Funeral Prices: The Price of Saying Goodbye - Transcribed

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Funeral Prices – Transcribed

[00:00:00] Pete Waggoner: Often when talking about funeral services, the following questions come up. Why are funerals so expensive? We’ll take a look into that and more right here on the Good Grief Podcast with Amber Miller right after this. 

[00:00:18] Amber Miller: Have you ever wondered how to help someone who is grieving? At O’Connell Family Funeral Homes, we know it can be difficult to know what to do and what not to do or say.

[00:00:26] Amber Miller: That’s why we created a downloadable guide to help you navigate the complexities so you can support someone who is grieving. This guide is also for you though. If you are the one grieving, we have a helpful and thoughtful list of things you should do and also things you should avoid. Download the Do’s and don’ts grief support guide today.

[00:00:43] Amber Miller: You can find the link in the show notes.

[00:00:44] Pete Waggoner: And welcome in. It’s August and we have a podcast for you here, the Good Grief Podcast for the O’Connell Family Funeral Homes. I’m Pete Waggoner, along with Amber Miller, as we will be talking about costs and expense, the aspects of it. 

[00:00:57] Pete Waggoner: Why is it so expensive [00:01:00] to hit the afterlife?

[00:01:01] Amber Miller: Well, I think that’s a huge thing that we get asked all the time when we meet with families. I mean, if you just do a quick Google search and type it into the search bar, you get pages upon pages of discussions on forums and threads asking why it’s so expensive, how to cut costs with your funeral, or frankly, why we’ve made the afterlife so expensive and it’s too bad and it really makes a disservice to our industry and us funeral directors.

[00:01:27] Amber Miller: We just get a bad rap. 

[00:01:29] Pete Waggoner: Well, when you talk about costs, it’s all really, it depends upon what you’re talking about, right? Is that car really expensive? What about that house? It just depends on what you’re getting. 

[00:01:41] Amber Miller: Exactly. 

[00:01:41] Pete Waggoner: You know? So I think sometimes people feel like this hurts enough that someone has passed away.

[00:01:46] Pete Waggoner: But this all goes back into our pre-planning discussions from all the, you know, and you know me, I’m like, just a hound on that. But if you do it, these costs aren’t so painful. But it does cost, it’s not free. Correct? 

[00:01:58] Amber Miller: Correct. 

[00:01:59] Pete Waggoner: What is [00:02:00] your mission here at O’Connell’s to deal with that?

[00:02:03] Amber Miller: Well, I think we, our mission is to handle all of the details. So it might sound like a cliche or kind of a hard thing to grasp, but it’s really true. We think that the last thing that you should be handling when you’re grieving after a loss is to fill your plate with more funeral related items. You should really be focusing on your grief, your family, and next steps for you and your loved ones.

[00:02:27] Pete Waggoner: In doing so, if you focus on all of that, you can provide the care. But I’ve always noticed in our podcast that as a group, you’re really able to deal with the cost. And not make it insurmountable. 

[00:02:42] Amber Miller: Right. Absolutely. We’re very flexible and willing to work with families and we’re very forthcoming about what all goes into the costs as it relates to the service that the family chooses.

[00:02:52] Pete Waggoner: There’s a lot of things that you have to do and you’re on 24/7, 365. So why don’t we get into that? What are some of the [00:03:00] costs that you guys have to deal with? 

[00:03:01] Amber Miller: Yeah, so it all goes back, you know, there’s a couple of different parts, but our professional needs. So, you know, collectively as a team, we have over 75 years of experience in this industry, and that’s, invaluable, really.

[00:03:13] Amber Miller: But we’re on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So normal person works 40 hours a week. That’s not our job. We’re up at 2:00 AM, that means holidays. So if you’re getting an email from us at 2:30 in the morning or 6:30 at night, we’re at work and we’re serving a family. 

[00:03:30] Pete Waggoner: There’s no such thing as a vacation.

[00:03:33] Amber Miller: Right, right. 

[00:03:34] Pete Waggoner: What vacation? 

[00:03:35] Amber Miller: Right. And we’re, we’re all licensed too. So, you know, both licensed in Wisconsin and Minnesota because we’re right on the border. And that involves, you know, countless hours of education and training, continuing education to continue our licenses every year. So a lot goes into that too.

[00:03:50] Pete Waggoner: Are there a lot of weird taxes and things that you get drilled with as well? Given the nature of what you do, I mean, that plays into the [00:04:00] continuing ad and all the other things. 

