What are the details worth knowing related to funerals? Get the facts related to our last days…on this week’s edition of Frank Relationships.
FRANK RELATIONSHIPS: THE FUNERAL DIRECTOR
Guests: Charles Childs
Date: April 15, 2013
Frank: What are the details worth knowing related to funerals, and the treatment of the body when we die? Get the facts related to our last days on this week’s edition of Frank Relationships.
Welcome to Frank Relationships, where we provide a candidate fresh and frank look into relationships with goals of acceptance, respect and flexibility. I’m Frank Love and you can find me, my blog and my various social media incarnations at franklove.com.
Once again, I’m joined by my co-host with the most. She’s the psychology guru that keeps me psyched up. Yup, she keeps me on my toes. What’s up, Dr. Gayl?
Dr. Gayl: What’s up, Frank?
Frank: When we think about relationships, one of the very last things that we consider or discuss is death. We almost avoid the topic like the plague. Many of us die without wills and leave our loved ones with the responsibility of carrying out our wishes, even when they haven’t been communicating.
Well, I don’t want to see that happen to you or your partner. I want you to know what the cremation process is like, if it’s cheaper than a standard funeral and burial. I want you to know whether a pine box is less expensive than a metal casket and the expenses to expect and account for when you or your partner depart this life.
To bring us up to speed is today’s guest. He’s a licensed and third generation mortician and the funeral director of A.A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Home.
His grandfather opened the family business in 1914, almost a hundred years ago, which was passed down to my guest’s parents and subsequently to him in the late 1990’s. It’s my pleasure to welcome to Frank Relationships, Mr. Charles Childs. Thank you for joining us.
Charles: Thank you for having me. Good morning everyone.
Dr. Gayl: Good morning.
Frank: From a mortician or a funeral director’s point of view, what’s the most basic message that you want the public at large to be educated about related to your business?
Charles: Well, I think you hit on something as you were introducing me, is that those wishes that families have. For instance, cremation verses a traditional burial. Funeral services have evolved through the years, cremation services, obviously have risen. The cremation rate, that is, has risen, because of economics.
Certainly, it’s more expensive to have a traditional funeral than it is to have a cremation followed by a memorial service. But families have options. They have choices and they should be discussed between spouses. And relatives should talk about those types of things, because the final disposition is a choice that families are encouraged to discuss and in that way they can pass on that information to their loved ones. It’s very difficult as it is, for a child to bury a parent. It’s even more difficult for a parent to bury a child.
Dr. Gayl: Mr. Childs, how much is the difference between a regular traditional service verses someone being cremated?
Charles: Well, there are a lot of choices that families have. The average funeral costs today with the casket and cemetery, is around $7,000 or $8,000 compared to the average cremation, which is around $2000 or $3000, but it depends on the types of things that families select; the merchandise that’s selected, the flowers.
Cemetery costs have risen, depending on the location that you live. I know here in Chicago, cemetery expenses are pretty high. There’s only so much land that is available at some cemeteries, so obviously, the costs varies depending on which cemetery a family selects.
Dr. Gayl: And then what about the mausoleum?
Charles: Mausoleums are usually the most expensive.
Dr. Gayl: What’s the average cost for those?
Charles: Well again, it depends on the location. Most mausoleums in the Chicago area start around $4,000 or $5,000 and they can be as high as $10,000 – $15,000.
Dr. Gayl: Oh wow. Could you explain to our listeners what a mausoleum is?
Charles: A mausoleum is a building, usually that houses crypts. A crypt is what you would think of as a drawer in a wall where a casket is inserted. Yes.
Frank: And what about the burial of a traditional burial site? What’s the range of expenses for that?
Charles: Well, here in our area in Chicago, the least expensive burial space is probably around $1,000, where the most expensive could be tens of thousands of dollars; again, depending on the cemetery, depending on the section that you select.
Frank: Tens of thousands. Wow, and tell me about those $30,000 plots?
