Newspaper Archive of
Catholic Northwest Progress
Seattle, Washington
November 15, 1963     Catholic Northwest Progress
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November 15, 1963

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Friday, Nov. 1963 ESS--S in Praise of Funeral Directors N olden days, Grandma used to fell us, when a corpse was laid out, they used to bank it wifh ice as a preservative. This must have made poor old Uncle Humphrey look suspiciously like a salt mackerel enthroned at a fish market. Then, at the wake, despite every pre- caution, some compassionate friend was bound to sneak in a baffle of spirits which would be passed around outside the kitchen door. The proceedings would naturally be- come more convivial until they might well end with "Auld Lang Syne" done in barber- shop harmony around the coffin af two in the morning. Then, of course, there would be bloodshot eyes and thumping hangovers among the pallbearers next morning, ..... That day has passed. Thank God. In our time, following the shock of death, most tam- Ill II F " Funeral Director Include: served in an active war period with honorable discharge as they are entitled to a $250.00 death allowance if this is true. Fig Out Forms Persons covered under Social Security are entitled to a death benefit ranging from $120.00 to $225.00 depending on their contribution. Necessary forms are filled out and sent ti the Social Security office. Transportation necessary to complete funeral arrangements is made available to survivors. The family informs the mortuary as to the time of the Rosary and requiem Mass after contacting the priest. As far as a funeral director is concerned, the important thing is to have the time that is convenient for the family of the deceased and the parish. It does not conflict with their schedule as the funeral is at the church. Give Use of Mortuary The evening of the Rosary, the facilities of the mortuary are available to friends and family as long as they wish. The use of mortuary facilities is also included in the service cost. . The day of the service, the family ;s called for at home, brought to the church, taken to the cemetery and brought home again. Cars are also furnished for the priest and pall bearers. Necessary motorcycle escorts are provided. Memorial Holy Cards, acknowledgment Cards, registers are usually provided in the service cost ..... . : Indigen'l" Dead II Burial cases usually begin when the Central Office ;s noti- fied of a death by the King County Coroner's Office, King County Hospital, Firland Sanatorium or by requests of out-of- town relatives. Bodies are assigned on a rotation basis with various funeral homes. Arrangements with the parish church for the requiem Mass and ,cemetery plot are made by the C, entral Office. In Washington State, Peluso said, we are very fortunate in having a liberal law in which indigent funeral arrangements and burials ,are paid for by the State Department of Public Assistance." If there are no resource's, the cemetery plot at both Cab vat and Hal rood Cemeteries are made available by the ArYhdiocese 0Yseaffle. Likewise the services of the funeral*direc- tor in such instances are provided at no charge. It is estimated that 25 per Cent of the burials in Holyrood Cemetery are welfare cases. ' In all cases, the dignity and respect of the deceased are maintained. A low-priced cloth-covered casket is prescribed, belying the misconception that pine boxes are standard orders. Burials are granted wherever plots are available in any section of the cemetery. "From all appearances," emphasized Peluso, "you cannot fell the difference between an indigent burial and any other." By REV. RICHARD GINDER ;lies turn the funeral arrangements over to an old and respected friend whom they have known for years and who is expert ;n such maters. They have grown up with him. He is likely a fellow-parishioner. N the early Church there was One honored group that undertook the special office of digging graves, the fossores, and to a certain extent our present day funeral direc- tors have inherited that function. Because of their sensitive relationship with the dead, the bereaved, and the Church, the com- munity expects them to lead lives of isobriety and respectability that almost measures up to those of clerics. They must conduct them- Selves at least with the gravity and dignity that is expected Of the teaching profession, physicians, and lawyers. And they do fake their responsibility very seriously. I am a personal friend of an undertaker who kicked his apprentice almost bodily out of the door for handling a body in what he considered to be an un- seemly manner. Is undertaking a profess;on? I think so. At least ;f is rapidly approaching that status. It's no good saying that it's a fairly recent development and recalling the clays when the woman next door bathed and dressed the remains and the local furniture dealer supplied the coffin. After all, surgery started in the barbershop and there are still a few veteran barbers who go in for "cupping" and will put a leech on a black eye. Under- taking too has a body of relevant informa- tion, techniques to be learned, and proced- ures to be followed. Could you embalm a corpse? Would you know how to get a death certificate? Are you familiar with the burial laws of your state? E priests have a necessary interest in a Catholic death. We want that body in church for the f, aneraJ. It should be sprink- led with holy water, incensed, and s;gnecl with the Holy Cross B after the Mass and again at the cemetery. The family knows this. But in this age of easy and cheap travel, the relationship may be scaHered across the world. Time must be allowed for the relatives to as- semble. It has become a blessed convention that friends call from near and far to pray at the bier and leave a Mass card. The par- ish organizations gather to recite the Rosa- ry. If the funeral were held within 24 hours, the relatives would feel aggrieved and the deceased might lose most of those prayers. But putrescence has already set in at the very momehf of death. How can we gain a few days? The remains must be embalmed. Now here we encounter a puzzling con- tradiction. The very people who object to the incisions and injections required for preserving the remains will suggest that, instead, the body be slid into a furnace and reduced to cinders! What's wrong with em- balming? If is the only way we have of gaining the flme needed for our usual obsequies. Should the body be laid out at home or at the funeral director's? Everyone knows where he is located. They might not be able to find your house. He has a spacious par- lor ready with soft lights and gracious furnlsh;ngs. If is generally commensurate wifh the social position of practically every- one in the communify. If ;s swept and dusted every morning. If you feel like going home to rest or stepping out for a bite to eat, you have the assurance that there will be someone on hand +o answer the door and  receive callers. O undertakers overcharge? No doubt some of them do. But don't forget that the dollar of 1947-49 is now down to about 45 cents. In 1919, you could get a piano tuned for $2.00. By 1940, it was up to $5.00. In 1950, if was $7.00. Now it costs $15.00. You pick the funeral director, you pick the casket, and you state the services re- quired: home or funeral parlor, how many limousines needed, the date of the funeral Nobody can force you in any way, and there ;s an axiom in Moral Theology: "Scienf] ef volenti non fit ;niuria" -- "There is no in- justice where the person is knowing anci willing." In my last three assignments, I have had the ioy of knowing three Catholic undertakers who had won the confidence' of pastor and his congregation over the years. They were thoroughly good men who helped the parish in many a charity case that never got noised around. Their "pro- motion" took the benign and helpful form of passing out religious calendars imprinted wifh our Mass schedule. They were a "soft touch" for any par- ish group ;n need of funds. They were al- ways good for an ad in banquet programs and yearbooks. If we needed extra chairs for some function, who would supply them but Joe, or Art, or "Brad"? If the Sisters wanted to visit their motherhouse 50 miles up the river, a fleet of cars was theirs to command with the undertaker's own numer- Ous sons at the wheels. UT the fact ;s that these men are per- forming a necessary function in Amer- ;can society. They have a right to a fair profit and, believe me, they are not gouging. Most of them five on a modest scale and strggle even as you ancl your neighbors do to get their children through school. I say this because the profess;on is cur- rently under fire through an article in Life, based on a recent book, which seems to be based in turn on the shenanigans of a few wildcat operators in and around Los Angeles. To generalize from such outrageous excep- tions is not only mischievous but slanderous. The whole point ;s -- know your funeral director, and ;f you don't, then get advice from those around you.BThe Sunday Visitor, Oct, 6, 1963.