Dan Serres, manager of Gethsemani Funeral Home, says deciding funeral details now — and perhaps even paying now — relieves survivors of burdens. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
Dan Serres, manager of Gethsemani Funeral Home, says deciding funeral details now — and perhaps even paying now — relieves survivors of burdens. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
No one is ready to lose a loved one.

The emotional weight of loss added to all the decisions that must be made after a loved one dies can make the time feel overwhelming, with little space to grieve.

Families must decide on so many questions, beginning with whether there will be a funeral Mass. And if so, at a funeral home or a church? Which funeral home? Which church? Cremation? Casket? Obituary? Music? Readings? How about the reception?

Dan Serres, Gethsemani Funeral Home manager, sometimes hears from adult children who don’t need to make any of those decisions. Their parent, now dead, has already thought about it all — and even paid in advance for their arrangements.

“The children are very relieved,” he says. “They’re so happy that their parents took care of it.”

Serres says there are many levels of preplanning, beginning with a person simply picking out the music and readings they believe would comfort their family.

A number of parishes have guidelines already set up — Serres mentions Father Mike Biewend at the Madeleine Parish in Northeast Portland and Father Bob Barricks at Sacred Heart Parish in Southeast as being two of the many priests who encourage parishioners to get the details in writing.

Don’t put the list in a safe deposit box at the bank, where it might not be seen until long after the funeral — or the lack of one.

“Families don’t want to discuss these things; kids don’t want to hear it, but it’s important,” says Serres. “Oftentimes the decisions are made but they don’t get implemented because the family didn’t know.”

Serres, whose title also includes “cemetery counselor,” says he believes the reminder of everyone’s mortality is part of the benefit of such discussions.

Taking the preplanning a step further, it’s also possible to prepay for funeral arrangements at Gethsemani and many other funeral homes.

Serres says that prepaying not only locks in a price, it also takes the emotions out of decision making at an emotional time, a time when sorrow, love and guilt can push families to pay more than they would otherwise. “Emotional spending happens,” says Serres. “Paying now can protect the family.”

Prepaying also means it’s especially important to discuss the issue with the family. Make sure they know the funeral arrangements have already been paid for.

Another benefit of prepaying: You’re more certain to get the funeral and burial you want. David LaFollette, funeral director at Omega Funeral and Cremation Services, says that costs often help families come to an agreement over whether to cremate or bury their loved one. When there’s a disagreement, families can vote on what course to take. Sometimes, DeFollette notes, the person paying for the service gets to decide.

When the service has already been discussed — and especially if it’s already been paid for — no one has to take a stand.

Potential negatives to prepaying should also be considered, however. Would your money be better off in the bank, earning interest? Other concerns include relocating, where the buyer no longer wants their funeral back in Boise. There’s also the possibility of funeral homes going out of business.

Preplanning and discussion are especially important for those whose children aren’t practicing Catholics. Such Catholics in particular should write down their wishes. “This is on the minds of people whose children have fallen away,” says Serres. “They don’t want their children to step in and then they don’t have a funeral.”

kristenh@catholicsentinel.org