Charles: Usually something like that is where there’s a family section, where there’s usually multiple grave spaces. Usually monument of some sort is erected in those kind of locations, because the average cemetery requires a flat headstone, but if you should select multiple spaces, then you’re entitled to have a larger headstone or what’s called, monuments. So again, those are choices that families have and depending on the cemetery and depending on the section of the cemetery, those costs can vary.
Dr. Gayl: Now, what are the basics of family or even a couple entering a new relationship, a new marriage, what would be your suggestion? You kind of see the people are families at the end of lives, but what would be your suggestion going into a relationship?
Charles: I guess, that would depend, obviously, on where they live. If a couple decided that they wanted to buy cemetery spaces or funeral arrangements with a funeral home, they should take the time out and visit the cemeteries that they think that they might want to use as well as the funeral homes that they might want to engage, because reputation has a lot to do with longevity as well.
You mentioned that our funeral home A.A. Rayner & Sons here in Chicago has been around for almost 100 years. Well, I think that should tell your audience and the community that I couldn’t be in business 100 years if I wasn’t respected and had a great reputation.
Dr. Gayl: Right.
Frank: What is mortuary science?
Charles: Mortuary science is, again, the study of the deceased. Where in our college mortuary science in our community, we study pathology, we study microbiology, we study chemistry; psychology, we study business law, we study accounting. It’s a variety of subjects that represent the funeral service arts and sciences.
Frank: Do you have to go to college in order to be a funeral director or a mortician?
Charles: In the state of Illinois, you are required to complete a course of mortuary science and then in our state and across the country you’re required to pass a national conference or a national board exam. So yes, you do have to go to college.
The requirements in Illinois are at least 30 semester hours of college accredited courses followed by the mortuary’s school program. Here in Illinois, there’s a two year program that is an associate’s degree. As well as we have a four year degree in one of our schools, Southern Illinois University offers a four year bachelor’s degree in mortuary science.
Dr. Gayl: Oh, wow.
Charles: So there are different state laws and different requirements for each different state.
Dr. Gayl: Now were you groomed growing up to understand and know that you would go to school, obtain a degree and eventually take over your parent’s business?
Charles: I think my parents didn’t force me. They let me make that decision on my own and as I went through college I decided to join the family business because who better to work for than mom and dad and grandparents than somebody I didn’t know.
Dr. Gayl: Right. And was that your major going into school?
Charles: No, actually I wanted to be a dentist first, so I did take some of the same courses that I needed to apply to my mortuary science credentials as well.
So, I didn’t start off being a mortician or funeral director, I started out wanting to be a dentist, but as I got older and more mature, I decided to join the family business.
Frank: Did you ever have the pleasure of working with your grandparents?
Charles: I did. I did for a while, yes. And I found that to be very rewarding and that’s what encouraged me to continue to follow the family business, is because my grandfather who went through a very difficult time, starting the business. Actually, I told your producer that my grand father finished mortuary school in 1914. 1934, he graduated from John Marshall Law school. So, he was a very educated man.
Dr. Gayl: Right
Charles: In the 1930’s, however, when he attempted to take the state bar exam he didn’t pass and we believe and he believes that it was because of the color of his skin, not the contact of his character.
Frank: Got you. Tell us about what were some of the dynamics that were at least passed down to you that he had to deal with, as a mortician.
Charles: Well, we were very fortunate that my grandfather handled the funeral services of Emmett Till.
Charles: Our family has been involved in our community, handling services of everyday people as well as celebrities as well as influential historical families as well. We were fortunate to bury our late Mayor, Harold Washington.
We’ve had a calling in our community and we as a third generation and my son is now finished mortuary school, so he’ll be the forth generation.
Dr. Gayl: Oh, wow.
Charles: So our legacy continues.
Frank: Very nice. What’s the difference between a mortician and a funeral director?
Charles: It’s just nomenclature, actually. We’re licensed funeral directors and embalmers. The word mortician is an older word, because there were a lot of mortuaries. They’re both the same.
In our state, we’re licensed funeral directors and embalmers. I don’t think that there are licensed morticians. There are directors.
