Morbid as it may seem, I decided to take the bull by the horns and get at least one dreaded task out of the way – arranging the funeral. I’m doing it now for a number of reasons. First up, when the time rolls around, and I know this will happen all too quickly, I do not want to waste my time trying to decide whether it’ll be lilies or chrysanthemums. I don’t want to be sitting in a funeral parlour filling out forms. I want to be with my friends and family. I want to be in a quiet mental place where I can reflect on my Girl’s life without the strain of dealing with “Who organizes what?”
Secondly, I want to find a celebrant that I like. I want one who can meet The Girl and find out what a special, amazing, fabulous person she is. I want that person to get a glimpse of The Girl’s sense of humour and her incredible courage. I want someone who has known her – albeit briefly – and can speak from the heart about her.
Finally, I needed to know what I’m up for financially. Believe me, when I saw the estimate, there was a point at which my family were looking down the barrel of negotiating a double deal.
I staggered out of the funeral home with my hand clutched to my heart, and immediately called Chookie Lou. She’s the sensible one. She knows how many beans make three. And besides, this is the reason I’m doing this now. Because in the cold hard light of day, I can make sensible decisions that aren’t made in the depths of guilt and grief.
The total estimate came to $10,027.00. I put the cents in there in case you thought I’d missed out the decimal point. Yes, ten grand. I sat in my car fanning my face with my hand while I ran through the expenses with Chookie. I’m going to go through them here for you. Not because I’m bitching about it. Far from it. This is the cost of death. I’ve made these decisions because I want to offer the maximum respect to my Girl, without inviting a lifetime of poverty for myself. I’m telling you so that you can plan to live longer. So here goes:
The funeral directors fees were $3700, or there abouts. Chookie Lou suggested shopping around. I said that’s pretty reasonable since they arrange everything, pick up the body, organize the cremation. They’re like wedding planners except the client in fact loses their other half…or maybe they’re like divorce lawyers, depending on your perspective.
The Casket: I chose the cheapest. There was a rental option which was marginally cheaper, but it meant that I’d have to leave my Girl in the chapel and walk out without her. She’d be taken away and removed from the casket and placed into a plain box. I don’t want that. I don’t want to abandon her. So it’s the cheapie option. But it’ll be hers.
Flowers: They were $200. Chookie Lou grappled back a minor coronary and told me to ditch them. We can pick up a lovely bouquet from a florist for a fraction of the price. We’re not our mother’s daughters for nothing.
After match function: for a scone and a cup of tea it was around $7.50 per head. I estimated we’d have around 50 – 80 mourners. Chookie Lou suggested we buy in some cakes, go back to my house, which is just down the road, and save ourselves the cost of the catering and the venue hire. Check.
Photo tribute: It was a series of photos put onto a DVD and spooled across a screen while a couple of chosen songs played. The representative asked if I’d like to sing. I told her if I sang, we wouldn’t have 50 mourners. If I broke into a stirring rendition of Into the West, we wouldn’t have 1 mourner. The chapel would clear in the time it would take me to draw a second breath. People would be stampeding the exits with their hands clapped to their ears. She asked me if anyone else in my family would like to sing. I told her I have the best voice. She pressed me no further.
The Chapel: To hire the chapel is $275.00. Chookie Lou once again got out her calculator and suggested we go to a local church. I told her I haven’t set foot in a church in I don’t know how many years. I told her that if we went to a church to save money, we’d probably have to pay the church, then pay the hearse to take The Girl there, then to pick her up. It would probably wind up being more expensive and far more inconvenient. I always knew my lack of religious inclination would come back and bite me in the ass. Who knew it would be like this?
There are other costs that can’t be avoided and I wouldn’t want to if I could. The celebrant, the death certificate, medical documentation, service sheets with a verse and The Girl’s photo, and a blown glass paper weight that’ll have a tiny amount of The Girl’s ashes swirled into it. It’s beautiful.
Now all of that is done, barring a few items I have yet to check off the list. I’ll call back with the revised schedule and we’ll knock around a grand off the total. I can do this now because I can look at the whole process with a cool clarity, and the certainty that I’ll go to The Girl’s program this afternoon and pick her up and take her home. We’re going to the beach tomorrow. We’ll have a ball. I don’t care if it rains. I don’t care if it takes all day. I don’t care if I get nothing else done.
I’ve still got my Girl and I’m loving it.