With 15 years in the industry and a reputation to live up to, James Monroe wants to make planning funerals as pleasant as possible. Photo by Evan Boudreau

A funeral director eases your mind in a troubled time

  • November 2, 2014

TORONTO - It is the morning after a loved one has suddenly passed away and you are all alone. There is so much rushing through your mind, not least of which is giving your loved one the proper send off from this world. Who do you turn to for help? A funeral director of course. 

“Hello, my name is James Monroe,” says a compassionate sounding voice accompanied by a handshake as the doors of Rosar- Morrison Funeral Home & Chapel swing open. 

Although this could very well be the first time meeting Monroe, or any other funeral director standing in his place, the next few hours together will be some of the most intimate moments of one’s life as the two of you prepare to celebrate a life and bury the deceased. And that’s no easy task for anyone, which is why people like Monroe, who’s been in the business for 15 years, exist. 

“It is very difficult to have all of the responsibility of making the arrangements, especially if this isn’t something that you have done before or planned in advance,” said Monroe. “My objective is to guide you through and certainly to assist you with what arrangements you want to have.” 

After offering some refreshments — keeping the client comfortable is important, he said — it is time to get some facts about the deceased. This ranges from the very basics like name and age to some private information such as the social insurance number and employment information of the deceased. 

This information will be used to help the funeral director not only personalize the services but also begin navigating through the legal documentations required. 

After learning a bit about who’s funeral he will be facilitating Monroe needs to figure out what kind of service to plan. Will it be held at a consecrated church or in the funeral home’s non-denominational chapel? And will there be visitations — something he highly recommends as a means of closure for those who knew the deceased? 

Monroe generally suggests those closest to the deceased arrive an hour early before the visitations, as well as before the body is taken from the visitation room to the church or chapel. 

“That may seem like a long time but it really isn’t,” he noted. 

Next comes the cosmetic details. This is the time when details such as how the body will be displayed, what kind of memorial decor and flowers will be present and what personal items or touches will be added during the visitation. Catholic funerals allow very little customization however, and stick to traditional liturgy avoiding things such as eulogies during the funeral Mass. 

To aid those who will prepare the body Monroe stressed that a photo highlighting the deceased’s most recent appearance and style assists with making the deceased look as they did before dying. 

“Things that you want to prepare to bring in terms of clothing would be complementing undergarments, something long sleeved that is tailored to the neckline is usually the most appropriate ... as well as any jewelry.” 

Although important to the overall experience, Monroe said these details are of lesser significance during the initial contact with a funeral home and for the most part can be decided upon after some further consideration and consultation. 

“We can work with them via e-mail if they are not able to come here,” he said. “We can do all of that electronically.” 

At this point Monroe said as a courtesy he tends to give those planning the funeral a general pricing breakdown to give them an idea of the cost. 

“The purpose of doing that with families at a time before we visit the selection room and we look at the value of the caskets and other merchandise is that it enables you to kind of have an idea going in ahead of time how much the funeral ... is going to be as a final cost,” he said before leading towards the basement where the coffins are. “The majority of caskets you will see will cost about $2,000. If somebody were to call into the funeral home and ask me just off the top how much does a funeral cost, I don’t have a problem expressing that usually they need to expect it to be $8,000 to $10,000. 

“That cost can rise based on different merchandise or additional services that are purchased at the funeral home.” 

What can help one prepare for all of this, and actually keep the cost down significantly in the long run, said Monroe, is prearranging and prepaying for your own funeral before a sudden death occurs, a trend he said seems to be catching on. 

“Fifteen, 20, 25 years ago I think the discussion of prearrangement was something that was discussed quietly in the corner,” said Monroe, who’s preplanned funerals for a number of people in their 30s, including his own. 

“It was always about the consumer coming in to the funeral director and asking about prearrangement but today there is a shift where we are more engaging in telling people about prearrangement. People are more interested in engaging in prearrangement and I think funeral homes are certainly encouraging the option. We are at least.” 

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