Frank: Got you. How do you keep residual emotions from following you home from work, if that’s even an issue for you?
Charles: I think the circumstances surrounding a person’s death, gives all of us those types of emotional concerns. I know for myself, being around the business and seeing some of the tragic things that happened to people in our community, it’s very difficult sometimes to separate the two.
We do, like you said earlier, between fire department personal and first responders and police officers, you carry some of that home with you. The idea is to try to leave it at work and not take it home.
Unfortunately, it can get into you, into you mentally. I know the most important thing that I can express to everybody is that, each cause of death can be different. Everybody’s circumstances are different. Everybody’s life lessons are different.
It still is very emotional to me when I see children and babies abused and misused. Compare that to seeing a grandmother–
Charles: Go to sleep in her bed comfortably surrounded by her family, gives you some insight to that family and the closeness of that family. You’re more encouraged to celebrate that life and the lessons that you’ve learned from that life.
Dr. Gayl: Right.
Frank: That’s a powerful sentiment.
Charles: Thank you. I think with the gang violence that we’ve seen in our area most recently, it’s very disturbing that these young men, young women out here in the streets are being raised in the streets. They’re not being raised at home with mothers and fathers that care enough about them to prevent them from having those kinds of experiences.
Dr. Gayl: Right and–
Charles: The first lady was in town on yesterday talking about gun violence and how it has affected our community, and it’s just something as a family and as a community, we’ve got to strive to make better.
Dr. Gayl: Right, and Mr. Childs, are there services or bodies that you won’t take, because of that?
Charles: No. We here well accept any call that we get. We’re here to service any families that have concern and loss in their lives.
Frank: The questions I’m about to ask are very elementary, but your answer might be different than what my understanding or the audience’s understanding is. What’s the purpose of a funeral?
Charles: The purpose of a funeral is actually for the survivors. It’s to give them an opportunity to grieve, to mourn, to celebrate the life. That’s the actual cause–and of course, the disposition of the remains. We, in our society and our culture traditionally bury our loved ones and that’s the actual reason for the services, just so that we, as a community and as a family, have an opportunity to say goodbye.
Frank: Is it the same thing with a memorial service or home growing service? Are they all the same?
Charles: Traditionally, yes. It’s to give everyone a chance to express their grief and their loss and to support the family. You know that, we, as a community, like to have a traditional funeral, followed by an internment, a burial, followed by usually a repast or a luncheon, so that we can continue to fellowship with the family, to show that support. It’s a matter of support for the community.
Frank: You noted how in this country we typically deal with our loved one’s remains. How do other cultures deal with them?
Charles: Well, it’s culturally different, it’s ethnic difference. Here in our city we have a vast difference in economics as well as cultural differences. The Asians, for instance, usually have cremations more than people in our community.
Frank: The African American community.
Charles: Europeans do things differently. There are some cultures that have visitations for a couple of days compared to some communities just do it one day or two days at the most. There’s vast differences in how we’ve grown and how we are raised.
Frank: And the purpose of a wake or a viewing?
Charles: Pretty much the same thing, is to give the community and friends and relatives an opportunity to meet and greet, to spend time to support the family. For instance, if there’s a child that’s passed away, there’s aunts, uncles, cousins and other relatives that want to support the parents, so it’s really a support vehicle for members of our community.
Dr. Gayl: And what’s the difference between the wake and the viewing and the funeral? Because oftentimes, people will say, “I’m not going to the wake, I’m just going to go to the funeral,” or vice versa. So, what’s the difference?
Charles: Usually what the wake means is that the body is present and there’s an open visitation, so that people have an opportunity to see, put their eyes on the deceased for a final time.
The funeral service is actually the celebration: the words of comfort, the songs that are sung, the tributes that are normally given; the resolutions, things of that nature.
Dr. Gayl: Okay.
Frank: You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’re talking with Charles Childs, a licensed mortician and the funeral director of A.A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Home.
We’re discussing the basics of planning for our inevitable departure from this life as we know it. Tell our listeners how they can find you and use your services.
