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Funeral homes do a lot of the work


In many ways, a funeral is like a wedding -- a large, hard-toco-ordinate event, a life-altering occasion that brings together family members (with all the tension that entails).

"Add to that that you only have three or four days to organize a funeral, where you might get a year or more for a wedding," said Scott Mac-Coubrey of Cobourg's Mac-Coubrey Funeral Home.

"You're asking them to put that grief aside and think of all the practical details they need to make that funeral perfect. It's just not possible. Funeral homes provide a service to help you get through those three, four, five days until the funeral takes place."

Local funeral homes offer a range of services to take the bereaved through the process in both practical and spiritual ways.

On the practical side, there's a checklist of things they can offer advice on, like handling bank accounts and credit cards, notifying employers and landlords, dealing with memberships and subscriptions, accessing airlines' compassionate-travel policy.

Another service a funeral home offers is with the many unanticipated sundry expenses, such as cemetery or crematorium charges, flowers and newspaper ads. In a typical funeral, they can add up to about $1,500, estimated Port Hope's Jamieson Ross.

"We use Ross Funeral Chapel money to write cheques for these disbursements, which basically allows people to use our money at no charge until they pay their account," he said.

"I guess the idea is just try to make things a little easier. We have a pretty high sense of integrity. We simply try to treat people as we would want to be treated ourselves."

Catering to one's spiritual needs covers an even wider range, including the funeral service itself.

Ross's brother Adam spoke of their reception areas and up-to-date audio-visual facilities for slide shows and the like.

"I think it's important that people do what they need to do to get through their personal grief," Jamieson Ross said.

"There's nothing wrong with handling things as a family, yourselves. I think most funeral homes often tell people that option is available to them.

"Our experience, the equipment we have, this old Victorian home make up a facility that can cater to what people want -- not unlike weddings, giving people a choice is always important. Some people opt for something small, which is completely fine, and some like to have something elaborate. We can give people all those choices."

"It comes down to a personal choice, what a family needs to do for closure," Adam Ross said.

Sometimes people want to bring in and play their own instruments, and record the music. Sometimes there will be a request to tape the entire ceremony for a relative who could not be present.

"We are always trying to look for things to do so people will feel a little more comfortable," Jamieson Ross said.

"I think people feel comfortable in our building because of the beautiful antiques. The comment we get, more than anything, is that people feel at home here."

Allison Funeral Home was one of the first in the area to offer the services of a certified funeral celebrant. Sandra Bell- Buttars leads family members in services designed to be a personalized and loving remembrance and tribute.

"Sandra brings a wealth of knowledge and understanding combined with compassion and empathy to her calling as a certified celebrant," Kevin Allison said.

Bereavement counselling is taken seriously as well, with MacCoubrey's offering Genesis Bereavement Resources -- individual counselling, support groups, seminars, workshops and a comprehensive lending library of books, videos, booklets and pamphlets.

Both Genesis and Allison's offer annual Christmas memorial services for those who have lost loved ones. Allison's also employs Bell-Buttars's talents in its grief-recovery program, and those of Leigh Jiggins as after-care counsellor to help families prepare for meetings with lawyers and accountants.

Finally, MacCoubrey added, funeral directors are basically available 24 hours a day.

"If somebody dies at home at 2 a. m., we will go out there -- we're always on call," he said.

And they will respond with dignity and discretion, Jamieson Ross said.

"I'm quite honoured people trust us enough to allow us to help them through a time like that."