The art of doing makeup on a dead body

Applying makeup on a dead person is not much different than on a living person, one funeral director says.

A funeral director says that applying makeup on a body is not much different than on a living person.

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Evie Vargas had always been drawn to death. That sounds morbid, or possibly extremely goth, but her interest wasn’t in the afterlife nor the aesthetics. Vargas wanted to pursue a profession rooted in service, and entering the death care industry was a calling — an inexplicable calling that, once she began work, seemed like destiny.

Throughout high school, Vargas considered attending mortuary science school, but worried she wouldn’t be able to handle the sight of a dead body. Still, she knew that a two-year program could lead to an associate’s degree, an apprenticeship, and eventually a mortician job.

To gauge her nerves, Vargas decided to go to a place that would expose her to death firsthand: a funeral home in Illinois.

There, she shadowed an embalmer, who offered her a part-time job after their first session. “He said he saw something in me,” Vargas says, still amazed at how prescient the offer turned out to be. “I didn’t have a license to embalm so I did makeup, dress, and casket.” She’s worked there since graduating from mortuary school.

Even after eight years in the industry, makeup and hair is still a special part of her job, Vargas says. As a funeral director, she does “basically everything” — administrative work, service preparation, meeting with family members, embalming bodies. But she thinks mortuary makeup work is uniquely intimate and significant.

Funeral director Amber Carvaly sets up for a viewing.

Makeup plays a starring role at many funeral services — the last time family members will physically see their loved ones before the casket is closed. These services are usually done by a certified embalmer, a person tasked with cleaning and preparing the body, who takes on the burden of replicating a person’s likeness and essence. Makeup artists — whether embalmers, funeral directors, or freelance workers — find meaning in this ritualistic work of dressing a body, mulling over the details of its presentation, and receiving input from the family. It can help loved ones grieve, artists say, in remembering a person at their best.

Embalming a body and applying eyeshadow seem to demand different skills, but the work contributes to the body’s final presentation. Embalming is typically the first step; fluids are injected into a body during the process to slow its decomposition for the funeral ceremony.

According to the Funeral Consumers Alliance, the process could give the body a more “life-like” appearance, although it isn’t always required. Amber Carvaly, a funeral director at Undertaking LA in California, doesn’t think embalming is necessary for most natural deaths, although it might firm up the skin more. She says that applying makeup on a body isn’t drastically different than working on a living person.

Carvaly has an array of products in her makeup kit — typically thicker theatrical makeup for discoloration or jaundiced bodies — but drugstore brands like Maybelline Cosmetics work fine. There are little techniques and tricks she’s picked up, for example, in applying lipstick on a dead person’s lips, which are much less firm.

She uses a pigmented gloss or mixes a dry lipstick to paint the color on. Vargas prefers using an airbrush kit for a more natural look, since it provides full coverage and is easier than applying foundation.

Carvaly doesn’t work with bodies as much as she likes to anymore, ever since cremation overtook burials as the preferred means of after-life care in 2015. While there is no proven correlation between price and popularity, cremation is cheaper than a burial. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the average burial and viewing costs $8,508, while the average cremation and viewing comes out to $6,260.

Post-death makeup is only a fraction of the cost for burials — an average of $250 per funeral, according to the NFDA — but the added costs aren’t worth it for some, Carvaly says. Many families struggle emotionally and logistically in the aftermath of a death, she adds. The logistics that go into the burial ceremony, especially dress and makeup, are often the last things on their minds.

A common complaint from families is that a body doesn’t look like their living relative. The embalmer might have parted their hair differently or used an unfamiliar lipstick color. Carvaly points out that family members can do makeup on their loved ones before the body is sent to a home. But if they’re uncomfortable with that, she encourages them to assist the embalmer with the makeup and presentation.

“Doing makeup with the family present is extremely rewarding,” she says, adding that family members’ input makes it much easier to capture the aesthetic essence of a person. It’s helpful for the families as well: “When you’re grieving, having a physical or artistic activity can help walk you through it.”

Years before Carvaly went to mortuary school in Los Angeles, she worked as a cosmetologist on film sets. She’s changed careers multiple times — from makeup to nonprofit work to the death care industry. Like Vargas, Carvaly is dedicated to the service aspect of her job, and she sees makeup as a physical manifestation of that service.

In her seven years of work, Carvaly’s found that most people are uncomfortable in the presence of a dead body, even in preparation for the burial. “I’m more than happy to do makeup for a family if this is something they don’t think they have the strength to do,” she says. “But I want them to know that they have options.”

On rare occasions, she brings along makeup or hair tools for families to touch up their loved ones at the service. She once worked on a woman with blonde, beehive-style hair that she struggled to recreate. At the funeral, Carvaly suggested that the woman’s daughters help her touch it up — a request they were initially shocked by.

“Allowing people to be a part of the funeral is important,” Carvaly says. “Keeping that veil of magic up prevents regular people from doing something very valuable.” Families shouldn’t hesitate to ask a funeral home if they can do their loved ones’ hair and makeup, which could reduce costs, she says.

Shifting social norms and new funeral practices, like eco-friendly burial options, have driven homes to find ways to increase profits — often at the expense of families, who are missing out on an opportunity to properly grieve, Carvaly explains.

“There is no law that prohibits people from coming into a home and requesting that they do makeup on the deceased,” she wrote in an e-mail. And while Carvaly feels that her job is a calling, the daily human interaction can be taxing. The most difficult part of being a funeral director, she says, is explaining why people have to pay for certain services that the home offers.

