Coleman Funeral Home of Oxford hosted the third session – “The Planning Process” – of its series, “The Art of a Funeral,” on Tuesday, August 15.
The first two sessions, held in June and July respectively, discussed the purposes and customs behind funerals and dispelled misconceptions about it.
Glenn Coleman, who owns the company in partnership with Dr. Tom Fowlkes, said the purpose of the series is educate consumers about funeral planning so they can make informed choices that both fulfill their wishes and meet their families’ needs.
Deciding before crisis
“There are two sides to the pre-planning process,” Coleman said. “One side is the financial aspects, and the other is what songs you want, who you want to officiate, what pictures you want to use in the video, and other details of your service.”
Glenn Coleman stressed the value of pre-planning one’s funeral. Choosing between burial or cremation is one of the biggest decisions, and then come details about music, officiants, pallbearers, and more.
“There can be around 125 different decisions when someone dies and no plans have been made ahead of time,” he said. “When I sit down to meet with families and am gathering information for the obituary, the death certificate, etc., lots of times I’m asking for information that surviving family members have no idea about. They wind up having a long list of homework to do on a day that’s already one of the most stressful days in their life. With pre-planning, you can make most decisions and secure most information ahead of time.”
Another value of pre-planning is being able to locate and store vital documents from Social Security cards and insurance policies to marriage licenses and military records.
“I talk to families all the time that say, ‘I know Mom had three insurance policies,’ but they don’t know where the policies are or even which companies they’re with,” Glenn Coleman said. “You can plan pretty much every detail out except the date of the service.”
Planning ahead can free survivors to grieve and support each other instead of stressing over seemingly endless details.
“Even if you don’t pay for a single thing, make sure that the funeral home that you wish to handle your services knows what you want,” he said. “When something happens, the kids are notified, and they come in and finalize the arrangements – dates, times, and logistical issues – and then allow the funeral home to get the word out to everybody through newspaper obituaries, social media, websites. Such a huge burden is lifted from them right then.”
Many folks choose not just to leave instructions for their funeral services but also to pre-pay to eliminate a financial burden on their survivors. In previous times funeral homes usually kept pre-paid monies in trust, but to provide adequate oversight most are handled today as insurance policies or annuities.
“The insurance product is what I recommend people’s putting their funeral payments into,” Glenn Coleman said. “An insurance policy acts just like a life insurance policy. If you take out a policy and die a week later, the company covers your funeral expenses.”
With either an annuity or an insurance policy, one of the biggest advantages is locking in the cost of funeral services.
“If you pre-arrange, the cost is frozen at today’s costs,” he said, adding that Coleman Funeral Home usually offers credits toward urns, monuments or other related purchases for pre-paying in full.
Glenn Coleman acknowledged that planning one’s own funeral requires facing one’s own mortality – an exercise many people would rather avoid.
“I don’t ask you to dwell on it, but I ask you to think about it long enough to make some decisions,” he said. “You may be a billionaire and your family won’t have any trouble paying for anything, but there are still things you have to decide for yourself.”
Another advantage of pre-planning, he said, is the ability to compare prices and services.
“I encourage you to shop. This is a relatively big purchase for most families,” Coleman said. “We’re one of the only funeral homes in the State of Mississippi that I know of that puts all our pricing on our website. We’re very transparent; we try to make our prices available as many ways as we can.”
Avoid guilt spending
Pre-planning also eliminates the temptation for survivors to assuage their guilt by purchasing more than their loved one might have wanted in their funeral.
“You don’t want your family to go through ‘emotional overspending,’” Glenn Coleman said. “What I see often is when things are not planned ahead. Mom or Dad have been in an extended care facility for 10 years, and the kids have all moved off and haven’t been able to visit as often as they wanted to. Some family members may feel guilt, and they equate that to, ‘The more I spend, the less guilt I’ll feel.’
“As a business owner, I’d like to sell a bronze casket every time, but what I won’t do as a funeral home operator is to play on people’s emotions,” he said. “It is a business, but it is also a ministry and a community platform. It does the family no good when they already struggling to have me throw a $5,000 bill on top of everything else that they can’t pay. What alleviates the need is pre-planning.”
Olive Branch series
Coleman Funeral Home will repeat the entire “The Art of a Funeral” series at its new Olive Branch facility, hosting each with a light lunch buffet included. Session One – “Why Should One Have a Funeral?” – will be Tuesday, August 22, with “Myths vs. Facts” following on Tuesday, Sept. 12 and “The Planning Process” on Thursday, Oct. 5.
Each event is free to the public, but attendees are encouraged to RSVP for each session by noon on the day before by contacting Jeremy Roberts, Director of Operations and Event Services for Coleman Funeral Home, at [email protected] or (662) 893-3900.