[00:04:01] Amber Miller: Right. Yep. We are held to certain requirements as a funeral home, so making sure that we’re being safe, our employees and the public that are entering our facilities.

[00:04:10] Amber Miller: Just because we hold hazardous chemicals and cremations, for instance, we have that on-site. So all of those expenses related to those, making sure that our air exchangers are working properly and everything, like I said, is safe for the employees and the public. 

[00:04:24] Pete Waggoner: Do you think the general public has really an idea of what goes on in the funeral home itself, or do they view it as a place they go to for a service? Or revewal and get out and on with the day. They don’t realize that there’s dangerous chemicals, you know, and things that you have to take care of. 

[00:04:40] Amber Miller: Right. This isn’t just kind of a normal business that you walk into, whether that’s a bank, you know, obviously we still have the charges of the overhead, turning on the lights and making sure security system and insurance, and keeping up with the grounds and our inventory and supplies. But there’s a lot more that goes into it too, at a funeral home. 

[00:04:55] Pete Waggoner: What about equipment? 

[00:04:57] Amber Miller: Well, all the things that you see that we bring with us, not only, [00:05:00] you know, at the time of death, you know, the van that we arrive in or our hearse, our kind of cots or our transfer equipment all the easels and stands and things we bring to services.

[00:05:10] Amber Miller: You know, all of that is important tools that we use to make the service meaningful and important. 

[00:05:16] Pete Waggoner: And of course you have to hit OSHA too, right? Regs, you guys, right? 

[00:05:20] Amber Miller: Yep. 

[00:05:20] Pete Waggoner: I mean, there’s probably tons of. 

[00:05:21] Amber Miller: Absolutely. 

[00:05:21] Pete Waggoner: Are there walkthroughs and things like that that go on where they. And then do they, could they possibly slap fines on you?

[00:05:27] Amber Miller: Yep. So every funeral home has walkthroughs. So just like a restaurant or something would with the health agencies in the state. Same with OSHA. So making sure that we’re doing everything smoothly and keeping everyone safe.

[00:05:37] Pete Waggoner: So what we’ve established here is you’ve got a structure, a building. You’ve got lights, heat, air, all of the things that go into computers, network systems, those types of things. And then addition the equipment that goes in with this is pretty intense. And there’s lots of regulations that go in and around what you do.

[00:05:57] Pete Waggoner: And then there’s also the [00:06:00] hard costs of vehicles and other things that come along with it, so it’s not just one thing. You’ve got a lot of different things that come into it, and then you get into service preparations and all that goes into that with staff personnel and things like that. 

[00:06:15] Amber Miller: Mm-hmm. 

[00:06:16] Amber Miller: Well, and everything that we kind of just talked about, that’s before the death even happens.

[00:06:21] Amber Miller: And I think some of that is kind of out of the realm of families too, is that when they’re here, they’re really kind of hyper-focused on their loved one in the service. But prior to even that happening, there’s a lot of details and things that we take care of.

[00:06:33] Amber Miller: In terms of the service preparation, they’re here, the death has occurred. All of that that goes into it. So, you know, being aware of, and respectful of different religious cultures and customs and how that works for their service. Especially professional traditions, you know, whether that’s a police death or someone in the fire industry, or ems or how that all works for them.

[00:06:54] Amber Miller: And then filing the necessary paperwork, you know, That’s a big thing for families, those death certificates, [00:07:00] contacting medical examiners, social security, all of those details. 

[00:07:03] Pete Waggoner: How many people do you have on to do those types of things? So like, as you look at service preparations from lining up the flowers and the delivery, transportation, obits, all of those things.

[00:07:16] Pete Waggoner: How many, like, you can’t do all of that if you, or do you? 

[00:07:19] Amber Miller: Mm-hmm. So we really do it all. 

[00:07:21] Pete Waggoner: I mean, you yourself. 

[00:07:23] Amber Miller: Not myself, no. 

[00:07:23] Pete Waggoner: There’s a support staff. 

[00:07:24] Amber Miller: Right. Yep. All of our funeral directors do all of these things. So every time that you’re sitting down and meeting with someone, once you kind of walk outside the door, they’re then taking it over and contacting and coordinating all of these items.

[00:07:36] Pete Waggoner: How many directors do you have here? 

[00:07:38] Amber Miller: We have six directors. Six directors, pre-planning specialists, office admins, so, yep. 