It’s what upsets people the most, but homes also have to pay for overhead expenses — the indirect costs of operating a business. Carvaly’s funeral home, Undertaking LA, opts to rent time and space from another crematory.

Carvaly’s funeral home co-founder, Caitlin Doughty, has found unprecedented success on YouTube under the account Ask A Mortician, a series where Doughty takes questions about her work and about death.

Demystifying death is a big part of Undertaking LA’s mission — to put the dying person and their family back in control of the dying process and the care of the body. It’s a liberal “death positive” approach, one that Carvaly likens to “breaking down the walls and windows” of a rigid centuries-old industry. Vargas feels similarly, and tries to destigmatize the death industry on her YouTube channel.

After a death occurs, families often immediately send the body to a funeral home and don’t interact with their loved ones until the ceremony. And sometimes, they’re taken aback by the body’s made up appearance. Reclaiming the makeup process can be a cathartic first step, as an unexpected outlet for grief, and eventually acceptance of the death itself.

Complete Article HERE!

My Dying Wife Has a Challenging Request for Her Funeral

She doesn’t want her estranged family to attend. I want to respect her wishes, but am not sure the excluded family members will.

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My wife and I have been together for 30 years. Five years ago, she started dialysis, and that same year her mother’s divorce from my wife’s stepfather was finalized. Like many divorces, it pretty much split up the family.

My wife’s health is declining rapidly now, and she was also denied placement on the transplant list due to other health issues. We have been discussing her death, and my wife has expressed that she does not want her ex-stepfather or two of her siblings to attend her funeral.

When my wife made her wishes known to her mother, her mother said that my wife’s ex-stepfather has every right to attend the funeral because he raised her since she was about 8 years old, and that the two siblings also have every right to be at her funeral because they’re her brother and sister.

My wife explained that she did not want them at her funeral, because of how her ex-stepfather treated her when she was growing up and because the two siblings sided with him during the divorce. But her mother reiterated that she wouldn’t do anything to stop these people from attending the funeral.

I told my wife that the only way to make sure her wishes are met is to not tell her family about her passing until after she has been laid to rest. My wife agreed that this may be the only solution. Is this the right course to take?

Louis
San Antonio, Texas

Dear Louis,

I’m so sorry that your wife is ill, and I can only imagine that the prospect of her wishes not being met adds substantially to the stress you’re experiencing. But what seems to be getting lost in the understandable turmoil is that your wife is still here, which means she has agency over how she interacts with these people before the funeral happens.

Let’s back up for a minute. What’s complicated about funerals is that not everyone agrees on whom they’re for. Are funerals for the dying, comforted by the knowledge that they’ll be surrounded by friends and family when laid to rest? Or are funerals for the living, a chance to grieve in the company of others and get one final goodbye? Whose comfort and peace of mind are funerals for?

It sounds like you and your wife believe that funerals are for the person who died, and therefore this person should determine before her death who will be there. And it sounds like your mother-in-law believes that funerals are for the living, and therefore that your wife’s ex-stepfather and siblings will want to be there. You probably won’t resolve this philosophical difference—though understanding it may help you to be more compassionate toward your mother-in-law’s view—but you do agree on one thing: These family members mean to attend the funeral.

The question is, why? You don’t say what these relationships are like now—whether your wife is on speaking terms with these relatives; whether they know about her prognosis; whether they’ve shown any concern for her; whether, perhaps, you’ve kept your wife’s condition from them so they haven’t had an opportunity to share their concern. Nor do you say how your wife was mistreated growing up, or whether her mom has acknowledged the extent of the mistreatment. Maybe your wife spoke with her mom about her wishes because she’s no longer in contact with these relatives, but by not communicating with them directly, she puts herself in a position of powerlessness, which may be how she felt growing up and again during the divorce.

Banning people from a funeral is both a personal request and a strong public statement. At least in part, it’s a declaration to all who attend that these people hurt your wife deeply, and in this way, her pain would finally be acknowledged. This is what her wish is fundamentally about: a way for her to deal with the pain of the past.

Quite clearly, though, there’s a catch. If banning them from the funeral represents a final, public acknowledgment of her pain, the one person who needs that acknowledgment most won’t be alive to see it. So maybe it’s worth considering what might bring your wife even more peace than their absence at her funeral: the opportunity to be heard by them now. In my therapy practice, I’ve seen people with terminal illnesses spend the time they have left in different ways. Some people don’t change much—they hold on to their anger and resentments and die with them firmly in place. Others step far outside their comfort zone and grow tremendously in ways that feel immensely gratifying.

I don’t know which route your wife will choose, but here’s an option for her to consider. Instead of saying to her family members, essentially, “I’m angry with you and I get the last word!” (because by the time they learn about the funeral they missed, she’ll already be gone), she might say, “I’m angry with you, and I’d like to understand more about what happened between us before I die.”

She may learn that these relatives don’t realize how much they hurt her; or that they feel bad for having hurt her; or that they feel hurt by her, and there’s another side of the story she hadn’t been willing to consider before—her own role in the family drama. If that’s the case, there might be room for compassion on all sides, and while compassion won’t erase what happened in the past, it might pave the way for a greater understanding that allows a connection to find its way into their lives. And that small change can be potentially transformative, especially at this time in her life.