Charles: We’re here at A.A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Home in Chicago, Illinois. Our address is 318 East 71st street. Our phone number is 773-846-6133. Our website is aarayner.com.
We have two locations, one also on our west side facility is 5911 West Madison, Chicago, Illinois; phone: 773-626-4222.
Frank: Upon the death of a loved one, who should contact you? Should it be one representative or do you want the whole kit and caboodle in terms of the family, everybody in the family to show up at your door?
Charles: Well, that does happen. However, we just would like to be initially contacted by the person who can make the authorizations. We have to have the correct authorizations in order to do the things that we’re supposed to do, that we’re engaged to do.
We need to have a spouse if there’s a marriage. If there’s a hierarchy or matriarch in the family or someone of that nature, we would usually take directions from somebody designated to do so.
Dr. Gayl: And what are the things that you have to do?
Frank: What are those authorizations?
Charles: Well, the first thing obviously is to meet with the family and get the authorization to make the transfer of the remains.
Frank: What’s that first authorization?
Charles: If there’s a embalming is their choice, we will need the authorizations to embalm a body. If the cremation is the choice, then we would need the authorizations for the cremation.
We first have to start out with the information to complete a death certificate, which is important information regarding that individual, their date of birth, their place of birth, obviously their social security number.
Their parent’s names, and at the end of the death certificate is the method of disposition, whether it’s going to be a burial or there’s going to be a cremation, whether the body is going to be donated to science.
And here in Illinois, we’ve just been recently approved of another method of disposition. It’s called “flameless cremation.” It’s actually called, alkaline hydrolysis. That’s when the remains is similarly cremated, but instead of using fire, they’re using water and alkalis to dispose of the body tissue.
Frank: Tell us about the cremation process, and I ask that because I recently learned in talking to a funeral director that it’s not all just heating up a body, putting a body into fire. There’s more to it. You do some grinding and things of that nature. Would you tell us about it?
Charles: Okay, I think what they were trying to explain it that when the body is put into a torte, it’s called, or an oven in some situations, it’s heated to a very high temperature and the body is burned. What’s left is the long bones, usually, the major bones, the hip bone, the leg bones, the arm bones, the rib bones; of course, the skull and the skeletonal system. So then, those parts, what’s remaining is put into a grinder so that when that package is delivered to the family, they don’t see recognizable bone structure. They’re just seeing the particles that are left after it’s been ground up.
Frank: And flameless cremation, alkaline hydrolysis. So the water or the fluid is used to bring–it removes the flesh and what happens to the bones and where does the flesh go once it’s in that solution? How does that work?
Charles: It’s reduced into a solution similar to like coffee grounds and the long bones are done the same thing. The long bones have to be compressed or ground up, so that the ashes or the remains can be delivered to the family.
It’s waterless solution; it’s actually water and chemical in a chamber, also with heat, so, it’s done that way. That’s why I say it’s flameless, because it’s no fire, it’s just hot water, alkaline chemical and pressure to, kind of say, cook the bone or the flesh away from the bones. The bones are still left. The bones are still pulverized an ash product and then delivered to the family.
Dr. Gayl: What’s the cost of that?
Charles: That’s similarly to the cost of a cremation. In Cook County, our crematory free is $350, the alkaline hydrolysis fee is $450. So, again, it’s just more information for the viewers and the listeners and more choices for families.
Now each state hasn’t yet approved the alkaline hydrolysis. It’s in about 11 states right now and I think they are eight states pending regulatory action to have it then be permitted in each state.
Dr. Gayl: Can you tell–
Charles: It’s fairly new. It’s been around actually for awhile. It was used in Mayo and some of the teaching hospitals and they were using it to dispose of diseased animals and also, limbs.
Limbs that were removed from individuals through either traumatic accidents or donations or operations; those body parts are then disposed of in that manner.
Human remains are being used, and I believe that there were some use for pets and animals. Yes.
Dr. Gayl: Can you tell us about the embalming process?