[00:07:45] Pete Waggoner: They’re not really free either, right? Well, I mean, so I guess what I’m, you know, I don’t, for me, I’m looking at this of you, you don’t, I don’t wanna say I’m justifying the cost, but maybe that’s what it is, but, If people wanna know, well, why do I [00:08:00] have to pay for these things? You’re real people who are working. With real costs. 

[00:08:04] Pete Waggoner: And you know, when you really think about the layers and levels of what you’re doing, knowing the cost, it’s actually, I think it goes back to my, which house you talking about? Mm-hmm. Which car are you talking about? It’s decently, it’s affordable.

[00:08:18] Pete Waggoner: Once you can understand it, you might see the number cause it’s coming at a bad time if you didn’t pre-plan. And then you’re saying, whoa, look at that. 

[00:08:25] Amber Miller: Absolutely. 

[00:08:26] Pete Waggoner: There’s other things that happened too on the day of the service. 

[00:08:29] Amber Miller: Yeah, so the day of the service is where all of what we’ve planned kind of shines through at that point.

[00:08:35] Amber Miller: So bringing all of our equipment to the place of the service, whether it’s here at the funeral home or a church or other venues. So bringing those flower stands and kleenex and cardbox and pens and all the stationary that we printed, the reserve signs. Greeting guests, the whole setup, bringing flowers.

[00:08:54] Amber Miller: I think this bulk is where a lot of families who ask, you know, what [00:09:00] goes into the cost or what do you all do as part of the coordination of the service? 

[00:09:04] Pete Waggoner: Do you get asked that? 

[00:09:05] Amber Miller: Oh, all the time. 

[00:09:05] Pete Waggoner: Like there, why are we paying you? 

[00:09:08] Amber Miller: Right. Yep. Mm-hmm. So, yeah. 

[00:09:11] Pete Waggoner: What do you do? Do you have to be polite about that?

[00:09:12] Pete Waggoner: Well, because you could really be, we’ve got this, this, this, this, this, this, and this. But you don’t wanna like drill, you know, but at the same token, you have to kind of say it. 

[00:09:20] Amber Miller: Right. Well, and just kind of thinking, you know, I kind of look at it at a, like a wedding perspective too. You know? 

[00:09:26] Pete Waggoner: It’s exactly like it.

[00:09:27] Amber Miller: Some people are like, do I really need a day of coordinator? Okay, well think about this. You arrive at 8:00 AM and you’re in the midst of getting your hair done and your makeup done, but yet you have to stop and go upstairs and make sure all the 30 some tables have flowers on them and making sure the candles are out well.

[00:09:44] Pete Waggoner: Do you really wanna have flowers? Okay. Then you save money, don’t have flowers. 

[00:09:48] Amber Miller: Right. 

[00:09:48] Pete Waggoner: Do you want the food at the wedding? Well, then don’t have food. 

[00:09:51] Amber Miller: Right. 

[00:09:52] Pete Waggoner: Well, then don’t have the wedding. No. I mean, yeah. It’s kind of like it, but it, it comes down to, wow. I, I guess that would be, to me, I think [00:10:00] that would be the hardest part, is having to justify your existence in this process when you’re really, really helping. 

[00:10:09] Amber Miller: Right. 

[00:10:09] Pete Waggoner: You know? 

[00:10:10] Amber Miller: Right. And a lot of people say, well, I have a lot of, you know, friends or extended family that are willing to help out. But then they don’t, you know, there’s a lot of family that’s in town for these funerals and do they wanna not be able to talk and reminisce and spend time with their family because they’re focused on greeting guests at the door and getting people seated and making sure that traffic goes where it needs to go?

[00:10:29] Amber Miller: So it’s a lot. 

[00:10:30] Pete Waggoner: Well, and there’s always a really professional feel when a director is there. It takes any of the stress away from close to family or family members who are trying to do things they’re not professional at. And I think it just makes the process more respectful. 

[00:10:50] Amber Miller: Absolutely. And they’re just with this, you know, rise in cremation and people kind of handling their own services. There are a lot of churches in and around [00:11:00] this community that have outlined, you know, we will only do services if a funeral home is is present because they see all of the stressors that happens to the family and they know that it runs the most smooth. 

[00:11:12] Pete Waggoner: Can become a disaster in a hurry! I mean, like if you look at, just setup up, you know you mm-hmm. Like you said, flowers, casket iron, and picture boards, frame photos, setting up video, slideshow. Lining up vehicles for funeral possession of the cemetery. That’s always like a gong show. Nobody, you know? 