Of course, just because your wife does something differently doesn’t mean other people will. If they’re not willing to consider your wife’s point of view (remember, they don’t have to agree with it), if they place all the blame on her or are rude or insulting in these conversations, your wife can take a different tack. She can say she believes that the time to show respect is while a person is still alive, and if they can’t show her respect in life, it would be disingenuous of them to pretend to “pay respects” when she’s dead. For this reason, it would upset her to have them at her funeral, and if they genuinely want to pay respects, they can do so by respecting her preference for that day to go as she wishes.

They may say fine. Or they may still insist on coming, in which case she can ask them point-blank, “Why are you insisting on coming to a funeral for someone whose feelings you don’t care about and who doesn’t want you there?” Just hearing the stark truth in this way may encourage them to reconsider.

But here’s the thing: No matter what happens, your wife will have gotten to say her piece while she still can. Whether you have a private service or they attend her funeral, it won’t matter as much as the fact that she was proactive and forthright, spoke her truth directly to the people involved, and took control of what she had control over—how she wanted to live in a way that expressed her self-worth. Some people go their entire lives and never give themselves this opportunity. She doesn’t have to be one of them.

Complete Article HERE!

Review: The Green Burial Guidebook

By Jean Campbell*

This small book, The Green Burial Guidebook by Elizabeth Fournier, is packed with helpful information and resources for anyone interested in learning more about “green burials”, and what that really means. The author speaks from experience, and lays out the information in an easy to understand and well organized way. For a subject that can seem overwhelming, this book does an excellent job of simplifying the subject.

For those ready to fully commit to this end of life scenario, there is practical advice on what to do, where to go for help as well as providing historical context and tips on the subject throughout the book. For those who are just curious, may have reservations, or have not yet thought about what their end of life may “look like”, there are explanations and options presented.

Fournier mentions “….the cultural alienation….from dying….” and all things associated with that stage of life. Western society, by in large, has turned over the handling of death to others rather than embracing it. The author invites the reader to take ownership of the choices and the outcome in advance. We could look to the practices of some other cultures to remind ourselves how to cope with this inevitable life event in a thoughtful, considerate, and personal manner.

What the author does in this book more than anything is to prompt us to think about our death and how we want it handled. To make choices, and plans ahead of time so that not only are our wishes honored, but also so that family and friends are not left with hard decisions at a time when they may be least prepared for it. Green burials provide an alternative that can be comforting and healing for friends and family, and also provide a much less invasive choice for the environment and the earth itself.

A great read for those wishing to become more informed on the subject at whatever level.

* Special correspondent, Jean Campbell has no qualifications to justify or explain why she should be reviewing books other than we all have opinions, and this is hers.

I will never forget my grandma’s last days, surrounded by people who were half shaman, half scientist, and all good

We expected Nana to die years ago. When she finally went, it was both sadder and sweeter than we were prepared for

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I knew it was coming; I had known it was coming for years. I had seen my friends go through it, and I had spent many hours thinking deeply about what would happen. Comforted by theories on the nature of consciousness, seduced by feasible rationales for an afterlife, sobered by the practical science of what was really going to happen, I was prepared. And then she died.

My nana had been ill for a long time. Her final diagnosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, came 12 years before she died, although the prognosis was no more than four. She had come close so many times that we had started calling her “the boomerang”. But when she went into hospital for the last time, although in our heads we constructed logical expectations of her coming back to us, in our hearts we knew she wasn’t coming home.

Losing someone close to you is something you can only really talk about once it has happened. All the cliches about grief that I had heard over the years became my reality. Half an hour after she died, my cousin Elliot and I sat in the hospital coffee shop, exhausted, paralysed, silently delirious, while a tiny white butterfly fluttered around our heads, flew a full circle above us and disappeared. Over the next week, the appearance of white butterflies comforted each member of my family at different times in some ineffable way. Despite our wildly varying degrees of faith, that delicate symbol soothed us with an understanding that she was OK: whether she was on a cloud with her brothers and parents, united on an unknown spiritual plane with a greater force as part of a universal consciousness, or just gone, she was no longer in pain.

It was very sad, of course, and that is the best it was ever going to be. The reason I say “the best” is that, if it were not for the acutely careful preparations of us all, including Nana, it could have been far worse.

Palliative care should not be as taboo or scary as it is to many of us. I would go as far as to say that it is the ultimate in wellbeing practices, when a person’s health has failed and all that can be done is care. The word “palliative” comes from the Latin pallium, a cloak, and in many ways this metaphor is apt. In the last days, a “syringe driver” delivered her a steady flow of morphine and anti-anxiety drugs that concealed the worst of her symptoms, shielded her from their effects, protected her from the pain, and even hid her from death for a few more hours or days. If she had not had that, she would have died of hypoxia on the Thursday, gasping violently for breath as she drowned in carbon dioxide that her lungs were too weak to exhale. Instead, she went on until the following Tuesday, my auntie’s birthday, not before she had me write in her card: “Life is worth living because you’re my daughter.” When she finally passed, it was a moment of peace.

(Note to doctors: if it could be called anything other than a “syringe driver”, I think everyone would be much happier. My bampy (grandfather) in particular was unnerved by the name and was initially convinced that it was going to speed up her death.)