Charles: Certainly. The embalming process is the chemical treatment of the remains. An embalming solution is mixed and then injected into the arteriole, the arteries and then it’s penetrated through the tissue of the remains to preserve the remains, so that families can have open caskets.
Frank: And how long–
Charles: Open caskets for open viewings, for private and public viewing.
Frank: How long are the remains preserved? A year, 10 days, 10 years?
Charles: That depends on the solution that’s used. Most funeral homes use a solution that will keep the remains for days, weeks, sometimes months, depending on how soon the family can gather.
We have families that are spread all over the country and all over the world, so sometimes people need to travel. We’ve had people to plan a funeral today and all the family not gather until next month, so they can’t do a funeral until next month, so we house and keep the remains here until the family is ready to have the service.
Dr. Gayl: And once the body is sealed in the casket in the ground, how long after that is the body preserved?
Charles: Well, that has lot variables: the condition of the space, what a person might be buried in. You mentioned green burials earlier. Obviously, the purpose of that is to have the remains decompose more rapidly so that it can return to the elements once the body is embalmed. Remember, you’ve got mummies that have been around for thousands of years.
The Egyptians who did the preparation of the remains back then, certainly didn’t have the type of equipment and the fluid and chemicals that we have today.
Dr. Gayl: Right.
Charles: But 2,000 years ago, you see mummies that were prepared and are still intact. So, a lot of things have to play into the environment, the weather, the moisture. Obviously, in the desert it’s dry, so those bodies were dried out and wrapped and then sealed in airtight containers, but it all depends.
We had to, unfortunately, disinterment Till’s remains, because the FBI was trying to investigate the death of Emmett and his body was still intact. It had been in the ground for 50 years.
Frank: What are some of the family disputes that you’ve witnessed and how have you helped to resolve them, if you have?
Charles: Oh, well some of our families are quite dysfunctional, to say the least.
Dr. Gayl: You say, “Oh.”
Frank: It’s good to hear us laugh here in this show. I mean it’s–
Dr. Gayl I was trying to find like some type of humor.
Frank: Alright, it’s a lot. It’s a lot to think about and–
Dr. Gayl: Yeah.
Frank: Digest and–
Charles: Yeah and–
Frank: And want to still have a good time.
Charles: We’ve had family disputes. Unfortunately, what we try to do is to get the disputing parties together to finalize the arrangements so that we can proceed.
I’ve had to say to families, “I’m not a referee, I don’t have a stripe shirt on, please let’s get through with this and then you all can do what you wanted to do at a separate date and time.” But it does happen, and unfortunately, some families have to go to court and some families have to get legal advice in order to solve some disputes.
Dr. Gayl: Right, and do you find that death kind of brings out the worst in family members?
Charles: It brings out the worst, but it also brings out the best.
Dr. Gayl: Okay.
Charles: It depends on each family.
Dr. Gayl: How do they bring out the best, because the worst I imagine, people fight over money and financial reasons.
Charles: Well, people do have disputes about money, property, jewelry, personal belongings, but it does bring out the best when you can see that families generally care for one another and they’re there to support one another through a very difficult time.
Frank: Here, here. When the death of a loved one is unexpected, how do you suggest a family identifying and securing the services of a particular funeral home, making the choice, which one to use?
Charles: I think reputation has a lot to do with it, years in service and years of community. We’ve been in our locations for 50 years and I know that the families in our community have choices and it’s a matter of personal choice, who you might want to engage to handle the loved one that you’ve just recently lost. So, I would say, discuss it among you before you engage somebody. Take the time to settle down, to breathe and to make wise choices.
Frank: Can or should a person plan their own funeral?
Charles: Absolutely. I think it’s important that families know what your wishes might be and there’s no better way to explain that than to put it in writing. So yes, I would encourage families to pre-arrange their funerals.
We do that here. Once the funeral has been funded, then our funeral home guarantees those funds to be used specifically for those reasons, to follow those wishes of an individual, so that there’s no dispute down the road.