[00:11:24] Amber Miller: Yeah. Right. 

[00:11:24] Pete Waggoner: Everybody’s kind of running, you know freelancing, greeting guests, seating guests, gathering family for prayer, discussing with casket bears carrying food in ensure safe storage and memorial cards, you know, grabbing their things. Working with eulogist, assisting and running speakers and playing CD for music if needed.

[00:11:42] Pete Waggoner: Worship aids, you know, handing those out. It goes on and on with ushers, directing guests. Sure you can have a family member do that. And I mean, there’s a lot, and you know, I’ve always, I’ve always marveled whether it’s a sport, or a career. It’s fun watching [00:12:00] people do things that they’re very good at. Professionally. And when someone does something in this setting, I think it’s worth every penny absolute, in my opinion. 

[00:12:07] Pete Waggoner: So, yeah. It’s, it’s fascinating for sure. And then obviously there’s things that go on after the funeral too. It’s not just done, you don’t just walk away. Right? 

[00:12:16] Amber Miller: Right. Once the funeral is done, there’s that whole aftercare piece, so, you know. Sending out texts and cards to them on their important loved one’s day. You know, inviting them to grief support groups, keeping them present for our grief and the holidays event that we have every single year. So there’s lots that goes into sending out free booklets, making sure those resources are available not only on our website, but also here at our offices too.

[00:12:40] Pete Waggoner: Well, then obviously what we’ve discussed and established here is that there’s lots that goes into a funeral. Costs associated with what you provide are one thing, but then we’re talking about urns and caskets, newspaper space for obituaries or whatever they charge. I mean, there’s other things that are part of it too.

[00:12:59] Pete Waggoner: But [00:13:00] there’s a deep, rich service that goes with what you provide. 

[00:13:04] Amber Miller: Yeah. You know, like I mentioned earlier, we’re diligent about trying to take everything off of your plate so you can really focus on your own grief and healing. We try to handle all of the details so that when you walk away from here after the arrangements, you feel like a weight was lifted from you, and that you can really focus on the things that you want to. So that you don’t feel like you have to go to every single vendor and coordinate things. 

[00:13:27] Amber Miller: And we really pride ourselves on doing it all with most respect and care for both you as the survivor and your loved one all while trying to make your loved one’s ceremony or celebration of life or funeral personalized with a lot of those meaningful touches that we’ve talked about in the past.

[00:13:44] Pete Waggoner: And you have a very, very good mission statement here that you guys really abide by. 

[00:13:50] Amber Miller: Yep. So our mission statement at O’Connell’s is to create a safe space and healthy foundation for grief and healing by providing meaningful, dignified, and compassionate [00:14:00] service to those suffering a loss. So really goes back to our, our logo that Claddagh, the love, loyalty, and friendship that goes back to everything we do every single day.

[00:14:08] Pete Waggoner: That’s absolutely priceless. 

[00:14:09] Amber Miller: Very true. 

[00:14:10] Pete Waggoner: Wow. That’s good stuff. And I didn’t even really know a third of what you do. I mean, I do, but you observe it and then it’s the little details that when one detail is missed, which leads into a second, which leads into a third, it comes crashing down.

[00:14:26] Pete Waggoner: And I don’t think anybody really wants that for their loved ones. And that’s part of what you get. I don’t look at it as an expensive. That’s why there’s a cost, right? 

[00:14:34] Amber Miller: Right. Absolutely. Yep. And pre-planning helps with all of that too. So we’ve talked about it plenty of times in past podcasts, but pre-planning all of that is a huge weight lifter off your family’s shoulders, and especially pre-funding for it all takes that burden off.

[00:14:49] Pete Waggoner: There’s no surprises. 

[00:14:50] Amber Miller: Right. 

[00:14:51] Pete Waggoner: And that’s the name of the game. So hopefully that this helps for me and for you to drive that, to do that, but it also helps explain [00:15:00] why things happen the way they do. Great topic. Really good stuff. 

[00:15:04] Amber Miller: Thank you, Yeah. 

[00:15:05] Pete Waggoner: Amber, thanks for joining us here. Have a great rest of your summer.

[00:15:08] Amber Miller: Thank you, you too. 

[00:15:08] Pete Waggoner: We’ll be back in the fall in September. Can you believe it? It’s already here. 

[00:15:13] Amber Miller: Yep. 

[00:15:14] Pete Waggoner: All right. That’s gonna do it for Good Grief for Amber Miller and Pete Waggoner. So long everybody.