On the Saturday, when we all first expected her to go, we played her favourite songs at her bedside: lots of Maria Callas and Ella Fitzgerald, and (who knew?!) Hot Chocolate’s No Doubt About It, a song that recounts Errol Brown’s alien visitation. We were gifted the time to rejoice with her in what made her joyful, emotional and eccentric. As she appeared to slip away, our tear-stained faces fixed around her in uncontainable smiles, sure that the hour had come, she boomeranged back again, just in time for The Chase.

Memories of moments in her final days are precious and I am gratefully aware of how lucky my family and I are to have had them. They exist because of palliative-care specialists. What a mystically unique role: part scientist, part shaman; half doctor, half priest; with careful words held equally as important as the careful drugs. Never hard-heartedly functional, and never “compulsively positive”, it is as if they are of the same station as midwives, just on the other end. I am profoundly moved by this practice. The UK is reportedly the best in the world at end-of-life care, which is cause to be proud, and there are calls from both the International Association of Research in Cancer and the World Health Organization to declare palliative care a human right.

As someone whose first close bereavement was sort-of-sweet-sad but without regret, I support these proposals wholeheartedly. I wish that all people could be treated with such deep compassion and humanity. I sincerely hope that, when it is my time to die, my family and I will be helped to prepare in the same caring, tender way that my grandmother and family were in Llandough on a long weekend in July.

Complete Article HERE!

Why you should plan your funeral

and how to do it

By Barbara Eisner Bayer

Let’s face it – you’re going to die at some point. And if you care about your money and your family, it will save a lot of grief if you create a funeral plan before the grieving starts. But according to a 2017 report by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), only 21% of Americans discuss details about their funeral with loved ones.

Sure, when you’re gone, you’re gone, so it may not seem necessary to create a funeral plan. But it is – mostly because if you don’t, your loved ones will be making plans upon your passing while simultaneously mourning your loss. Do you really want them coping with decisions about casket types and music selections while their hearts are breaking?

Of course you don’t. Here are seven tips to help you prepare for this difficult but inevitable time.

1. Cremation or burial?

Ashes to ashes or dust to dust … do you want to be cremated or buried?

Cremation has been growing in popularity over the years. In fact, for the last four years, cremations have outpaced burials, and by 2040, they’re expected to lead burials 78.7% to 15.7%, according to a 2019 survey by the National Funeral Directors Association. The advantage of cremation is that it’s much cheaper, and you can distribute the remains wherever you please.

If you opt for a traditional burial, your costs can be high. When you price it, factor in the following fees: funeral planning, permits, death certificates, preparing the body, coordinating with the cemetery, embalming, a casket, obituary, etc. You’ll also need to purchase a burial site. After all, you don’t want to force your family to find one when they should be focusing on the service.

The median cost in 2017 for a funeral with all the trimmings was $8,755. That doesn’t include lots of stuff, though, like a grave marker and other miscellaneous expenses that always seem to pop up. The median cost for a cremation in 2017 was $6,260 if done by a funeral home. However, you can save tons of money by going for direct cremation (no service) – only about $1,100, according to the Cremation Research Council.

By choosing beforehand how you want to spend eternity, you’ll save your family from having to make this critical decision – and potentially save lots of money as well.

2. Decide how to pay

If you make your wishes known beforehand, you can set aside the funds in advance or prepay (see below). Otherwise, the costs of the funeral will fall directly onto your family, and they may not be prepared.

The funeral happens within days of your death, and your family may not have access to funds they’re going to inherit. And not everyone can come up with $8,000 or more within a few days or have that much available on a credit card.

3. Consider a prepaid plan

If you’re thinking of prepaying for a funeral, the general consensus is to never do this. And there are certainly many valid reasons for this advice: It’s expensive, you’re not earning interest on your money, the funeral home may go out of business, you may decide to relocate or change your mind, etc.

But if it will give you peace of mind, why not? If you have a funeral plan in advance, your family will know who to call when the inevitable occurs, and most of the significant choices will have been made – because you’ve already planned and paid for everything. It’s not always about dollars and cents.

If you decide to purchase a prepaid plan, shop around and find a funeral home that appeals to you. At the very least, you’ll learn about what choices need to be made and how much the costs will be, so even if you decide to self-fund or buy some type of small insurance policy that will cover your funeral expenses, you’ll have the info at your fingertips while you still have fingertips that function.

4. Create your funeral service

This will definitely be more fun (and only possible) for you to do when you’re alive – because when you’re gone, the choices won’t be yours. If you follow the steps above, your family will already know a lot of the other details that funerals entail. Now you can decide whether you want a large service in the funeral home or a small service by the graveside and a memorial service later on.

You can choose readings by your favorite poets and writers and the kind of music you’d like played. Jot down some thoughts or prerecord a tape that can be played at the service. It may bring people to tears to hear your voice, but it can also be deeply meaningful for them to hear your words and thoughts once you’re gone.

5. Write your obituary

Do you want to control how the world views your life when you’re gone? Then write your own obituary. It will be the final literary document of your life – but only if you can control what it says. This can be sent as a press release to your local newspaper, trade journals in your professional industry or alma mater.

Talk about your life’s challenges and how you overcame them. Do you have funny anecdotes or stories that define your sense of humor? Write them down. Dying is somber, and your capacity to make others laugh will be showcased as a memory of your personality.

Write about your history, your parents, your gratitude for the wonderful life you’ve lived, and the people who shared it with you. Include accomplishments and unforgettable moments, as well as lessons you learned that can be passed on to future generations. This exercise may seem sad, but the truth is that it will give you the opportunity to review your life and bring to the forefront all your special memories. It will also give you a deeper appreciation for the life you’ve been living.

