Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 27, 2008
When your loved one dies
Good planning can diminish the stress that comes during grief
By RAMON GONZALEZ
Especially in their moments of grief, families need to hear the Good News.
All funeral homes are available by phone 24 hours a day. Funeral homes prepare the body for burial basically by embalming them. If needed, the body can be held for a number of days, especially if the family wants to wait for somebody from overseas to attend the funeral.
If the death occurs in a nursing home, the funeral home will go and receive the body immediately because nursing homes don't have holding facilities, noted Attwell.
"If it is in a major hospital, like the University, we may not be able to go right away but might be a day after mom has passed away."
When a family contacts Connelly-McKinley, it should be able to answer basic questions such as the deceased's name and the caller's relationship to the deceased. The funeral director will also advise the caller of all of the documentation the funeral home needs to proceed with the funeral arrangement, such as the deceased's Social Insurance Number, Health Care Number, place of birth and occupation.
"We get all the information that we need and then we set an appointment for the family to come in," Attwell said.
During the meeting, which may last an hour or two, "we do all the legal work for the family," Attwell said. "This is all for the government's paperwork - the government registration of death that we are going to do. And all funeral homes do that. That's a standard."
At the meeting the parties also determine where the Mass is going to be held and whether it's going to be burial or cremation.
"If it is the first burial in the family then we have to help them with the cemetery," noted Attwell.
Cremation is allowed for Catholics but the scattering of the ashes on a favourite plot of land or a peaceful lake is not. The Church mandates the ashes remain intact and be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. Holy Cross and Our Lady of Peace cemeteries have indoor columbariums.
At the meeting the funeral director also helps families pick a celebrant.
"Maybe the family is very good friends with three priests from the various years that they lived at different parishes so we have to coordinate the different priests that are going to concelebrate," Attwell said. "We talk about flowers, clothing and music at the church. The family also needs to arrange to bring in mom's favourite dress or dad's suit."
At the meeting the family also selects a casket. If it's cremation, they have to select the urn where the remains are going to go to.
"We talk about the luncheon afterwards. We want the family to coordinate that with the parish. So the funeral home acts as a liaison between the family and the church a lot of the time."
In Attwell's experience each parish is different when it comes to funeral arrangements. "Some parishes are very independent; they have a worker or a pastoral worker who takes care of all those arrangements." With smaller parishes, the funeral home tends to get more involved.
"Oftentimes what we find is that lots of our Catholic brothers and sisters have been away from the Church and they are not familiar with what's allowed and what's not allowed," Attwell noted. "They want to have a eulogy but some parishes do not allow any eulogies at Mass, only at the prayer service. Other parishes allow the eulogy before Mass begins.
"So we find ourselves often having to kind of educate the family a little."
Some families would like to have a Roger Whittaker song played during Mass. "Well, we might have to let them know that as Catholics we usually have liturgical music."
After the family sits down and meets with a funeral director "we encourage them to go to the Church to meet with the priest," Attwell noted. Sometimes they meet a priest, other times a pastoral worker. At OLPH, Attwell's home parish, when a death occurs the family meets a pastoral worker because of the large size of the parish.
"The pastoral workers are just wonderful; excellent, excellent people. They sit down with the family and they would take care of all the details directly connected to the church - music, putting the pall on the casket, the readings," he said.
"They help the family select the readings, which is just beautiful because the family has an option - a wide variety of readings they can select from: the First Reading, the Responsorial Psalm, the Gospel."
Pastoral workers also help the family prepare the prayers of the faithful and get the family involved in various aspects of the Mass. "So the pastoral workers do a wonderful job of bringing the family to actively participate in the Mass, which is just a beautiful part of our Catholic tradition."
At St. Theresa's Parish a priest would meet directly with the family. Corrigan, who guesses he has celebrated 150 to 175 funerals since his ordination four years ago, says usually the funeral home makes an appointment for the family to meet with one of the three priests.
Once the priest and family agree on a date and time for the funeral, they pick out the readings and music.
"We just try to answer any kind of questions they have," Corrigan said. "So we walk them through it and (encourage them) to think about people they want to have as readers."
If family members want to have a lunch at the church after the funeral Mass there is a group of ladies who look after that.
"When I meet with a family I always try to help them see that they are grieving but their loved one is in the Lord's hands and that's where we all want to end up," Corrigan said.
"A funeral is a beautiful time to be able to connect with the family and it's a beautiful time to be able to really offer them hope and let them see how important their faith is.
"They are searching at that time. So they are very open to hearing. Even though they are grieving, they still want to hear the Good News. And the truth is that is the Good News - the Lord wants us to be with him forever in heaven."
Regardless of whom they meet at the parish - a priest or a pastoral worker - "the family is well taken care of by their parish," noted Attwell.
"That's one thing I'll say about Edmonton is that families are really, really well taken care of. They meet and they are given the opportunity to bring some personalization to the Mass as far as selecting the readings and the prayers of the faithful and involving the family members in the Mass."
Attwell said Connelly-McKinley tries to "discourage Catholic families from having services in the funeral home but it does happen sometimes and it usually happens due to the fact that the family has not been practising."
But what they have at the funeral home is not Mass but a funeral liturgy - only the readings and a sermon.
A funeral may cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 at Connelly-McKinley, depending on the type of arrangements, he said. The type of casket and limousines may add to the cost.
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