I Can’t Afford to Die

Back when death was a less cognitive matter and always finding myself alone, I wanted a lyric from the song “Just A Gigolo” on my headstone:

“I ain’t got no body … no body cares for me”dlroth

Given the song’s popularity, I thought it an ingenious and laughable pun expressing my inevitable legacy. (https://youtu.be/MFV1biHrOBU)

Well, I’m considerably older now. It’s time to give more serious thought to these things and save grief for family who care enough to concern themselves. That will fall on grandchildren whose young lives are least prepared and can least afford it. Given my demise is a lot closer to my doorstep than when Mr. Roth was a big hit, I figure I should do what I can while I’m here to do it and, more importantly, to pay for it.

Having done no preplanning of any substance, the first thing I had to decide was ‘where’ to be buried. I’ve mulled this over for a few years. The only place that makes any sense is in our hometown family plots, where Dad and my baby sister are and where all of the friends who knew me best live. I do love the idea of and there’s something really comforting about spending eternity with Dad.

I already knew I wanted an inexpensive burial, which includes cremation, because the cost of anything else is just impracticably ludicrous. I never was one for fanfare and if family wants more they can do that. Given the outlandish cost of burials now I’d rather leave whatever I have for those I love to better their lives than “take it with me” in some ceremony. “Keep it simple stupid” is my motto.

It should all be that simple. Right? Au contraire.

I’d be content for someone to sprinkle my ashes with loved ones in our family lots. So first I inquired about putting a simple marker with my Dad & sister’s, even if a just a small grass foot marker. Having been a genealogy buff, a marker of some sort is really important to me regardless where my ashes go andheadstone1 I think everyone should have one memorializing their life. Dad believed that, too, taking great measures to ensure one for our mother years after they’d lived very separate lives.

Of course, the cemetery can’t allow a simple head or foot marker on someone else’s plot without a bunch of rigmarole. The complications were unbelievable if not incomprehensible. This is a small, rural town so I figured let me see how “cheaply” I could get the whole shebang simply done.

There is no word “simply” in the burial business. But I was ecstatic to learn that some 60-years ago Dad bought burial plots for all of us. There were more than enough to go around. That sounds like a good thing, right? Au contraire again … and in more ways than the obvious so I’ll elaborate one step at a time.

I thought I was prepared for a simple DIY cost. People need dollar-sign headstones with their investment etched into them, for certainly it is an investment of no small measure. Can’t you just envision a cemetery with all of its headstones as dollar signs? Wouldn’t that vision be a more apt impression for all of its passerbys? To DIY you need the equivalent of a General Contractor foreman just to gather hidden costs that come from every direction. Thank you Government Regulations for making those even more cumbersome and costly.

Now I’m a newbie at this but I’ve learned some states have laws about whether you must use a vault for an urn with cremated remains and what kind of vault you must use. Think about that. I’m just a lay person but what the heck could possibly be more sanitary than remains incinerated into pebbles by an 2100-degree furnace then soundly sealed in urnsome ridiculously expensive urn of reputable quality? It makes more sense that the urn itself would be more environmentally unfriendly than the remains in it.

Give me a break. Just get your Sharpie permanent ink marker and put me a Coke bottle, since environmentalists say those last 1,000 years. Better yet, let my ashes go to dust as was meant to be and where, I assure you, millions have gone before.

Some states have laws making it difficult and more costly (if not impossible) to be cremated in one state and interred in another, which, if you want that, is the only cost-effective way to do it. Else we incur cost of transporting an entire body? God forbid common sense prevail. Cemeteries also have regulations for how many cremations are allowed per grave. Hey – here’s a novel idea: let me have a head or foot marker and don’t put me anywhere in your cemetery. I’ll sit on a shelf in the closet and haunt my loved ones. Oh yeh … I’d pay to do that.

The list goes on and on and I ask you how laymen are supposed to wade through all of this? It’s the equivalent of being penalized for not filing taxes when the Pied Pipers have made doing that so unreasonably complicated we’re forced to pay others to do them. Of course this industry is geared to paying funeral homes something in the range of $10,000. Talk about a monopoly that taps into every single one of our pockets with no escape and no alternative. What’s wrong with this picture? When did dying stop being a natural God-given right?

All I can say is, funeral homes must have one heck of a political lobby. But death is inevitable and they have the market on it, so they don’t have to worry about the cost of dying. Sometimes I think those who come up with this stuff find themselves so entitled they’ll somehow avoid consequences of the hereafter all together.

God forbid you do wade through this menagerie and get something wrong. Then all of your DIY due diligence was meaningless banter. The forces that be come back on your least-informed family when you’re too long gone to dispute them, because someone has to pay the Pied Pipers. I can almost ‘rest assured’ knowing that’s bound to happen even if you pay big bucks to a funeral home. There’s always some new way to cop a few extra and the buck stops with us long after we have.

Things like this make me want to claim myself a Libertarian (political party wanting the least government oversight and intervention.)

Because my Father died either not knowing or thinking these meager burial plots would be easily and equitably distributed by surviving family, they apparently converted as jointly owned property among his living heirs. And, uhhh, thanks to Government Pied Pipers, all estateplanfive of his heirs now have one-fifth joint interest in each plot. This assumes he didn’t have a will: in my world only God knows and it’s an awkward thing to ask.

It’s safe to say when one of us die our one-fifth fraction of joint ownership becomes more fragmented by virtue of its transfer among all of our living heirs (unless willed otherwise). The logistics are mind boggling. Who thinks up this stuff and how much are we paying them?

Anyone who knows families also knows the differences between individuals in them and the dysfunction that can develop because of those differences. In the best of families it’s all but impossible to get any two people to agree, let alone five, but that’s especially difficult when dysfunction has evolved. Suffice it to say our only option is to ask the others to ‘relinquish’ their one-fifth ownership. Oh sigh. Not a pleasant undertaking, of a most unpleasant topic, in any circumstance.

Against those foreseeable odds and with hope it’s always possible to be pleasantly surprised, I began the undertaking. Would others ‘relinquish’ the final resting places Dad bought for us as children? In the past I’ve given some low marks, but this will be the ultimate test of family character. Stay tuned.

Perhaps the good news is, the number of cremated burials that could take place in Dad’s plots is twenty. Surely that’s enough to go around. It’s also reasonable to think that the majority if not all of the other four – all with more means and extended families of their own than I – would want to be buried elsewhere where they’ve etched their own lifelong relationships.

So while that plays out I needed to think about other costs. There is that whole conglomerate of issues about where and how to be cremated. Then there are cemetery fees and, of course, the costdyinginfamously expensive headstone. Then buying an urn and vault if required. None of this touches on funeral home costs if necessary to get remains from one state to the burial site of another.

There’s a lot more footwork to do, but I’m guessing cremation would cost upward of $3,000. The urn is probably around $250; the vault, who knows, maybe $750 for one to hold an urn. A meager but reasonable headstone is likely upward of $2,500. Cemetery charges for placing a headstone and/or private grave digger for opening & closing the grave would probably run another $350, but cemetery costs can’t be prepaid so the family ends up with those anyway and we can only hope that doesn’t skyrocket. If you don’t have a plot and depending on where you live (are buried), they can add another cost between $500 to upward of $4,000.

affordSkimming it down to some form of a DIY, not including plot or funeral home “foreman” charges if need be, it’ll cost about $6,800 just for me to die. Oh sigh. It’s a good thing I started early. I need to keep trimming … maybe a smaller headstone or dig the hole myself, because my gigolo years are well behind me.


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