6. Attend a ‘Death Cafe’

All of the above discussion may sound a bit morbid, but it shouldn’t. Death is a reality that everyone faces, and there’s no reason it should be a taboo subject. Imagine a place where people can gather and discuss end-of-life issues in a comfortable environment that takes the stigma away from dying. Welcome to the Death Cafe.

Created in 2004 by Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz, Death Cafes are nonprofit events organized across the globe for people to gather around tea, coffee and treats to discuss the reality and challenges of dying. Attending one gives you and/or your family the opportunity to have an objective and open conversation regarding feelings about death in a supportive and open space.

7. Discuss your plans with close family or friends

It would be a disservice to your loved ones not to talk to them about your plans for your final bow. Discuss all of the things above and what your wishes are. They can even help you fulfill many of your wishes if you’re unable to manage them by yourself.

Now you have the tools to circumvent the sadness of your death by creating an opportunity for your friends and family to celebrate your life with joy, unencumbered by the cloud of grief and funeral details that they may find overwhelming. Death is not a happy time, but by following the above steps and taking control of your funeral, you can give your family peace of mind, knowing that all is handled when that final moment comes.

Complete Article HERE!

Water cremation and human composting…

The new, eco-friendly frontier of dying

by Eillie Anzilotti

We are running out of space to bury people, and cremation has an enormous carbon footprint. So people are finding new ways to dispose of the bodies of their loved ones.

Matt Baskerville has served as a licensed funeral director in Illinois for the past 24 years. In that time, he’s seen his industry—and what people want after their deaths—change dramatically.

For instance, when Baskerville entered the business in the mid-’90s, the cremation rate was roughly 10%. Now, when he looks at the records of recent years at his own businesses (he directs at four funeral homes in towns of 10,000 people or less), he sees that more than 40% of people are opting for cremation.

According to new findings from the National Funeral Directors Association, for which Baskerville serves as a spokesperson, the national cremation rate is projected to be around 54% (“The Midwest tends to be a bit more traditional,” he says). Burial, once the far-dominant option for end-of-life services, has dropped to just around 41%, and Baskerville expects it will continue to decline in popularity.

Many factors are driving this shift. For one, Baskerville says, “we’re a much more mobile society.” When families tended to live and die in the same place for generations, burial was a way to keep everyone together. But now, he’s seeing that in his hometown of Wilmington, Illinois, the younger generation is dispersing, and the ties to location are not as strong. Services like cremation better meet the needs of families who are spread out geographically. It’s becoming so much more commonplace that a new set of startups now exist to cater to families whose loved ones opt for cremation. One Portland-based company called Solace, for instance, operates as a direct-to-consumer cremation service that manages the transport, storage, cremation, and return of the remains for a flat fee.

There’s also a growing awareness that traditional burial is incompatible with the state of the planet. We are, quite simply, running out of space to devote plots of land to people who are no longer living. In cities, space for necessities like housing and parks is already in short supply, and many cities like Berlin are beginning to convert old cemeteries to other land uses. But even in places where space is not so crunched, like Baskerville’s hometown, there’s a growing recognition that the burial process—from the chemicals used to embalm a body to the wood used to create caskets—is environmentally damaging, and people are beginning to seek out alternatives.

“People like the concept of going green,” Baskerville says. But even traditional flame cremation does not exactly meet that need. Cremating a single body emits as much carbon as an 1,000-mile car trip.

So increasingly, people are seeking out greener alternatives for their afterlife. A process called alkaline hydrolysis is now legal in 15 states, including Baskerville’s home of Illinois. He describes it as “flameless cremation” because what it entails is using the gentle flow of warm water mixed with alkali (usually sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide) to naturally liquefy a body over the course of several hours. The process creates relatively little emissions and leaves behind no waste. The leftover liquid can be disposed down the drain, and the remaining bones and metal can then go in an urn, like a traditional cremation. In Baskerville’s businesses, around 40% of people who chose cremation are opting for the flameless process.

Another emerging alternative is human composting, which was legalized in Washington (the first state to do so) in spring 2019. Through exposure to microbes, bodies can be naturally broken down and turned into soil—around one cubic yard per person, to be precise. A Seattle-based company called Recompose is pioneering the service, which will be available as an option to Washington residents beginning May 2020. Katrina Spade, Recompose’s founder and CEO, previously founded the Urban Death Project to advocate for the practice as both more sustainable and more practical in terms of land use. Recompose has proposed memorial sites where family members could come visit the bodies as they were decomposing. The dirt could then be given to families to save or to use to grow trees or plants. The company plans to open its first site in 2020.

While body composting is limited to Washington for the time being, Baskerville would not be surprised if it became more widespread. “Trends in burials tend to begin on the west coast and spread from there,” he says. Cremation, for instance, first overtook burials in popularity on the west coast, and interest in greener options, he believes, will continue to grow.

Moving away from traditional burials also tracks with a shift in American attitudes toward death on the whole. The rising “death wellness” movement encourages a more open and accepting approach to death and mortality, whether that be through dinner parties built around the discussion of death, or through hiring “death doulas” to coach people as they approach the end of life. HBO recently released a documentary called Alternate Endings that explores the different ways in which people in the U.S. are opting to memorialize themselves. Certainly, the availability of a wider range of funeral options necessitates a more open conversation around end-of-life planning and what death and burial means to individuals. To Baskerville, this is a good thing. “In years past in the American culture, death has been a topic that was not talked about,” he says. Now, though, “end of life is more of an open topic of conversation in most families now.”