If you come in and pre-arrange your funeral and tell us what your wishes are, we put that in writing, so that your loved ones that follow behind you will understand what your wishes are and we’re here to fulfill your wishes.
Frank: Would you give us a rough outline of what the expenses are. You know, because sometimes when you look at a bill, it’s got even you renting a car, you’ve got taxes, the car rental, airport fees. What might the same breakdown be as it pertains to a funeral?
Charles: Okay, our funeral service charges here are around $4600. Obviously, the casket that one might select, range anywhere from $800 in our facility to $10,000. So there’s a large range to choose from.
Frank: What’s the $800 casket like and what’s the $10,000 casket like?
Charles: Okay, the $800 casket is what we call a minimum metal. A $10,000 casket could be a solid bronze or a solid mahogany. You mentioned earlier about a pine box. A pine box today is hardwood casket and pine wood, is not cheap compared to something that might be cardboard or cloth covered.
So, there are a lot of different options and a lot of different merchandise that a family can select from and we have a full-sized casket display area that families have choices.
We try to stay within a family’s budget if they have financial constraints. We’ll work within their budget, so that we’re not trying to oversell them something that they can’t and should not try to afford.
Dr. Gayl: And Mr. Childs, what’s the difference? Some people may say, as you stated before, the funeral service particularly is for the family–the family left here. What’s the difference in an $800 casket verses a $10,000? What’s the purpose in spending so much money on something that’s going into the ground?
Charles: Well, it’s personal choice. It’s just like when you go out to purchase a vehicle, you can buy a Hyundai or you can buy a Bentley. It’s certainly a personal choice. They both do the same thing. They’re a container for the remains to be taken to the cemetery.
Dr. Gayl: And they all seal the same way?
Charles: No, some of them are non-sealers, some of them are sealers. You’re right. There are differences in the materials. There are differences in the way the casket might close. Some caskets are what we call half-couches. That means you only see the top half of the remains. Some caskets are full couch where you see the total remains from head to toe.
Dr. Gayl: Are they more expensive? The ones that you see the full body?
Charles: Absolutely, yes.
Dr. Gayl: Okay. Is that because you have to prepare the full body all the way down?
Charles: We still prepare the complete remains. It’s just that when you’re dressing the remains, you see the shoe all the way to the top of the head.
In the average half-couch casket, shoes aren’t required, but certainly what we suggest that a family brings is all the clothes that a person would wear if they were to step outside. Socks, underwear, outer clothing as well–
Dr. Gayl: Wow.
Charles: As underclothing.
Frank: I interrupted you when you were going down the list of expenses. You got to the casket and I jumped in. What are some of the other expenses?
Charles: Okay, flowers. Obviously, there’s a difference between roses and carnations. There’s a difference between birds of paradises and daisies. Flowers are one thing.
Funeral programs, obituaries, you mentioned that briefly earlier. Obviously, a standard program is a one-page program. Programs have become more elaborate. More people can print their own programs at home using their own computers. Programs can become booklets; multiple pages with multiple pictures, some in black and white, some in color. Obviously, the cemetery charges are different for the cemetery that you select. I mentioned earlier that the minimum grave, it could be a $1,000 where the best grave might be $4,000 or $10,000, depending on the section, depending on what’s around you.
We have cemeteries that have lakes, so that people buy lakefront grave spaces, I mean–
Dr. Gayl: Oh, my goodness.
Charles: You know, ponds, fountains. It all depends on the cemetery that’s selected. We’re fortunate here in Illinois and Chicago area that we have a National Cemetery, so that most of our veterans that have passed on are buried at our National Cemetery. And the cemetery cost is free for a veteran.
All they have to do is provide us with a copy of their honorable discharge and that veteran, as well as his spouse, can be buried at the National Cemetery at no cost.
Frank: Okay. If a funeral and the services are prepaid, is it completely prepaid? Is there no possible charge that’s going to come up later or might there be some type of annual maintenance to keep their deposit on hold or is there anything going on, any additional expense?
