There is a new book being published this month by Robert Larkins, called Funeral Rights: What the Australian "Death Care" Industry doesn't want you to know. (Viking $32.95)
The book not only lifts the lid on the Industry's aggressive sales tactics but also explores the history of death rites. Larkins highlights the short use-by dates for graves, grave sharing, lack of industry diversity and big coffin mark-ups.
I didn't know the funeral business here is unregulated or that it's worth about $700 million a year and how couldn't they make a profit, charging $700 for a chipboard coffin worth $80. If you want an eco-friendly cardboard coffin, it costs as much as a wooden one. Larkins isn't in favour of elaborate stone memorials either.
I was really interested in his views since I've pre-arranged my Mother's funeral. I dealt with a small firm and there was no high pressure sales pitch involved although that could be because they weren't dealing with a recently bereaved and distraught woman. We did go for the chipboard option which was Mum's suggestion after she looked at coffin prices and I've kept my promise to make an elaborate casket quilt to hide it. (like the wedding dress superstition, I haven't put the last stitches to it until the time comes)
The flowers were a set price but I could have gone higher or lower but working within that set price I got exactly the roses that Mum specified. I was also asked what I wanted to do with them. When I said we wanted them to go on my Father's grave, they offered to do that at no extra charge. The girl also explained to me about donations to the Cancer fund, the wording means that funds go towards research or to purchase equipment which is another thing I didn't know.
The cost of the funeral isn't extravagant but we have no way of paying for it upfront so for a fee of $250 they will wait until the estate is settled. I also engaged The Blight as a celebrant and I bet he has the cheek to charge me but since I'm writing the eulegy I'll make sure I write something he'll choke on having to say it.
If I had my way there wouldn't be a funeral service at all. I object to being nice to relatives and friends who turn up to a funeral but never came to see her when she was alive and would have appreciated a visit. And it was the relo's who annoyed me most when I was making the arrangements. What gives them the right to put in their two cents worth? "It's our final goodbye" was the standard answer to that question. I rather think a "first hello" and a bunch of flowers for the old girl now would mean a lot more.
I had to make one more promise to Mum so I have to be polite and see her off in a dignified manner. So unlike my wedding day, there will be no punch-ups with the relatives and no free booze.