Complete Article HERE!

The Cost of Dying in All 50 States

By Gabrielle Olya

There are many reasons to celebrate getting older, but having to think about the cost of death isn’t one of them.

For starters, funeral costs can add up fast. The National Funeral Directors Association cited the median out-of-pocket funeral expenses for 2016 — including viewing and cremation costs — at $7,360. On top of that, the average out-of-pocket expenditure for end-of-life necessities is $11,618, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

One of the biggest factors impacting funeral expenses — and the cost of dying, in general — is the state where the death certificate is issued. Just like the cost of living, the cost of dying depends on where you reside.

GOBankingRates calculated the average costs for end-of-life medical care and funeral expenses in each state by multiplying the national averages for those services by every state’s cost-of-living index. The study also considered 2018 inheritance tax and estate tax data, sourced from the Tax Foundation.

50. Mississippi — $18,509

Average funeral expenses: $6,684
Average end-of-life medical costs: $11,825

The cheapest state to die in, Mississippi, has no estate tax or inheritance tax. Average funeral expenses total $6,684, and average medical costs associated with dying come out to $11,825 — both well below the national average. This is unsurprising because Mississippi also has the cheapest cost of living in America, according to a separate GOBankingRates study.

49. Arkansas — $18,681

Average funeral expenses: $6,746
Average end-of-life medical costs: $11,934

The cost of dying in Arkansas is similar to that in Alabama. Funeral expenses in Arkansas average $6,746, while medical costs associated with dying hover around $11,934. The state has no estate tax or inheritance tax.

48. Oklahoma — $18,702

Average funeral expenses: $6,754
Average end-of-life medical costs: $11,948

Medical costs associated with dying in Oklahoma are typically around $11,948, and the average cost of a funeral is $6,754 — notably below national figures. You won’t have to pay inheritance or estate taxes when you die in Oklahoma.

47. Missouri — $18,724

Average funeral expenses: $6,762
Average end-of-life medical costs: $11,962

In Missouri, the cost of a funeral averages $6,762, and the medical costs related to dying average $11,962. Neither estate taxes nor inheritance taxes are imposed.

46. New Mexico — $18,810

Average funeral expenses: $6,793
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,017

The cost of a funeral in New Mexico averages $6,793, while medical expenses related to dying typically total $12,017. New Mexico doesn’t levy an estate tax or an inheritance tax.

45. Tennessee — $19,068

Average funeral expenses: $6,886
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,182

Funeral costs average $6,886 in Tennessee, and medical costs related to dying are normally around $12,182. One of the most tax-friendly states for retirees, Tennessee doesn’t have an estate tax or an inheritance tax.

44. Michigan — $19,111

Average funeral expenses: $6,902
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,209

As the seventh-cheapest state to die in, Michigan doesn’t impose an estate or inheritance tax. The average cost of a funeral in the state is low at $6,902, and medical costs associated with dying are typically around $12,209.

43. Kansas — $19,132

Average funeral expenses: $6,909
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,223

The cost of a funeral in Kansas averages $6,909, and medical expenses related to death total approximately $12,223. No inheritance tax or estate tax is collected in the state.

42. Georgia — $19,175

Average funeral expenses: $6,925
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,250

Falling below the national average, the standard cost for funeral expenses in Georgia is $6,925, while medical costs associated with dying are usually around $12,250. Georgia has no estate tax or inheritance tax.

41. Alabama — $19,197

Average funeral expenses: $6,933
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,264

The average cost of a funeral in Alabama is $6,933, and medical costs associated with dying typically total $12,264. Like the other members of the 10 cheapest states to die in, Alabama doesn’t have an estate tax or an inheritance tax.

40. Wyoming — $19,197

Average funeral expenses: $6,933
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,264

The average cost of a funeral in Wyoming is $6,933, and medical expenses associated with dying total $12,264, on average. Neither an estate tax nor an inheritance tax is collected in Wyoming.

39. Indiana — $19,347

Average funeral expenses: $6,987
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,360

Medical costs related to dying in Indiana average $12,360, and the standard for funeral expenses is $6,987. There’s no inheritance tax or estate tax in Indiana.

38. Iowa — $19,369

Average funeral expenses: $6,995
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,374

Iowa has no estate tax, but unlike many other states, it does have an inheritance tax of up to 15%. The average cost of a funeral is $6,995, and medical expenses related to dying hover around $12,374.

37. Nebraska — $19,519

Average funeral expenses: $7,049
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,470

If you’re inheriting from a deceased family member in Nebraska, you’ll be taxed at a rate between 1% and 18%. However, the state doesn’t impose an estate tax. The cost of a funeral in Nebraska averages $7,049, and medical expenses associated with dying are typically around $12,470.

36. Ohio — $19,519

Average funeral expenses: $7,049
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,470

Coming in below the national average, funeral costs in Ohio run approximately $7,049, and medical costs associated with dying total $12,470, on average. Ohio doesn’t have an estate tax or an inheritance tax.

35. Kentucky — $19,541

Average funeral expenses: $7,057
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,484

Funeral costs in Kentucky total approximately $7,057, while medical expenses related to dying average $12,484. The state doesn’t have an estate tax, but its inheritance tax can be as much as 16%.