Charles: There could be additional expenses depending on the things that are selected at the time of need. For instance, we don’t usually include the burial spaces in our pre-need contract. We try to keep the funeral service separate from the interment services, so that a family knows that once it’s paid for here, it’s guaranteed.
Those services and those funds are used specifically for that reason and that reason alone. They’re deposited in a trust account. They’re deposited in a separate independent fiduciary, so that those funds are maintained and taken care of correctly by the state laws that we have to adhere to.
The regulations that the Federal government and the State government put on funeral homes and morticians and funeral directors is pretty elaborate. We have to follow a lot of rules and regulations and as well as we have to maintain our licenses, we have to maintain continuing education.
So, that part is guaranteed. Now there are certain things like programs and flowers and obviously the cemetery and the vault, those are separate and those can be done with the cemetery and those can be guaranteed as well, so that there’s no additional cost down the round, to answer your question.
Frank: Alright. You’re listening to Frank Relationships. We’re talking with Charles Childs, a licensed mortician and the funeral director at A.A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Home.
We’re discussing the basics of planning for our inevitable departure from this life as we know it. Once again, Mr. Childs, please tell us how my guests can find you and use your services.
Charles: We’re here at A.A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Home in Chicago, Illinois. Our address is: 318 East 71st Street, 5911 West Madison. The phone number here is 773-846-6133. Our website is aarayner.com.
Dr. Gayl: Mr. Childs, can you tell us about the importance of life insurance?
Charles: Obviously, life insurance is a crucial way to pass on wealth as well. Not only for a family to pay for the funeral expenses, it’s a way to make sure that there’s some additional funds for surviving.
If the bread winner is gone, the survivor needs to have some means and life insurance is the key ingredient to that. It’s a key ingredient to financial planning, it’s a key ingredient to protect someone’s home or property, it’s a key ingredient to make sure that the children that are survived can use it for educational purposes and things of that nature.
Frank: And how do you directly work with a life insurance company, when the time comes–if the time comes?
Charles: What we do here is first investigate with the life insurance company, the value of the policy, who the beneficiary of the policy is, whether or not any loans have been taken out and whether or not the funeral home can assign it’s bill to the insurance to cover the expenses here at the funeral home and cemetery.
Frank: Does that mean you–
Charles: So, we contact the insurance company to verify the coverages and usually the beneficiary.
Frank: And how long does it take for you to get paid if you’re able to assign the costs to that policy?
Charles: Each insurance company varies a little bit. It’s usually three to four weeks, again, depending on the insurance company. Most insurance companies will settle a claim within 30 – 45 days.
Frank: Are there any ways that you suggest where a family that wants an absolute cheap no frills funeral or burial, any cost cutting tips?
Charles: Obviously, we will budget or charge what a family requires us to do. Certainly, buying a least expensive casket and least expensive grave space are one way of doing it as well as the types of services. For instance, if somebody wants an immediate burial or just a cremation followed by a memorial service; whatever the family needs is how we’re here to assist the family.
We will cut costs here, if necessary in order to fit a budget, so that we can service any family that walks through our doors.
Dr. Gayl: Now, the flipside of that. What are some things that you absolutely suggest?
Charles: First of all, communicate with the rest of the members of the family; their wishes and their desires. If there’s an open casket that’s required or requested, what we’ll do to make sure that their loved one is presented, so that it’s a pleasurable experience.
The home going services here at our funeral home or family’s church services, we’ll go to a church or have the services here. We’ll go to the cemetery or we’ll go to the crematory. Whatever the desires and wishes are of the family, we’ll try to provide.
Frank: How do you handle out-of-state funerals, or let’s say where the body needs to be shipped into Chicago or needs to be shipped out to Wisconsin?
Charles: The most important thing, obviously, is to get together with the family to find out who the receiving funeral director is in that other state or who the shipping funeral director is in the other state that ships to us. That varies the costs too, because now you have two funeral homes involved instead of just one.
