There seems to be a cloud of secrecy surrounding the funeral industry, which makes people very curious about what really goes on. When we meet new people, we tend to get some very interesting questions, and so we thought we would answer the questions we are asked most frequently. We spoke with Eric Dekker, the owner and a funeral director at Hetherington Funerals, about his experience in the industry.
- Isn’t it a depressing job?
No. There are times when dealing with a family can be really tough, and that is generally in situations where there has been a tragic passing. Usually, but not always, this involves a younger person. For most people, there is an element of relief, or maybe a silver lining, that their loved one has passed, because as often as not, it is due to the fact that it was their time. I also love to hear the stories of people, their accomplishments, and the memories their families have of them. It allows me to share in the memory of happier times.
- Do you need to touch dead bodies?
Yes, it is a part of the job. It is necessary for staff in the funeral home to have contact with the deceased. However, not all staff have the role of dealing with those who have passed away. Often times, it is only the transfer team, who take the deceased into our care, as well as the mortician, who actually have physical contact. However, it may be that the funeral director is occasionally required to assist the transfer team or mortician, in which case we will be brought into contact with the deceased.
- Are my loved one’s ashes mixed in with other people?
No, absolutely not! There is never a possibility of cross-contamination of ashes. The Metropolitan Cemetery Board which operates the crematorium has strict guidelines, as well as a carefully thought-out process, in which bodies are cremated individually, in an individual chamber, after which the ashes are kept separately in individual containers.
- Do I have to spend a ton of money on a coffin?
No, not at all! Prices of coffins range from around $600 up to many thousands of dollars. At Hetherington Funerals, most coffins that are chosen are around the $1100.00 mark.
- Can I just ‘be put in a cardboard box and burnt?’
Yes. However, what people don’t realise is that the cardbox box is a coffin. The MCB has rules on the strength and construction of coffins, and so whilst it is possible to have a cardboard coffin, that coffin must still meet the minimum weight requirements of the cemetery. At Hetherington Funerals, cardboard coffins can still be purchased for under $1000.00 and so are still a cost-effective option.
- Do coffins actually get burnt?
Yes, they do. The MCB regulations are that any deceased person must be in a coffin upon arrival at the cemetery. The coffin must remain closed (so there is no possibility of a viewing at the cemetery), and so the coffin is also sent into the cremator as part of the cremation process. Usually, the handles remain on the coffin except by special request.
- Can I be buried in my own backyard?
Technically the answer is yes, but there are many regulations surrounding this. The norm in WA is for people to be buried in the MCB or shire-owned cemeteries.
- How many people can be placed in a grave?
The MCB has a standard digging depth which allows for two burials in one grave. This cost is included in the interment fee. However, it is possible to request extra depth for an additional person in a grave, which then would allow for three burials. It is also possible to inter up to seven cremated remains in a grave.
- Is actually worth preplanning my funeral?
Yes, absolutely! Planning a funeral is in fact a wise idea for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it means you have the funds set aside for the day of the funeral, relieving your family from trying to find those funds at a time of stress. Not only that, but it also means that you can record your wishes in terms of the type of funeral, i.e. burial or cremation, and the style of service, such as the song selection that you would like played.
- What can I do with ashes?
The final placement of ashes is an individual choice. For some, it is important to have a specific location where families can come and gather. It becomes a memorial site. For others, the scattering of ashes may be more appropriate, in an area that was of particular import, for example, in the ocean or in the bush. Still others may choose to place the ashes in an urn and keep it in their home.
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