34. West Virginia — $19,584

Average funeral expenses: $7,072
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,511

Dying in West Virginia will cost close to the national average, at around $12,511 in medical costs and $7,072 in funeral expenses. There’s no estate tax or inheritance tax in West Virginia.

33. Texas — $19,669

Average funeral expenses: $7,103
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,566

The average cost of a funeral in Texas is $7,103, while medical costs associated with death are typically around $12,566. Texans don’t pay an estate tax or an inheritance tax.

32. Idaho — $19,841

Average funeral expenses: $7,165
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,676

You won’t be charged an estate tax or an inheritance tax in Idaho, which is good news if you are the executor of a will. Plan for around $7,165 in funeral costs and approximately $12,676 in medical expenses associated with dying.

31. Louisiana — $20,185

Average funeral expenses: $7,290
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,896

There’s no estate tax or inheritance tax in Louisiana. Medical costs related to death average $12,896, and funeral expenses run approximately $7,290.

30. Illinois — $20,314

Average funeral expenses: $7,336
Average end-of-life medical costs: $12,978

Like most states, Illinois doesn’t have an inheritance tax. However, estates worth more than $4 million are taxed at a rate of 0.8%-16%. Funeral costs average $7,336, and medical costs related to dying are typically around $12,978.

29. North Carolina — $20,400

Average funeral expenses: $7,367
Average end-of-life medical costs: $13,033

In North Carolina, there’s no estate tax or inheritance tax, so you won’t have to worry too much about what might happen to your money after you die. The average cost of a funeral is $7,367, and medical expenses associated with dying tend to total $13,033.

28. South Carolina — $20,615

Average funeral expenses: $7,445
Average end-of-life medical costs: $13,170

In South Carolina, the average cost of a funeral is $7,445, and medical costs associated with dying average $13,170. There’s no estate tax or inheritance tax.

27. Arizona — $20,852

Average funeral expenses: $7,530
Average end-of-life medical costs: $13,321

There’s no estate tax or inheritance tax in the Grand Canyon State. The average cost of a funeral is $7,530 in Arizona, and medical expenses related to death tend to add up to $13,321.

26. Wisconsin — $20,916

Average funeral expenses: $7,554
Average end-of-life medical costs: $13,363

Funeral costs in Wisconsin tend to total around $7,554, while medical expenses associated with dying average $13,363 — which are both on the cheaper side for the U.S. as a whole. No inheritance tax or estate tax is instituted, but Wisconsin is one of the most expensive states to file taxes, in general.

25. Florida — $21,045

Average funeral expenses: $7,600
Average end-of-life medical costs: $13,445

The cost of a funeral in Florida is typically around $7,600, and medical expenses associated with death average $13,445. No estate tax or inheritance tax is levied in the Sunshine State.

24. Utah — $21,153

Average funeral expenses: $7,639
Average end-of-life medical costs: $13,514

Still under the U.S. benchmark, medical costs associated with dying in Utah average $13,514, and funeral expenses are approximately $7,639. The state doesn’t impose an inheritance tax or an estate tax.

23. North Dakota — $21,239

Average funeral expenses: $7,670
Average end-of-life medical costs: $13,569

North Dakota doesn’t have an inheritance tax or an estate tax. Medical expenses associated with dying are usually around $13,569, and the average cost of a funeral is $7,670.

22. South Dakota — $21,454

Average funeral expenses: $7,748
Average end-of-life medical costs: $13,706

No estate tax or inheritance tax is imposed in South Dakota. Funeral expenses average $7,748, and medical costs related to dying are typically around $13,706 — just above the U.S. average.

21. Virginia — $21,647

Average funeral expenses: $7,818
Average end-of-life medical costs: $13,830

There’s no estate tax or inheritance tax in Virginia. Medical costs related to death hover around $13,830, and funeral expenses average $7,818.

20. Minnesota — $21,841

Average funeral expenses: $7,887
Average end-of-life medical costs: $13,953

Slightly above the national average, standard funeral costs in Minnesota come out to $7,887, and medical expenses associated with dying are approximately $13,953. The state has no inheritance tax, but if the value of your estate is above $2.4 million, you will be subject to an estate tax between 13% and 16%.

19. Pennsylvania — $21,862

Average funeral expenses: $7,895
Average end-of-life medical costs: $13,967

Pennsylvania doesn’t have an estate tax, but it does levy up to 15% in inheritance taxes. Medical expenses related to dying total approximately $13,967, and the average cost of a funeral is $7,895.

18. Colorado — $22,701

Average funeral expenses: $8,198
Average end-of-life medical costs: $14,503

There’s no need to stress about an estate tax or inheritance tax in Colorado, as neither is imposed. Funeral costs average $8,198, and medical expenses correlated with dying generally total $14,503.

17. Montana — $22,980

Average funeral expenses: $8,299
Average end-of-life medical costs: $14,681

The standard cost of a funeral in Montana is approximately $8,299, while medical costs related to dying typically average $14,681. You can keep any gold and jewels passed down to you in the Treasure State free of estate or inheritance taxes.

16. Delaware — $23,238

Average funeral expenses: $8,392
Average end-of-life medical costs: $14,846

You won’t pay an inheritance tax or estate tax in Delaware. Funeral costs average $8,392, and medical expenses related to death tend to fall around $14,846.