If there’s an economic restraint, then what we might do is suggest that the family travel to that location instead of trying to bring the remains back. If the remains can come to us, and a lot of people ship to Chicago as well as we ship to a lot of states, especially down South. Here in our community, a lot of people want to go home and home is Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida,Texas, where their families originated from. It’s not that difficult.
If we’re trying to ship out of country, now it can be difficult. What we have to do is contact the local embassy. Sometimes we have to get passports that we have to surrender to the embassy and then we have to contact the funeral home in another country who will receive.
Dr. Gayl: And when you do ship out of state, you handle the embalming and prep the body?
Dr. Gayl: Okay.
Charles: The preparation work is done here if we’re shipping out and just on the reverse if the remains is being shipped in. The shipping funeral home would take care of the embalming and then forward it to us.
Frank: And what is the receiving funeral home? What are they billing for or what are their responsibilities?
Charles: It depends on those family choices. It could be that they’re just receiving the remains and taking it straight to the cemetery or it could be that they’re receiving the remains from us and they’re having another service in that other facility, in that other location, followed by the burial.
Charles: Or even followed by the cremation sometimes.
Frank: What’s an autopsy?
Charles: An autopsy is an investigation of death. Typically, an autopsy is done in a hospital setting where the medical staff is trying to determine what the cause of the death is. An autopsy is also done at our medical examiner facility in the event there’s been a crime; so, the investigation to determine the cause of death.
Frank: And what type of equipment or what type of protection do you all use, to prevent the bodily fluids from the body from affecting you?
Charles: Funeral directors and embalmers use what’s called, universal precautions. What that means is that we provide gloves, gowns, masks, eye cover, foot cover. The types of things that you would see–sometimes you see it on some of the television shows; some of the doctors you used to see. Quincy and things like that, where they would be gowned up like they were going into a hazmat area where we have our outer protecting. For instance, like I said, gloves, masks so that there’s no splashing of the fluids in our faces; eye cover, foot cover and outer covering over our clothing.
Frank: Any spooky stories you might share with our audience?
Charles: One of the most tragic events that I’ve ever been a witness to was when I had to make the removal of a little lady who died at home who had two dogs in her home. She had died and was not discovered for maybe a week or two and unfortunately, the dogs had to find something to eat–
Charles: And they ate her.
Dr. Gayl: Oh, no.
Charles: Yes. What was left was the skeletonal remains.
Dr. Gayl: Wow.
Charles: That was vicious, and the dogs had to obviously be put to sleep, because when the first responders got there they weren’t ready to receive anybody.
Charles: I hate to leave your audience on something like that.
Dr. Gayl: Right, and us.
Charles: As well, but that’s the most gruesome thing I ever was a witness to. Those of you, who live alone, get rid of those vicious dogs.
Frank: Okay, these were pit bulls or rottweilers or something of that nature?
Charles: They were. Yeah, they both were rottweilers.
Dr. Gayl: Wow.
Charles: She died and, unfortunately, they needed to survive and the animal instincts took over and they ate what was available.
Dr. Gayl: Wow.
Frank: Okay. You’ve been listening to Frank Relationships and we’ve been talking with Charles Childs, a licensed mortician and the funeral director of A.A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Home, about the basics of planning for our inevitable departure from the life as we know it.
One more time, please tell our listeners how they can find you and use your services.
Charles: We’re here at A.A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Home in Chicago, Illinois. Our address is 318 East 71st street and 5911 West Madison. We’re at aarayner.com and our phone number is 773-846-6133.
Frank: Along today’s journey, we’ve discussed the cremation process, funeral arrangements and we topped it off with a gruesome story.
I hope you’ve had as much fun as I’ve had talking with Charles Childs and soaking up some of his wisdom pertaining to funerals, death and burials.
As always it’s my wish for you to walk away from this conversation with a heaping helping of useful information that will help you create a relationship that’s as loving and accepting as possible. Let us know what you thought of today’s show at: facebook/relationshipflove, on twitter @mrfranklove or at franklove.com. On behalf of my producer, Phileta Legette, keep rising. This is Frank Love.