If you have ever had a loved one die close to a holiday and found yourself faced with the dilemma of a holiday funeral, you have probably been faced with those annoying fees on the funeral home’s General Price List (GPL) known as Holiday Fees. These fees can be hefty and can raise the total expense of your funeral cost by quite a bit. I have these charges listed on the GPL for my funeral home. In the past, I have never applied them to a client’s final funeral bill. I also have a listing for additional fees for weekend services; I have never applied these charges to a client’s funeral bill, either. After all, it is just my husband and me who work at our funeral home; therefore, there are no employees who require extra holiday or overtime pay for working weekends or holidays.
This past holiday weekend was Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. I am so grateful to be an American, and even more thankful that my children and grandchildren are Americans. I am grateful for the sacrifices that my ancestors made coming to this country when it was untamed, and for those who have fought in wars, and died in wars, to gain and protect its sovereignty. I am grateful for the abundance of natural resources and the possibilities that capitalism brings for prosperity. There are so many other things for which I am grateful that I cannot make an adequate listing of them. Thanksgiving is a time when I reflect on the sacrifices made on my behalf by others, a time when I gather with friends and family and share a traditional native meal, and a time when I realize that many others have contributed to my happiness in life. It is a special time each year to which I look forward.
This year, I had a client family who lost a loved one just before the Thanksgiving holiday. They were faced with a holiday funeral. Initially, we thought we would be able to hold the funeral the day before Thanksgiving. However, the holiday schedule of the state medical examiner’s office interfered with our desired timetable. We were forced to wait until later during the holiday weekend before we were able to retrieve the decedent and host the funeral. Unfortunately, this timing presented a holiday weekend funeral scenario. As my husband and I are the only employees of our funeral home, we did not apply our GPL's listed fees for holiday or weekend services. After all, it certainly was not the fault of the decedent’s family that they were forced into such a situation.
As last week progressed, I found that I was not enjoying Thanksgiving as I had in the past. I was unusually pre-occupied with funeral details and genuinely worried about my client family. The pathology that accompanies holiday deaths and holiday funerals seemed to be very prevalent in their case, and I was anxious on their behalf.
Many factors affect the scheduling of funerals, the most pressing, of course, is time above ground. In my holiday case this past weekend, the decedent had been above ground for an extended amount of time. Burial was required to end his family's suffering. Pushing the funeral services into the following week would have been cruel. As a funeral director, I felt it was my fiduciary duty not to add to my client’s stress by delaying burial beyond the holiday. We, therefore, scheduled the funeral over the weekend and did not add additional fees to the funeral bill. This family's trials were already burdensome enough.
In discussing this situation with a colleague, a hypothetical scenario presented itself that caused me to wonder if a funeral home might charge holiday and weekend fees because they incur additional employee expenses, or might they charge them to encourage clients into decisions that would ultimately improve their recovery and well-being? If time allows, a survivor's recovery should be better accomplished if not saddled with the anniversary of a holiday burial. Might the encouragement of added expense be the best tool, and one's obligation, to assist a client in scheduling an event that would provide a better lifelong recovery scenario?
This year, my husband and I chose to donate our time to this suffering family rather than working at the soup kitchen. Fortunately, as the only workers at our funeral home, we were able to do this without added expense. Other funeral homes, however, incur additional costs when they require employees to give up their holidays in the service of those who are suffering. Although your experience may not be the same as this family's, unknowingly to you, more often than not, funeral homes and their employees will perform numerous selfless acts and work many long hours on your behalf for which they never expect recognition or compensation. It is the nature of what they do. It is the nature of who they are.