15. Nevada — $23,324

Average funeral expenses: $8,423
Average end-of-life medical costs: $14,901

Expect to spend about $8,423 on funeral costs in Nevada. Typical medical expenses involved with dying are $14,901, and there’s no estate tax or inheritance tax. Nevada is also one of the states with no income tax.

14. New Hampshire — $23,582

Average funeral expenses: $8,516
Average end-of-life medical costs: $15,066

Medical costs related to dying in New Hampshire average $15,066. Funeral expenses add up to $8,516, on average, but there’s no estate or inheritance tax in the Granite State.

13. Washington — $23,797

Average funeral expenses: $8,594
Average end-of-life medical costs: $15,203

In Washington, funeral expenses average $8,594, and medical expenses related to dying typically hover around $15,203. There’s no inheritance tax, but estates worth more than $2.19 million are taxed between 10% and 20%.

12. Vermont — $24,614

Average funeral expenses: $8,889
Average end-of-life medical costs: $15,725

Vermont has a 16% tax on estates worth more than $2.75 million. There’s no inheritance tax, but funeral costs average $8,889, and medical expenses related to death are typically around $15,725.

11. Maine — $25,259

Average funeral expenses: $9,122
Average end-of-life medical costs: $16,137

Maine estates valued at more than $5.6 million are taxed between 8% and 12%. There’s no inheritance tax, but the average cost of a funeral is $9,122, and $16,137 is the standard for medical expenses associated with end-of-life care.

10. Rhode Island — $25,667

Average funeral expenses: $9,269
Average end-of-life medical costs: $16,398

The average cost of a funeral in Rhode Island is $9,269, and medical expenses associated with death typically amount to $16,398. There’s no inheritance tax, but a 0.8%-16% tax is levied on estates worth more than $1.54 million.

9. New Jersey — $26,892

Average funeral expenses: $9,712
Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,181

In New Jersey, the standard funeral costs $9,712, and medical expenses correlated with dying average $17,181. There’s no estate tax, but you’ll face an inheritance tax of up to 16%.

8. Connecticut — $27,451

Average funeral expenses: $9,914
Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,538

In Connecticut, funeral costs are typically around $9,914, and medical expenses related to end-of-life care average $17,538. There’s no inheritance tax, but a 7.2%-12% tax is levied against estates valued at over $2.6 million.

7. Maryland — $27,881

Average funeral expenses: $10,069
Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,812

Funeral expenses in Maryland average $10,069, and medical bills associated with dying typically add up to $17,812. Maryland is one of the few states with both an estate tax and an inheritance tax. Inheritances are taxed up to 10%, and estates worth more than $4 million are taxed at a 16% rate.

6. Alaska — $27,924

Average funeral expenses: $10,084
Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,840

The average cost of a funeral in Alaska is $10,084, while medical expenses associated with dying hover around $17,840 — both of which are much higher than the national average. On the plus side, the state doesn’t have an inheritance tax or an estate tax.

5. Massachusetts — $28,290

Average funeral expenses: $10,216
Average end-of-life medical costs: $18,073

At around $10,216, funeral costs in Massachusetts are well above the national average. Medical expenses related to end-of-life care average $18,073. No inheritance tax is levied in Massachusetts, but estates worth more than $1 million are taxed at a 0.8%-16% rate.

4. Oregon — $28,849

Average funeral expenses: $10,418
Average end-of-life medical costs: $18,430

There’s no inheritance tax in Oregon, but if you own property in the Beaver State, plan your estate carefully — those worth more than $1 million will be taxed at a 10%-16% rate. Funeral expenses average $10,418, and medical costs related to death tend to be around $18,430.

3. New York — $29,902

Average funeral expenses: $10,799
Average end-of-life medical costs: $19,103

In New York, you won’t pay an inheritance tax, but estates worth more than $5.25 million are taxed at a 3.06%-16% rate. Funeral expenses average $10,799, and medical costs correlated with dying are $19,103.

2. California — $32,611

Average funeral expenses: $11,777
Average end-of-life medical costs: $20,834

Though it’s the second-most expensive state to die in, California doesn’t levy an estate tax or an inheritance tax. The standard cost of funeral activities is around $11,777, and medical expenses related to dying average $20,834.

1. Hawaii — $41,467

Average funeral expenses: $14,975
Average end-of-life medical costs: $26,492

Death in Hawaii is by far the priciest among all the states, as funeral costs average $14,975 and the benchmark for medical expenses correlated with end-of-life care is $26,492. The Aloha State doesn’t have an inheritance tax, but estates worth more than $11.2 million are taxed at a 10%-15.7% rate.

Where You Die Impacts the Financial Burden You Leave Behind

Fortunately for people who have to face the death of a loved one, many states don’t add an additional financial burden on the deceased’s family by levying taxes. However, this wasn’t always the case, as many states have removed estate and inheritance taxes in recent years. Others have left taxes in place but raised the exemption levels:

  • Indiana repealed its inheritance tax in 2013.
  • Tennessee repealed its estate tax in 2016.
  • New York raised its exemption level to $5.25 million and will match the federal exemption level in 2019.
  • New Jersey fully phased out its estate tax in 2018.
  • Delaware repealed its estate tax in 2018.

Overall, the cheapest places to die are Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and New Mexico. The most expensive places to die are Hawaii, California, New York, Oregon and Massachusetts.

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