. I wanted to give her the same love she showed me my whole life. I was by no means the only one. Grandma Ev played a extensive role in the lives of her five children, 16 grandchildren, and 19 great-grandchildren.

So while my mom and her four brothers made many of the decisions at the funeral home, there were still a lot of expenses besides a casket and flowers.

As my dad and I helped my mom through many of the papers and decisions, I came to realize that expenses add up quickly. I was surprised by how much it can cost to place an obituary or to have the plot dug up.

The emotional costs were much higher.

There were so many things to do, so many decisions to make. All of this came with a hue of grief.

As hard as it was to find pictures for a slideshow, respond to the questions about grandma, and pick out clothes for her to wear, it would have been even harder with the question, "How are we going to pay for this?".

That's not to say that finances weren't a concern; it's just that when it came to saying goodbye, and more importantly, thank you, saying it in the most personalized, sweetest way we could was important.

Thankfully, we were able to.

That's why my younger brother designed the memorial program, an expense that ended up being slightly more than the funeral home's generic format. It's why we followed the family motto that says it's better to have way too much food than not enough. It's why we sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at the conclusion of the memorial.

And throughout all of the planning, the shared meals, the recounting of memories, my many cousins, uncles, aunts, immediate family and I grew so much closer. Our commitment to honor our family's matriarch in a way that reflected the love she showered on us everyday of our lives brought us much comfort.

In many ways, I imagine the family working that carwash also became closer in a very similar way.

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